Player of Games (and Consider Phlebas), specifically; Banks, generally

J-Sun

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I'm testing a theory. A few main questions: If you've read any Banks, have you read The Player of Games? Did you like it? (For bonus points, have you read Consider Phlebas and did you like it?) Are you a Banks fan, generally?

Examples of other related questions: Whatever you feel about CP/PoG in a thumbs up/down sense, do you think either are especially representative or typical of Banks? Would you point to PoG/CP as the specific thing(s) that turned you on/off? Etc.
 

RX-79G

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I think you're going to run into some bias by asking about liking Banks on the Banks forum.

I am a large fan of Banks' work, and I'm fairly picky. I very much like both novels, but for different reasons. PoG is more cerebral in its action. Both are deeply about what the Culture stands for, and contain most of the elements I would consider "typical" for Banks SF. His use of horror, telling a story through the eyes of an outsider, etc. I love it all. Use of Weapons would be the book I might like even more than those two, but fractionally.
 

Paul_C

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I do like Iain M Banks - I would say that if you don't like Consider Phlebas or Player of Games then Feersum Endjinn might be best avoided ;)

I've read them all multiple times - Inversions is probably my least favourite (it's a bit slow), Excession by far my favourite.
 

Stable

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So, in order:
Yes. Yes. (Yes.) Yes.
I also like his non-scifi work, although I remember some funny sex scenes.
 

Brian G Turner

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I started Player of Games but put it down because it came across as a pulpy space adventure. However, I plan to give Banks another chance and try Consider Phlebas, as I'm told it's a very different book.
 

Vince W

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I would call myself a Banks fan. I've read the entire Culture series and started with Consider Phlebas. While there are some points to it that I found somewhat disagreeable, on the whole I did like the book. I reread the entire series last year to conclude with my then unread copy of The Hydrogen Sonata.

While I did enjoy both Consider Phlebas and Player of Games the first time around, I know I enjoyed them even more the second time. I think this is because I understood the Culture better. Banks doesn't ease you into the Culture, he dumps you in and you either move along with him or get left behind.

This may explain why so many people regard Use of Weapons so highly. If you've read CP and/or PoG, by the time you get to Use of Weapons you are comfortable with the Culture and how Banks shares it.
 

Rodders

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I would consider myself a fan of Banks's work, although i haven't read anything of his since the Algebraist.

It started with Use of Weapons, which i really enjoyed, so i tried The Player of Games which just blew me away. It's my favourite book and i have read it multiple times.

I then read Consider Phlebas, which i did struggle with (particularly the Death Eaters chapter), but i held out to the end and found it pretty enjoyable. I have since found it much more enjoyable on a second reading.
 

Wruter

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I'm not really a Banks 'fan'. I have picked up several of his books over the years including Phlebas but couldn't get into any of them ... Except Player of Games, which I liked a lot. So perhaps it is untypical of the series - though I know a lot of fans recommend it as the best entry point. My guess is because it's the least difficult - it's short and there are no narrative experiments going on.
 

J-Sun

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So... what's the theory??? Inquiring minds, etc.
Well, this thread seems to be blowing it up. Based on my previous impressions and this thread I was thinking Player of Games might be a litmus test with maybe a corollary regarding Consider Phlebas. Seemed to me like a lot of people who loved Banks generally were specifically fans of PoG while people who disliked PoG generally didn't become fans of Banks. Yet some of us who dislike PoG liked CP, which seemed to be (relatively) looked down on by many Banks fans. Basically I was wondering if there was a magic book or two people could use to try Banks and be confident about the rest. But, like I say, either it was my imagination or, like you say, posting this in the Banks forum (which I did just because it seemed like the most on-topic place to put it) is skewing the results.
 

Vince W

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When people ask me where to start with the Culture I always say read them in order of publication, but I'm considering revising that to:

Consider Phlebas -> Player of Games -> Use of Weapons -> Consider Phlebas -> Player of Games -> State of the Art...
 

Venusian Broon

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PoG wasn't my favourite - but then my hook into Banks was Use of Weapons not CP, a book I still rank #1 in his oeurve.

Of his non-SF my favourite was The Bridge and apparently that and UoW was Iain Bank's two favourites, of his own, as well.
 

Paul_C

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I recall buying Consider Phlebas and reading the first few pages at a coffee shop before heading home, thinking "I'm going to like this guy".

It was a while before I remembered I already had State Of The Art, as I'd picked it up free with a magazine (can't remember which) a couple of years or so before.

I'm not aware that anything about Player of Games stood out to me as jarringly different from CP, or any of the others once I started reading them until I got to Inversions, which has two characters who turn out not to be as they seem (to the locals at least) and very little connection to The Culture.

My feeling is that he's like a lot of authors (and you could include films/TV/music/etc. to this) in that if you like the concepts enough to immerse yourself in what's written and you can ignore any flaws that might pop up, then by and large it's all good. If you struggle to get into it and there are numerous things that jar or disconnect you from the story then he's probably not for you.

I don't see that as a problem as there are lots of things we enjoy that others don't, and even then there will be subsets of things that some like and some don't (some love all of Radiohead's work, some like the early stuff only, some love the later stuff only, some hate it all in equal amounts).
 

RX-79G

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PoG wasn't my favourite - but then my hook into Banks was Use of Weapons not CP, a book I still rank #1 in his oeurve.

Of his non-SF my favourite was The Bridge and apparently that and UoW was Iain Bank's two favourites, of his own, as well.
I read UoW forgetting that I had read CP several years earlier. I quite liked CP, but UoW was a revelation. I then found all of his pre-1990 non-SF at the university library and read all of that, then finally found PoG.

Even Banks' "bad" novels are great. I honestly don't know what kind of books someone who dislikes Banks - especially Banks SF - prefers. All of his work is original, well written, fantastic use of language, humorous yet dark and ultimately hopeful. Compared to some of the other big SF names, he's a genius.
 
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williamjm

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I think the Culture series is one of my favourite SF series and I'd say The Player of Games is one of the best books in it (probably second after Use of Weapons). Consider Phlebas was decent, but I think one of Banks' weaker SF novels, the first half in particular felt a bit weak although it finished strongly.

I started Player of Games but put it down because it came across as a pulpy space adventure. However, I plan to give Banks another chance and try Consider Phlebas, as I'm told it's a very different book.
If you'd reversed the two books in your comments I think it would have made more sense to me, I think Consider Phlebas does have a certain amount of pulpy space adventure to it (it's probably the closest Banks got to traditional Space Opera) but Player of Games doesn't feel like pulpy adventure to me - it's been a while since I've read but I can't even remember there being an action scene in it.
 

Brian G Turner

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If you'd reversed the two books in your comments I think it would have made more sense to me, I think Consider Phlebas does have a certain amount of pulpy space adventure to it (it's probably the closest Banks got to traditional Space Opera) but Player of Games doesn't feel like pulpy adventure to me - it's been a while since I've read but I can't even remember there being an action scene in it.
You may be right - I got 3 as a set and I may have mixed up the titles. The one I'd started began with someone escaping from a dungeon, then making their way onto a ship and fighting to join the small crew.
 

williamjm

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You may be right - I got 3 as a set and I may have mixed up the titles. The one I'd started began with someone escaping from a dungeon, then making their way onto a ship and fighting to join the small crew.
That was the bit of Consider Phlebas I thought was weaker than most of Banks' work - I'd read several of the later Culture novels before CP so knew he was capable of better. I'd definitely suggest trying The Player of Games some time, it's a very different book to that part of CP.
 

Caliban

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I read Consider Phlebas and his first 4 published non Sci Fi novels and I have enjoyed them all. There are still lots for me to read though. I think Walking on Glass was my favourite
 

Ursa major

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I haven't read them all, but for what it's worth (and based purely on my memories of the books),

I really liked: Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Excession.

I was more than okay with: Inversions, The Algebraist, Matter.

I didn't like: Look to Windward.

I couldn't finish: Use of Weapons (even though I bought it twice, having lost my first copy on an airport transport bus in Belgium)

I've haven't yet got round to reading: Surface Detail, Hydrogen Sonata.

I've never held a copy of either Against a Dark Background or Feersum Enjinn in my hand.
(The non-Culture novels are in blue.)
 
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