The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games

By Iain M. Banks

  • Release Date: 2009-12-01
  • Genre: Adventure
4.5 Score: 4.5 (From 236 Ratings)


The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.

Praise for Iain M. Banks:

"Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy -- the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more" -- NME

"An exquisitely riotous tour de force of the imagination which writes its own rules simply for the pleasure of breaking them." -- Time Out


  • 100 Words or Less

    By JRubino
    Banks creates a challenge: a world without problems and characters without worry, and then asks us to care. Halfway through this novel, I didn’t care. So what if the Gamer might lose some prestige (in a society where there’s little if any). So what if he may not win a high profile political/societal contest. It’s a bit like arguing over a D&D dice roll. Yet … in the end, Banks does a decent job. His story still lacks any real emotional pull, but it’s well written, expertly thought out, and enjoyable. Though that sets the bar low, it’s enough.
  • Great Introduction to "The Culture" and Iain M. Banks

    By tomeetoe
    I confess that I've been reading sci-fi for more than 40 years now, and have had plenty of disappointments. Banks' work has yet to be. "Player of Games" is a great way to be introduced to his "Culture" universe. The action is straightforward, the story is thoughtful and thought provoking. His characters and prose leave me wanting more. He's got a wicked sense of humor, and a wonderful imagination, wonderfully realized in this and his other books. Take a trip to the far future, and enjoy the ride!
  • Slow to develop but fun

    By Doticus
    This book takes much longer to develop the characters and plot than 'consider phlebas' but you are sucked in nicely by the end.
  • A unique and fascinating story

    By thespark
    I've come to Iain Banks rather late in the game and even later to his Science Fiction, having started with his other work, in particular, the delightful "Whit". Two books into the Culture novels, I've really come to appreciate Banks' heady brand of science fiction. This book is laced with clever wordplay and lyrical prose that serve the genre well. The slow, deliberate pace, rather than frustrating the reader, gives Banks an opportunity to flesh out the characters that is rare in science fiction. The universe in which the action takes place is similarly fully realized; but not through long-winded elaborate explanations. Banks chooses instead to weave these details into the fabric of his story - allowing us to take them for granted while still teaching us everything we need to know about the culture. Finally, the story is a useful one, a bit of a meditation on self-importance and the intersection of cultures. Highly recommended.
  • The Player of Games

    By cgroscoe
    I can't remember which Iain Banks book was the first I read, but I've read most of them now and enjoyed every one. I still think The Wasp Factory was masterful. This book was more like comfort food. That's not a bad thing. Sometimes you want comfort food! Here Banks reused his pan-universal societal creation of The Culture, introduced in an earlier novel, to serve as a ready-made context to enable the tale of Gurgeh, a kind of Bobby Fisher to the nth degree, to be told. Gurgeh must use his acumen as a player of games in a contest against an alien empire founded on a game of splendid intricacy that determines the social standing of its every member, even the Emperor. Of course, things are not as egalitarian as they seem, and what our hero discovers give him a fire in the belly to show those aliens how superior he is, and by extension, The Culture as well. There are moralistic concepts invoked (e.g. free love), classic themes employed (good vs. evil) and a good story told, but none of this is explored in great detail or taken to extremes. There were times when I didn't want to put the book down, and at the end I was satisfied. I know that Iain Banks is capable of much more, but this book--it was good enough.
  • F'in great!

    By Rickfishnj
    All of Banks' Culture work is fantastic and highly recommended.
  • A fine introduction to The Culture

    By Jeff Rawlings
    This is not the first book set in the Culture universe, or the best - but it is the first one I read, and so it has a special place for me. I first picked it up for the title, as I am a game lover, and in that aspect I enjoyed the novel even with the description of the actual game more vague than I would have preferred. The main reward, though, was as my introduction to the Culture universe, a series that has been consistently rewarding for the decade I have been reading it. Highly recommended... You are in for a treat.