The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games
Iain M. Banks
(Orbit, London: 1989)

A Culture Novel

READ: November-December 2007

I picked this up, mostly out of curiosity because Randal has been singing Iain M. Banks' praises for a while now. Though when he found out I was reading it, he said he would have recommended others of his books, rather than this one.

It was fine, but for someone who is only moderately familiar with the genre, Banks' particular mix of science fiction and fantasy, at least in this book, didn't really do it for me. The Player of Games tells the story of Gurgeh, a renowned game-player from the Culture, a super-advanced galactic civilization. He is sent, through a strange set of circumstances, to the Empire of Azad to participate in the Empire's ultimate tournament, a series of games which, for Azadians, determine job positions and social ranks.

While it was an interesting read, I found it a little long and ponderous at times. The story did have many parallels in today's world, especially in how its overall "point" (so to speak) was about racism and sexism, but I found it handled a little clumsily at times. Randal says I need to read more books in the genre to gain a better appreciation of what SF&F authors may be trying to do in similar cases, and he's probably right. That said, I'd be interested in reading more Banks because I can tell he has better things to offer.

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