Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Player of Games

Title: The Player of Games
Author: Iain M. Banks
Series: Culture, book 2
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1988

Recommendation: A fast, fun science fiction epic.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: Gurgeh is a renowned player of games in Culture. He lives a fairly quiet life, playing strategy games and studying them until his peace is upset by an ex-Contact sarcastic robot, Mawhrin-Skel. And then Gurgeh is off to the far away Azad Empire, where he is to play the most complex game of his lifetime.

Reactions: I wrote half of this review and then lost it in a browser refresh, so this version might end up much shorter than I originally intended it to be.

All in all, The Player of Games is so far my favorite book by Iain Banks. Perhaps my passion for German strategy board games made me relate to this book more than the average reader, but overall I really enjoyed following Gurgeh's story and I stayed up late reading the novel until it was finished.

For me, the best part of the story was following Gurgeh's character transformation as he explores the new world and masters the most complex strategy game he has ever encountered. The plot is well-written and well-paced if a little predictable in places. I could see many of the twists coming, but it didn't reduce my enjoyment of the book.

All-in-all, it's a solid story, full of nuanced characters and game play. It strongly reminds me of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card in its spirit. So, I believe you may enjoy this book if you liked Ender's Game. But regardless, I would recommend The Player of Games as solid entertainment as well as a good character study and even a society commentary.


  1. I haven't read any of Banks' culture series yet but constantly hear good things. Is this a book that must be read in continuity or does it stand well alone? The whole games premise, and your description of a kindred spirit with Ender's Game, has me intrigued.

    Sorry you lost part of your post, hate it when that happens, and it has happened before with some looooong posts.

  2. Actually, I went out of my way to read the Culture series (well, 2 books so far) in publication order. However, turns out that isn't necessary. The stories are completely stand-alone, just set in the same universe. It's completely safe to pick up the book by itself.

  3. Good to know. I'm not a fan of reading things out of order, but I don't mind reading books publisher later that are part of a "universe" but not necessarily part of a linear story line.