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The Player of Games (1988)

by Iain M. Banks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Culture (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,9481781,440 (4.15)1 / 312
In the human-machine symbiotic society called The Culture, there have been many great game players. One, Gurgeh, is a master of every board, computer, and strategy. He travels to the Empire of Azad to try its game, one so complex and like life itself, that the winner becomes emperer. With this game, he takes on the challenge of his life, and possibly his death.… (more)
  1. 30
    Second Game by Charles V. de Vet (DisassemblyOfReason)
    DisassemblyOfReason: Another alien civilization wherein one's status as a game player has a direct relationship to one's status in society, and to which a human game player has been deliberately sent to play the game.
  2. 20
    Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (kaydern)
    kaydern: High sci-fi with excellently complex worldbuilding.
  3. 10
    The Gameshouse by Claire North (Cecrow)
  4. 00
    The Game-Players of Titan by Philip K. Dick (Cecrow)
  5. 00
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two opposing cultures collide in both works. Urras = The Empire but their opposites (Annares and The Culture) have very little in common. Annares is determined by scarcity, the Culture by its lack.
  6. 13
    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (jeroenvandorp)

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» See also 312 mentions

English (166)  French (5)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (176)
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
Quite awesome. ( )
  martinraag | Nov 9, 2022 |
Re-Read 17.10.2022 ( )
  se71 | Oct 20, 2022 |
Fun and fantastical, more characterful than normal, with a compulsive story and suitably revealing ending. Great. ( )
  tarsel | Sep 4, 2022 |
The Player of Games tells the story of Gurgeh, a competitive game player in a far-future utopian society. The Powers That Be in his society decide to send him off to a neighboring nation with shaky diplomatic relations--the Azad Empire, a cruel imperialist state that happens to have a incredibly complex board game as the center of their culture. Like poetry in classical China, aptitude at this board game decides bureaucratic and military posts, up to the point where the Emperor must win the competition to rule. Gurgeh must navigate both the game itself--far more complicated than anything he's played before--as well as all of the behind-the-scenes machinations with finding his place within an alien society as well as thwarting efforts to prevent him from playing and making Azadian official look bad. As someone who's played games on a competitive level before, this book particularly connected with me, but even if that were not the case, I still think this is a compelling work that keeps the reader coming back. ( )
  Phrim | Aug 23, 2022 |
This one is better than the score i’m giving it on a mechanical level. However it isn’t the sort of genre i’m particularly into and i can’t even say which genre it is as that might be a spoiler.

So in structure its like.. lets find some lazy and inaccurate analogies here... Last King of Scotland? (havn't actually seen that, maybe not), the Tailor of Panama (not sure i’ve seen much of that either), Good Morning Vietnam, Air America? I’m on firmer ground now.

Its one of those tales where the guy is sent to the foreign place to do a job, by possibly a cia or at least military-like group. He finds the place super nasty and corrupt, with the ordinary people suffering and starts to get involved and want to help them although that may or may not be in line with what his own government wants.

We’ve seen versions of this story a lot, and it never really worked for me. The problem is always that the main character is almost always a bit of an ass and also so protected by his foreigner status, and even if he was in danger the ordinary people have it so much worse anyway, that its hard to care about him.
While at the same time , we don’t really care about the natives that much because none of them are the main characters.

This is the same tale up until about the 3/4 mark. After which i will say it gives up asking us to care at all and goes for a more mechanical approach.
It works better towards the end, its all about the game, both figuratively and literally. However that does raise the question as to why it seemed to feel the need to go so extreme earlier in trying to gain our sympathy.

I mean at one point the plot stops dead so we can have this weird Ghosts of Christmas sort of moment, in which our view of the empire goes from, corrupt early 20th century capitalist, too corrupt medieval, too something out of the Purge or 100 Days of Sodom.
Then very soon after drops all attempts at eliciting any emotional response and goes for pure politicking and philosophizing.

Anyway, i know this review is pretty vague and i can certainly see many people other than me liking this a lot more. Its not bad at all but in the same way i’m not a fan of Murder Mysteries because of the impersonal nature of them, well this is something similar. ( )
  wreade1872 | Jul 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Banks, Iain M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benini, MilenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kenny, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For James S Brown, who once said 'Azshashoshz.'
First words
This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game.
Does Gurgeh really understand what he's done, and what might happen to him? Has it even begun to occur to him that he might have been tricked? And does he really know what he's let himself in for?

Of Course not!

That's part of the fun!
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

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Wikipedia in English (1)

In the human-machine symbiotic society called The Culture, there have been many great game players. One, Gurgeh, is a master of every board, computer, and strategy. He travels to the Empire of Azad to try its game, one so complex and like life itself, that the winner becomes emperer. With this game, he takes on the challenge of his life, and possibly his death.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
Azad Empire

A game that is not a game

Careful how you play


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Average: (4.15)
1 5
1.5 5
2 36
2.5 8
3 243
3.5 91
4 751
4.5 116
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Orbit Books

An edition of this book was published by Orbit Books.

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Hachette Book Group

An edition of this book was published by Hachette Book Group.

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