'The Player Of Games
' (1988) is the second Culture novel
by British science fiction author Iain Banks
, the protagonist
of the novel
, is a 'morat
' or 'player of games'. He is one of the most talented players in the Culture
. He is versed in the rules of all known games
and wins many competitions. He even publishes papers about games
- yes, in the luxurious Culture
, gaming has become an academic
field, and Gurgeh is at the top of it. He is , basically, the ultimate 'grognard'.
’s fair-play is intentionally compromised by a 'drone
', one of the Culture
's artificial intelligence
s. Because of this, he is forced to leave the Culture
on a mission
to the Empire of Azad. The Azadian Empire is a newly discovered area of the Galaxy
, which hasn’t been incorporated into the Culture yet. What’s so special about this empire is that the game
Azad, an incredibly complex board game, determines people’s careers and lives.
From the moment Gurgeh
enters the Azadian Empire, the contrast
with the Culture gets more and more emphasized. The Culture is the ideal society. Technology
has reached such a high level that everybody has access to everything, money is no longer necessary and crime is non-existent. Azad, by contrast, seems remarkably close to our Western civilization. And into this Empire
, the Player of Games arrives with a mission he himself is not fully aware of.
shows an amount of flair
worthy of, let’s say, Jack Vance
. Banks creates a believable character that will be loved by everyone who has ever played a strategy game
, and then sends that character through an amazing amount of thrills and excitement. You want sensawunda
? This novel has more sensawunda
than you can shake a stick at.