The Player of Games
The Player of Games is a novel by Ian M. Banks. In the story, a highly advanced space-faring race known as "The Culture" has pretty much solved the majority of problems of life and become a truly peaceful egalitarian culture. Rather than toiling in strife, the people have loads of free time that they use to enjoy life through relationships, art, and playing games. One man, Jernau Gurgeh, is famous for being especially talented at game playing. The government's exploration department has come in contact with an empire whose entire civilization functions around a extremely complex game where the winner becomes the emperor. Gurgeh is sent to them as an ambassador to take part in their game, just for show.
I don't own this book, but have listened to an audio book recording.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The Culture fits with my ideal of a perfect society. The people are well educated, peaceful, passionate, unafraid, and still manage to seek adventure.
- The Empire of Azad, and its inhabitants, while barbaric and evil, do possess a certain allure that I find exciting.
- The sentient drone, Flere-Imsaho, is very charming.
- The author did a good job at describing a believable game without having to delve too much into the rules.
- I found interesting the idea of the three-sexed Azadians.
- The whole cheating incident near the beginning seemed unnecessary and a waste of time. It humanizes Gurgeh a little, but it never has any falling out. I kept expecting it to bite him in the ass later, but it never really did.
- At one point, Gurgeh is certain that he's won long before the game is over, but since Azad incorporates elements of chance, that shouldn't be possible unless he's able to also incorporate every possible random event that might happen until the end of the game, which seems unlikely in such a complicated game.
- I never really felt like the heroes were in danger. The Culture was far too powerful to ever be threatened by the Empire and Gurgeh was almost never in any real peril. This made the book so safe that it was boring at times.