The Player of Games

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The Player of Games

Player of Games, The - Hardcover - UK - 1st Edition.jpg

Hardcover - USA - 1st edition.

Author Ian M. Banks
Published 1988-08-??
Type Fiction
Genre Science Fiction
Themes Adventure, Science Fiction
Age Group Adult

The Player of Games is a science fiction novel by Ian M. Banks published in August 1988.

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.


Read?Audiobook read by Peter Kenny.

I read this book because it was high on a list of the most popular science fiction novels. I wasn't impressed.




— 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.
  • The three-sexed Azadians was an interesting idea.


  • 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 protagonists were ever in danger. The Culture was far too powerful to ever be threatened by the Empire and Gurgeh, thanks to Flere-Imsaho, was almost never in any real peril. This made the book so safe that it was boring at times.


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