The Player of Games
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Player of Games (Culture #2)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  26,530 ratings  ·  1,060 reviews

The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that t

Hardcover, 309 pages
Published February 1st 1989 by St. Martin's Press (first published August 1988)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Player of Games, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Player of Games

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Tis Official...Iain Banks can write his flesh cushion off. Okay, so for many of you that is not exactly breaking-news scrolling across the ticker, but I still thought it was worth repeating.

I had previously read and loved The Wasp Factory, Banks' classic first novel which was a fascinating glimpse into the psychology of a very disturbed young man in serious need of a hug. I also really enjoyed Consider Phlebas, which is the first of the Culture novels. With Banks having two big wins under his b...more
mark monday
an often brilliant allegory. it is interesting to compare the rather spare quality of this novel with the more luxurious expansiveness of the rest of the Culture novels... almost as if it is Iain without-the-M Banks writing about the Culture this time. and the themes are very much in line with banks' non-science fiction suspense novels. banks' wit and imagination are still in play. as are the wonderful drones! well, one drone in particular.

mea culpa: so i have been recommending that folks start...more
In 1938, Yasunari Kawabata, a future Nobel Prize winner, was assigned by the Mainichi newspaper to cover a Go match between Honinbo Shusai, the top player, and his challenger Kitani Minoru. Go has an importance in Japanese culture that is hard for a Westerner to understand, and was one of the four traditional arts that a Samurai had to excel in. The match was very even until Kitani played an unexpected move just before an adjournment; its only purpose was to force a response, giving him extra ti...more
This was my first book in Iain M. Banks sprawling Culture series. I have been reading a lot of sci-fi and fantasy lately, because for some reason that's all that sounds interesting to me, but I have to admit it is very annoying knowing that every book I pick up is the first in a _______. Usually that blank is "trilogy," except when it isn't (or it really isn't). And while there may be lots and lots of Culture books, they are all standalone stories with a beginning and an end. You can read one pu...more
[I am removing my reviews as I do not want to support Amazon.]

You are playing a game. In adjournment you are offered a cast iron safe opportunity to cheat. It won’t affect the outcome of the game, you are going to win anyway. But it may change how you win. So what do you do?

For the rest, here:

Cindy C
Use of Weapons was far superior, in plot and characterization. Player of Games offered no surprises especially if you have read other Culture novels. The plot twist is reminiscent of Ender's Game, and is alluded to in the very first sentence. The central game is never described, and therefore too vague of a concept to care about. Any exposition about the human condition, racism, and sexism were poorly entwined into the book, and did not fit naturally into the plot.
Well played Mr Banks. Well played.

I'm struggling to find the words to express my awe in the wake of finishing this book. I feel much as I'd imagine a wizened game player would watching true masters dance across the board. Unable to do so myself, but completely transfixed by the beauty and depth of their movements.

I don't think I can recommend this highly enough. It isn't necessary to have read Consider Phlebas which is the first book in the Culture series. I've read half of it and had to stop t...more
A very satisfying read for me and a worthwhile homage to a modern master of science fiction whom we lost this year. I enjoyed his first foray in this genre, “Consider Phlebas”, many years ago, so it is fitting that I plug a big gap in my reading history by taking on this 1988 landmark set in the same fictional scenario of a far-future society called the Culture.

In the Culture, all basic human needs are taken care of through technology, there is no war or crime, and its peoples are free to party...more
My third Culture book, a series of epic space opera about a post-scarcity human society in the far future. If you are not familiar with this series you may want to read this Wikipedia entry first and come back (or not, as you prefer). I love Consider Phlebas but I followed that up with fan favorite Use of Weapons and it nearly put me off the entire series. I don't want to go into why I do not like that book, if you are curious you can always find my review. Still, I love Consider Phlebas so much...more
When someone who rarely reads science-fiction says that a particular book is light on the SF aspect which could be read by anybody (even those who don’t like SF) I always groan inwardly (Only if some of my dependable Goodreads friends who read SF regularly tell me that even though a particular SF book is light on the science aspect but it's good, I give it a try). Because for me, the "light" often means that the author is trying to hide his/her own weaker grasp of science from his/her readers.

Dirk Grobbelaar
This is the second Culture novel I've read, after Consider Phlebas. Some reviewers have likened The Player Of Games to Ender's Game(Orson Scott Card), but I'm not sure I agree. There is a 'game' element in both books, obviously (even the titles suggest that), but that was where the similarities ended for me. Many people have also been harsh in their criticism of Consider Phlebas, stating that The Player Of Games is by far the better of the two. Well, perhaps, but I will say that Phlebas was more...more
I have wanted to read one of the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks for quite a while and one that sounded particularly interesting to me was The Player of Games. Unfortunately, that particular title was difficult to find in the U.S. -- until it was reprinted here a couple of months ago. I am very glad it was since this is definitely one of the better novels I have read this year, containing layers and depth without ever becoming too dry or a chore to read.

Complete Review:
If I had to pick a favorite of Iain Banks...well, I haven't read them all yet, and anyway I couldn't pick, because each one I read becomes a favorite for a different reason. This one is a fascinating study of a complex character, set in an insanely well-drawn world. If you're a gamer you will definitely appreciate this book on another level, so pick it up!
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I've finished re-reading Iain M. Banks' The Player Of Games. I thought Banks showed a growing mastery of style in this novel, unlike Consider Phlebas where several sentences in a row were sometimes clotted with clauses and fly-specked with commas. The style is considerably more fluid here and the lyrical streak in Banks's prose is allowed more free rein in describing the various strange settings Jernau Gurgeh, the player of games, moves through as well as the mental states associated with his im...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Not only was 'The Player of Games' my first taste of Iain M Bank's Culture, it was also the first adult science fiction story that I ever read. Because of this, I feel that this novel influenced my life profoundly and it is always the first to come to mind if I'm asked to recommend a good book.

The wit makes this book very easy to ease in to. The Utopian society of the Culture is beautiful and diverse, seeming both alien and familiar to us in equal measure. The opening sections introduce us to th...more
My first Banks experience. It was OK. Some cool concepts, writing wasn't awful, the left-wing space utopia was fun, the plot had some twists. But but but.

Banks, though he seems like a cosmopolitan guy who's aware of the tropes he's using and their limitations, still commits the basic sin that makes so much science fiction so much less enjoyable to me than it could be. The sin: blandness. Blandness of writing, characterization, worldbuilding, humor -- everything. The problem, and it's not one wit...more
Peter Tieryas
My HTMLGiant Review:

"Iain M. Banks was an incredible writer who wrote rich, diverse worlds that never shied away from the darker aspects of life, all the while weaving an entertaining yarn. He imagined a universe where utopianism went hand-in-hand with some of the harsher realities of existence and created an ideal that he put to the test with every new iteration in the Culture series."
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It is hard to know what to say that won't give some of the slowly unrevealed story away. It's just a game player from Culture going off to play a larger game. I read it in an afternoon.
The second of the Culture books, this is solid space opera sci-fi. Not the best of the Culture books but certainly not the worst (or not the "least good" since I don't think any of them are bad).

Player of Games often is recommended as the best starting point for somebody new to Banks' writing or new to the Culture series. The reasoning is that Player of Games is more accessible to a wider audience than Consider Phlebas , the first of the Culture books to be written and the first chronologicaly i...more
Ben Babcock
My experience with Iain M. Banks has been lukewarm. I liked but didn't love the first book in this series, Consider Phlebas, and I absolutely hated The Algebraist. I read The Player of Games because I am an artificial intelligence, post-scarcity junkie, and Banks is the kind of author who serves as my pusher.

The Player of Games more than makes up for any disappointment I felt over Consider Phlebas. In this return to the Culture universe, Banks manages to craft a character and a story that are co...more
Guillermo Azuarte
I was pretty surprised to not give this a higher rating. Alot of people who's opinions I really respect rated this as a 4 or 5 star book, but here I am to buck the trend.

It was a beautifully written book, with lots of great ideas, but the story just didn't do it for me. This is problematic, because I think that he is one of the most story driven modern sci fi authors out there. Quick word association game: Reynolds = suspense. Hamilton = world building. Banks = story. But the fact is, I could re...more
I'd been putting off reading this next book in the Culture series. I remembered starting it at University, not getting on with it, and giving up. But, as part of my decision to read the series from the start, in the correct order, it was something I couldn't put off forever. Turns out this was a stupid delay, having read the book straight though I had no recollection of every having read any of it before. Not only that, but it was awesome. Better-than-the-previous-book awesome - and I already ga...more
Dudebro member of a post scarcity, post human space society travels to a distant, less advanced culture to participate in a tournament of games that determines sociopolitical hierarchy.

This was certainly better than the first Culture book I read (Matter) but I'm still not really sold. This book is playing with cultural relativism/absolutism, and what happens when a citizen of a supposed technological utopia encounters a violent, hierarchical, inherently unjust society. But the thing is, writing...more
Sally Melia
The book I read every year.

Readers of SF&F nearly always have one book they reread every year. The book most frequently quoted as being the one which is reread every year is the Lord of the Rings. Famously Christopher Lee liked to reread Lord of the Rings. See story here.

It is true I have read and re-read Lord of the Rings, but the book I have read every year, and sometimes if feels like it is permanently on my bedside table is this one. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks.

This is a Cultur...more
Joakim Ruud
This is more like it!

Here's that literary trinity that you get from the best Culture novels: An interesting, quirky protagonist; an interesting alien setting; and some juicy Culture backstory.

The main character Gurgeh is great: a misfit, forever feeling shut out in what is ostensibly the most inclusive society in the galaxy. He is dissected fairly and respectfully by Banks, showing both the good and the bad in him, and you can really see the layers of him and how he develops over the course of t...more
Jonathan Cullen
Feb 01, 2011 Jonathan Cullen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gamers
Scotsman Iain M. Banks continues to be near or at the top of my list. His obsession with ultra-weird character names is fine by me but I think it hurts him in the long run because part of being a memorable character means allowing others to remember how to pronounce the name! Let's try a vocal exercise:

First warm up your chords with the following: Frodo. E.T. Harry Potter. That was easy.

Now let's try these: Doc Brown. HAL 9000. Buffy. Still ok? Now prepare to hurt!

Jernau Morat Gurgeh. Mawhrin-Sk...more
I don't know how true this is for his more mainstream fiction as Iain Banks, but the science fiction novels Iain M. Banks writes always function on multiple levels. As a result, they can often be a bit daunting; in particular, I remember taking two weeks, during which I had to put it down multiple times, to finish "Excession". I loved it every bit as much as I usually love Banks's sci-fi work, but there was just so much information to absorb that I sometimes felt too overloaded to continue. "Pla...more
Champion Culture game-player Gurgeh is blackmailed into travelling to a far distant empire to play a game that is so complicated that the winner become Emperor...

Of course, from the minute you start reading this story, you know that Gurgeh is going to win the Game, the fun is in the journey he has to make to get to it. Along the way, you get to really know what makes the Azad Empire tick, and it not coincidentally shines quite a light on the Culture as well.

The final confrontation between Gurgeh...more
Althea Ann
Gurgeh is the top player of games on his planet. He avidly seeks out new games, determined to master them all. He's good. He's brilliant. He's also arrogant, annoying, and just a little bit bored - and vulnerable to manipulation.
When agents of The Culture suggest that he travel to a planet where an overwhelmingly complex game controls the social hierarchy, the bait has been dangled...

My book club opted to read this book last month in light of Banks' recent very bad news. Not all the readers love...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Prefect
  • Iron Sunrise (Eschaton, #2)
  • Judas Unchained (Commonwealth Saga, #2)
  • Brass Man (Agent Cormac, #3)
Iain M. Banks is a pseudonym of Iain Banks which he used to publish his Science Fiction.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, li...more
More about Iain M. Banks...
Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1) Use of Weapons (Culture, #3) Excession (Culture, #5) Surface Detail (Culture, #9) Matter (Culture, #8)

Share This Book

“All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elefant and both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains makkeable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory, to use an unfashionable word. In this, the future is a game; time is one of the rules. Generally, all the best mechanistic games - those which can be played in any sense "perfectly", such as a grid, Prallian scope, 'nkraytle, chess, Farnic dimensions - can be traced to civilisations lacking a realistic view of the universe (let alone the reality). They are also, I might add, invariably pre-machine-sentience societies.

The very first-rank games acknowledge the element of chance, even if they rightly restrict raw luck. To attempt to construct a game on any other lines, no matter how complicated and subtle the rules are, and regardless of the scale and differentiation of the playing volume and the variety of the powers and attibutes of the pieces, is inevitably to schackle oneself to a conspectus which is not merely socially but techno-philosophically lagging several ages behind our own. As a historical exercise it might have some value, As a work of the intellect, it's just a waste of time. If you want to make something old-fashioned, why not build a wooden sailing boat, or a steam engine? They're just as complicated and demanding as a mechanistic game, and you'll keep fit at the same time.”
Why had he done it? Why couldn't it just not have happened? Why didn't they have time-travel, why couldn't he go back and stop it happening? Ships that could circumnavigate the galaxy in a few years, and count every cell in your body from light-years off, but he wasn't able to go back one miserable day and alter one tiny, stupid, idiotic, shameful decision...” 13 likes
More quotes…