Nicholas Karpuk's Reviews > The Player of Games

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Apr 27, 2009

really liked it
Recommended for: Sci Fi Fans, Board Game Nerds
Read in April, 2009

Within two books Ian Banks has established himself not only as one of my new favorite sci fi authors, but also as a one of the most unpredictable.

The first book in the Culture series, a series focused on a massive post-scarcity human civilization spanning a huge chunk of the galaxy, didn't even focus on the perspective of one of its citizens, but on a shapeshifter who absolutely hated them. That's a gutsy way to launch a series with the word "Culture" imprinted on the corner.

The second book is about a member of the Culture sent to play a hyper-complex game called Azad against a race that uses it to decide matters of power.

So basically there's no predicting what the third book will focus on. The fact that the two books are separated by about 700 years adds to it.

In the broad strokes the synopsis for "The Player of Games" may seem like a rejected Star Trek story or perhaps a knock off of "Ender's Game," but damn can Banks tell story. His pacing and style are so inviting I read through most of the book in one extended sitting. Science Fiction can often come off as the fantasies of old men who stick to a tonally distant style and appear to be scared of female characters, so the contrast with Bank's often baudy and humorous attitude towards his world if damn refreshing.

All the issues I had with his first sci fi outing are gone to. Action scenes are now briskly paces, the story never feels like it's dragging at any point. He's firing on all cylinders at this point. It's exciting to see how many more of his books there are in the series.
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