Felicity's Reviews > The Player of Games

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Jul 12, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, borrowed-book, novel, science-speculative-fiction
Read in July, 2009

This is one of the two best books I've read so far this year, and I doubt it will be dethroned.

The Culture, from which the main character springs, is easy for a science fiction reader to identify with: technologically advanced, socially progressive, inventive and aesthetically pleasing. But it's hard not to see some reflection of our own Earth in the 'barbaric' Empire that the Culture's Player of Games visits. Some of his pecularities, Culturally speaking, make the protagonist seem a bit more like a man of our world and time than of his own. Those ambiguities and similarities are richly plumbed. I found my liking or disliking for the nuanced characters was seldom allowed to set firm, which added to the tension and played off the themes of the book.

The book's slowly building plot is engrossing, the concepts fascinating and epic. It has some cogent yet wildly imaginative settings and intriguing bits of worldbuilding that hint at insights into power, society and politics. It leaves much of this unsaid and unpacked, the plot central and the themes gathered tightly around it. In short, it's beautifully crafted. One of the things I admire about it most is the way it uses language, from the first, to demonstrate attitudes and ways of thinking. An artificial intelligence's tiny physical body is not small enough to fit in your hands, it's small enough to hide in your hands. It is after all not an object, but an entity, sentient and independent-willed. Tiny notes like this are hit throughout the narrative, illustrating the power of language to shape thought before the plot ever touches on that power. It's elegant, challenging, and entertaining.

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Quotes Felicity Liked

Iain Banks
“Stories set in the Culture in which Things Went Wrong tended to start with humans losing or forgetting or deliberately leaving behind their terminal. It was a conventional opening, the equivalent of straying off the path in the wild woods in one age, or a car breaking down at night on a lonely road in another.”
Iain Banks, The Player of Games

Reading Progress

07/12/2009 page 8
07/16/2009 page 121
30.95% "I like Iain M. Banks. His writing does a difficult job well, and his books are very thoroughly thought out."
07/21/2009 page 295
75.45% "He built a totally epic yet plausible ecology from PLANETARY GEOLOGY UP. I love description rooted in descriptive science. Huzzah for Banks!"
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