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The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
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Archive [FBR Monthly Book Club!] > September 2018 - Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

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message 1: by Niki Hawkes, I made it past GOTM... barely (new)

Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller | 7557 comments Mod
The September 2018 FBR Book Club Winner is:

The Player of Games (Culture, #2) by Iain M. Banks
The Player of Games

This read will start September 1, 2018 and will be available throughout the month. The discussion will take place in this thread. It's listed at book 2, but common consensus says to start the series with this title. :)

Thank you Silvana, for your great nominations! :)


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Oh wow, the only SF nomination in my list won the poll :D
Thanks for all who voted.
This looks like a fun book so I can't wait for September.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Awesome. I’d planned to read this as a BR in another group. Now, I get to do that here for bonus points too😄


Chris  (haughtc) | 1769 comments It's a good one...I've read it twice.


jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Hoping to get to this. But so busy with BR!


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments I know how you feel, Jess. I will start as soon as I finish my current BR and maybe DNF the other one.


Andorion (ruineleint) In for this


message 8: by Silvana (last edited Sep 02, 2018 05:25AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Arkadeb wrote: "In for this"

So I reckon you read this before? Good to have somebody who's doing a second read in the BR :)

And Chris, you are welcome for the third read too.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Sorry, I’ll be starting a bit late. Probably on Wed or Thursday. Still have 1 more book I wanna finish.


message 10: by Seán (new) - rated it 1 star

Seán | 602 comments I absolutely loved Consider Phlebas, and then hated this for a reason I'm not even sure I can remember. Will be interesting to see what people think and if I'm maybe persuaded to give it a second read.

You can definitely start the series here and not miss out on anything - a lot of the books are independent stories with the 'series' just linking the same world and concepts. They're books I never got full into, but definitely have a lot of interesting ideas going for them!


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Good to know, Seán!

I have to admit I am intimidated by the title. I find it difficult to understand games and don't play many of them so I hope this book is digestible enough.


message 12: by Seán (new) - rated it 1 star

Seán | 602 comments Silvana wrote: "Good to know, Seán!

I have to admit I am intimidated by the title. I find it difficult to understand games and don't play many of them so I hope this book is digestible enough."


I'll spoiler this just to be safe - it's just about the Game itself and my issue with the book. I don't want it to colour anyone's thoughts, but it's relevant to what you've just said.

(view spoiler)


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Thank you, Seán, I appreciate the explanation :)

*now back to page 2*


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments 5% and so far so good.
Love the AI constructs here. I am still high from all the bots reads this year so this is right up my alley.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Started today. Currently about 17% in, just after (view spoiler)

So far the MC is pretty annoying with his “I’m-better-than-anyone” attitude. (view spoiler)

The Culture
(view spoiler)


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Finished part 1. I hate Gurgeh. I think he is also a male chauvinist.
(view spoiler)

I like Culture. No violence, poverty, sickness. You don't have to work and can do whatever. Seems to be best utopia I read so far. I can picture myself reading all the books in world and live in a beautiful place. And have lots of hobbies in between.

Entering part 2 and I am a little scared of reading about this Azad empire. (view spoiler)

Love the AIs too.


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments The best thing about the sex change is you can actually sync sex and gender and use whichever.

Also, I did not understand the games so far. Heh. So, why ever the Culture only had board and card games? Maybe if they had augmented reality stuff Gurgeh might not feel too bored


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments 46%. In Part II.

I’ve a slightly better opinion of Gurgeh. Yeah, he (view spoiler)

The game, I too have no idea what its like. The Possession and the other game look similar to Battleship with some modifications. But, I can’t imagine how the Azad game is played. And the author, at least so far, has only provided some vague descriptions of how it’s played.

I really like Gurgeh’s AI drone. Pretty sassy!

The Empire definitely has some weird customs.
(view spoiler)


message 19: by Timelord Iain, Tech Support (new) - rated it 3 stars

Timelord Iain | 17964 comments Mod
I remember liking this book, even if the game itself was hard to understand... the first 2 books were my favorites of the 4-5 I read...


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments 56%
Man, this is boring. Azadians are the worst. The ambassador was so sleazy he made my skin crawl. Anyway somehow I think Banks model Azad as example of humanity's less favorable traits: inane power games, discrimination, slavery, violence, xenophobia and so on..

One thing that bugs me is that the book has four chapters only, each is super long, so it is kind of hard to phase my reading.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments I’m done.

Overall, there are some parts that I like. And there some parts that confuse me, in terms of whether I like them or not.

There’s one major element that I definitely dislike : the Azad game.
(view spoiler).

The one major element that confuses me is how the Azadian culture was being depicted throughout the book. (view spoiler)

One more thing that I don’t quite enjoy is the conflict resolution, which I thought was (view spoiler)


message 22: by Seán (new) - rated it 1 star

Seán | 602 comments Barry wrote: "There’s one major element that I definitely dislike : the Azad game."

This was my main gripe with the book, and as it's something the book revolves around I just couldn't forgive it.


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments I finished too. Your thoughts there made me think, Barry. I don't think Culture is as perfect as I thought at first. And yes, the ending could be better. Might not even need that coda.

Did you know about (view spoiler)


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Yeah the reveal was not surprising; although, I wasn't thinking about the identity until the penultimate page. But, once I thought about it, the answer was rather obvious.


Andorion (ruineleint) Finished. Reread this after a long time.

The principal element of this book is in my opinion the tension between the Culture's utopic vision of no-want, no-violence, no-coercion vs all the problems of a power and hierarchy obsessed civilization, and it is through this tension that Banks draws out the problematic aspects of his own Utopia.

A rather old trope in science fiction was to depict utopias and then use the story to tease out their problems, often turning them into dystopias in the process. Banks is more subtle. The manifestly beneficial aspects of the Culture are never downplayed, but the intrinsic boredom and ennui, the effect this may have on its inhabitants (view spoiler) are slowly drawn out. The other negative aspect is of course the extremely manipulative and ruthless aspect of the Culture (view spoiler) The last part of the book is specifically engrossing because of this as the (view spoiler)


Andorion (ruineleint) Barry wrote: "I’m done.

Overall, there are some parts that I like. And there some parts that confuse me, in terms of whether I like them or not.

There’s one major element that I definitely dislike : the Azad ..."


Regarding why the Azadian culture is being depicted only in the negative, there are two aspects to this (view spoiler)


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Good points there, Arkadeb.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments I agree, Arkadeb.


message 29: by jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Im really still just starting this as Im trying to finish up another bR; The Burning Stone.

Post scene with Gurgeh at the dinner party/game night. So this is definitly science fiction: we have Sentient robots, complex game-playing that sounds quite real. So why is it that the hall is described as having tapestries covering the walls? Are they very proud of their history and historical artifacts like woven wall-hangings? Wouldn’t the sci fi equivalent of a tapestry be a projected screen, perhaps?

Just a random observation.

Don’t qute know what the Culture is or where this story is goong!


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Not sure why, maybe they just like some of their stuff to be basic/retro? Like I said before, they only have card and board games and not the more hi-tech ones like augmented reality.


message 31: by jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Silvana wrote: "Not sure why, maybe they just like some of their stuff to be basic/retro? Like I said before, they only have card and board games and not the more hi-tech ones like augmented reality."

Ah. Ok! Im only on page 25 so Im sure Ill get to that!


message 32: by Anny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anny | 241 comments I think their board games is more of a biotech actually. Gurgeh was at first said to have problems with getting his biological pieces to take shape and move as his will.


message 33: by Barry (last edited Sep 25, 2018 01:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Silvana wrote: "Not sure why, maybe they just like some of their stuff to be basic/retro? Like I said before, they only have card and board games and not the more hi-tech ones like augmented reality."

Yes, like Anny said the Azad game is biologically based. There's one game that's pretty hi-tech, the one played by (view spoiler)But, yes, come to think of it, it's kinda weird that the games aren't more technologically advanced.


message 34: by jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Barry wrote: "Silvana wrote: "Not sure why, maybe they just like some of their stuff to be basic/retro? Like I said before, they only have card and board games and not the more hi-tech ones like augmented realit..."

Yes! It’s this weird dichotomy! Just from what I’ve read so far, why, if they have drones and can travel planets, do their games tend to be so realistic? I do not know how else to say it.


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Speaking of tech, I am also curious about Yay's landscaping project. It reminded me of Slartibartfast from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the guy who specialized in constructing fjords)


message 36: by Anny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anny | 241 comments Jess wrote: "Barry wrote: "Silvana wrote: "Not sure why, maybe they just like some of their stuff to be basic/retro? Like I said before, they only have card and board games and not the more hi-tech ones like au..."

Well, one possible reason is that the game itself was developed at the very beginning of Azad civilization when the technology was not that advanced. Later it became a way of life and a national identity. So upgrading the game with 'technology' or making any change at all to the game itself might be seen as something blasphemous to the people who revere ancient traditions.

For example, imagine if a country like China used a game of Go to determine the ranking of its officers (like the old imperial examination used to be) since the founding of its dynasty. Then as the country advanced and Go became a national sport, pride and way of life, it is unlikely that die-hard purist or nationalist would agree to alter the game in any way, like say adding augmented reality to a Go game board.


message 37: by Silvana (last edited Sep 25, 2018 11:30PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Uh I think there is a misunderstanding. I thought we (at least Jess and I) were talking about parts of Culture's culture, not Azad's. I mentioned about card and board games and Jess about decoration. Anyway, I might missed the details about Culture games, who knows they were actually already sophisticated.


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments Whoops, yes indeed. The bio-based game is found in the Azad. The games in the Culture, iirc, weren’t properly explained except the two games played by Gurgeh (view spoiler). Those two games were “analog” games, similar to Battleships imo. The only “hi-tech” game that had some sort of simulation component was the first-person shooter like game that Yay liked to play, that Gurgeh wasn’t good at.


message 39: by Anny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anny | 241 comments Silvana wrote: "Uh I think there is a misunderstanding. I thought we (at least Jess and I) were talking about parts of Culture's culture, not Azad's. I mentioned about card and board games and Jess about decoratio..."

Oops, got that wrong didn't I. There probably are many sophisticated high-tech games in Culture, but Gurgeh is probably not interested in playing them. Like how in this world he probably would be a world champion in chess and Go, but totally uninterested in video games :P


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Good analogy!


message 41: by jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments I cant help but laugh at the drones’ humor. Mawhrin-Skel’s “F*** you” to Chamlis was great on pg55 before the Stricken game.


message 42: by Anny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anny | 241 comments Jess wrote: "I cant help but laugh at the drones’ humor. Mawhrin-Skel’s “F*** you” to Chamlis was great on pg55 before the Stricken game."

Yeah, I do think the drones have more interesting personalities, compared to the humans and aliens.

@Silvana what kind of solar system do you think theirs was, to never heard of a volcano at all? I thought that volcanoes are a common features in the universe? If not, how were the continents created at all?


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments I am not well versed in Culture's worlds or planetary system so I will just use typical space opera worldbuilding in which any planet/moon/celestial body can be as homogenous as possible in their landscape so there could be a system that were not familiar with volcanoes at all either because they don't need volcanoes to create landmass or existing volcanoes were so old they became dormant and covered by the landmass. No idea, basically.


message 44: by jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Around page 100, when the drone is describing the Azad game...(view spoiler)


Barry (boprawira) | 1184 comments @ Jess : yes, keep that suspicion =).

@ Silvana : IIRC, I think it's mentioned that they lived on an orbital? So, it's not a planet, that's why they don't have mountains there.


message 46: by Silvana (last edited Sep 30, 2018 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments I don't even remember that part. I guess if they live in a habitat with fake environment then Yay can have her hobbies.
Oh dear, it has been weeks since I finished this so all details have escaped me. All I can remember is that I am not too fond of the book. I don't even remember what I wrote in my review.


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments @Jess: my poor memory told me you would find answers to most of your doubts and suspicions in the later chapters.


message 48: by Anny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anny | 241 comments Barry wrote: "@ Jess : yes, keep that suspicion =).

@ Silvana : IIRC, I think it's mentioned that they lived on an orbital? So, it's not a planet, that's why they don't have mountains there."


Oh that's right! They don't even live on planets, no wonder they have no idea about volcanoes or islands.


message 49: by jess (last edited Oct 01, 2018 01:17PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

jess (nu6586) | 1723 comments Im trying to plow through this.

PAGE 200...

(view spoiler)


Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1818 comments Considering Gurgeh (view spoiler)


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