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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > THE PLAYER OF GAMES: contrast between the Culture and Azad *SPOILERS LIKELY*

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message 1: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
It's been a few years since I read this, so I'm having trouble thinking of appropriate questions. How do you think Iain M. Banks did in setting up the contrast(s) between the Culture vs. the Empire of Azad?

message 2: by Hélène (new)

Hélène (hlneb) | 89 comments I first thought Azad was a caricature : as the drone led Gurgeh through the city, each new stage seemed overkill to convince G. this was really BAD. Then I immediately reconsidered as it could well be a description of Terra 2011 ! - and not so overkill after all nor surrealist.
As for the Culture, well, this is the first book I read and I've no more background than what is given in this novel. It seems to be a case of iron fist in a velvet glove. Smooth on the outside, ruthless at the core. There is no bomb, no soldier, but utter destruction nonetheless, long planed and relentlessly implemented.
And some sort of Game is played everywhere. Banks play with us as well as we're first led to consider the Azad Empire as evil and to be stopped at all cost. While we are thinking this, he can perhaps make us forget the ethically dubious manipulations of the Culture.

message 3: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
I find the Culture one of the most fascinating SF universes. Even though it's obviously not Iain M. Banks' invention, I hadn't encountered the concept of "post-scarcity economy" before, in which resources are basically limitless and the only reason someone would want to work is because they consider it fun. It's true that there's a lot of darkness hiding in the background, with the Minds pretty much looking at humans as pets, but it's just such a fun environment to read about. The contrast between the Culture and the relatively more primitive civilizations it encounters (such as Azad) couldn't be stronger. In later books, Banks also introduces equally advanced and more advanced civilizations (he even assigns them levels - I think the Culture is a level 8), which make it even more fascinating to me. In "Matter", one of the more recent books in the series, you really start getting a solid idea of what life's like in the galaxy, and what role the Culture plays in it. Banks could basically release a book a month in this series and I'd gladly read them all.

message 4: by Hélène (new)

Hélène (hlneb) | 89 comments I'm determined to read other books in this universe. Which one would you recommend ?

message 5: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
All of them! :) But after The Player of Games, you probably want to get Use of Weapons, which was the next in order of publication, as well as possibly one of his best books, if not the best.

The whole series is listed here:

The only one I haven't read is The State of the Art, which is a collection of short stories and novellas, only one of which is a Culture story (I think). The two most recent additions to the series, Matter and Surface Detail, are both excellent too.

message 6: by Hélène (new)

Hélène (hlneb) | 89 comments Thank you. I'll try Use of Weapons.

message 7: by Joel (new)

Joel (joelevard) the culture story from State of the Art was produced as a radio drama by the BBC. you can find it for download if you look around.

i have likewise only read player, but i am going to follow up with either phlebas or use of weapons -- i have both as audiobooks. i also bought a paperback of excession.

message 8: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new)

Kathi | 3218 comments Mod
I've only read Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games. Each book reveals a bit more about the Culture.

The Empire was certainly a contrast to the Culture. The dominant apex gender with both males and females in subservient, even "throw away" roles; the strict rules and etiquettes in the outward society with such a violent "underground" society; sex and torture as both entertainment and means of enforcing power. Azad, the game and the Empire, weren't just about power, but truly about dominance in every form.

message 9: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Cotterill (rachelcotterill) This is the only Culture (big C) novel I've read, so I was learning about both cultures (small c) at the same time. I didn't quite get the hang of the underlying power structures in the Culture - there was clearly some hefty manipulation going on behind the scenes, yet the characters seemed almost oblivious to this. At least in Azad, brutal as it was, the conflicts and threats are easily visible to all concerned.

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