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Tenet 02-04-2013 12:48 AM

The Culture Series - Iain M. Banks
Culture series - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Player of Games - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A review I wrote for another forum:

"I've just finished reading "The Player of Games", my second read in the Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks.
I decided to read them in the order of publishing, the first being "Consider Phlebas" - though that isn't a requirement as they are quite independent.

"The Player of Games" is probably the best fiction novel I've read, and my enjoyment of it was comparable to books by Umberto Eco or Victor Pelevin. It draws you in with it's ornate detail, imagination and consistent inner logic - but at the end all that is revealed as misdirection, disguising the build up of the grand concept. It's that conceptual clarity that makes the book exciting at the end, beyond the (often predictable) plot twists and character development. It's exciting to see the big picture emerge from all that fine brushwork, even when told in advance that it's going to happen.

There are many interesting gaming concepts covered within the book - the meaning of playing games at a high level, how that can bring opposing minds to mutual understanding or affirmation of difference, what it means to be playing to win and how the border between the game and reality can be blurred. The high level game as a high level language. The excitement of a brilliant move. The burden of being peerless. The blindness of perceived omniscience. The tragedy of victory.

"This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game. The man is a game-player called "Gurgeh." The story starts with a battle that is not a battle, and ends with a game that is not a game..."

While "Consider Phlebas" was a good introduction to the series, with much more detail about the Universe, and had it's own share of interesting concepts and layers - I've enjoyed the above a lot more. "

Use of Weapons - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Finished reading Use of Weapons last week - I loved how that final brutal twist arranged all the themes in the book to one consistent concept - an in depth analysis of the full implications of it's title.
I feel like I'm going to have to re-read it to get all the details right, and fully comprehend the timeline.

I think it was a great achievement that the structure of the book didn't feel contrived, and worked so well. The alternating timelines allowed for a better understanding of the character - conveying the confusion of his condition.

It also seems to be one of his most cinematic books - though successfully condensing that material to film would take a true master (I'm struggling to name a currently active writer/director who could do it)."

I've since finished reading the entire series - the Hydrogen Sonata, the latest book, was another highlight.

These books combine spy-novel suspense with some very interesting bits of philosophy and highly imaginative (hard) science fiction that somehow manages to remain logical within it's own references.

I think that makes it some of the best science fiction ever written.
Highly recommend starting with "Player of Games" or "Use of Weapons".

Bored383 02-04-2013 12:53 AM

I really need to read this series . . . the universe is telling me this because I keep stumbling across references to it. This, plus the fact that Mr. Banks is a fan of the Civ series of video games, and has stated they influenced him on this series

seems like a win win to me

*looks at the stack of books currently to be read, laments*

acesn8s 02-04-2013 09:52 AM

It does look good and I have heard good things about it. Will be adding it to my pile as well.

usagi_tetsu 02-04-2013 11:03 AM

Adding it to the Leaning Tower of Literature I Mean to One Day Read.

(and still working on that title, way too long)

acesn8s 02-04-2013 05:55 PM

TBR Pile

acesn8s 02-22-2013 04:27 PM

I'm about 80% done with Consider Phlebas. It's ok.

Tenet 02-25-2013 01:36 AM


Originally Posted by acesn8s (Post 2632808)
I'm about 80% done with Consider Phlebas. It's ok.

Yeah, the last 20% make it better, in my opinion. I enjoyed Use of Weapons and Player of Games a lot more.

acesn8s 02-26-2013 02:35 PM

Finished CP. It was ok. I think that I never warmed to Horza, so really never really got into the book.

I started Player of Games and I like it a lot more. I'm glad I read CP for the background of Culture, although I feel like I'm still missing something there.

Gadget_ 02-26-2013 04:32 PM

I hated Use of Weapons...right up until that sting in the tail which really takes your breath away. Awesome book.

I particularly like the Culture books with lots of focus on ship Minds - Excession is a good one.

Tenet 02-26-2013 11:02 PM

I felt like part of the challenge of the book was not warming up to Horza.

The book's principle theme at the end seems to showcase the pointless brutality of the war, along with illustrating the competing ideologies. Without those final points the book would have been just an average adventure with some cool fiction concepts - but the conclusion elevated it, somewhat.

I love how the final chapters make you re-evaluate the entire book in Use of Weapons - that seems to be a favorite in Iain M Bank's arsenal.
I also really appreciate that it wasn't a mere "problem-solution" story, but a well developed novel that makes you think.

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