Sunday, February 9, 2014

8. The Player of Games by Ian M. Banks

The Player of Games is the second book in the Culture Series, the second in a series of ten. As I have already mentioned earlier in my review of Consider Phlebas, the first book in the series, I am reading this series as part of a year long read on LibraryThing.

Now, while I didn't care much for Book 1 in the series, Book 2 was an entirely different matter altogether. For one, the title of the book is exactly what the book is about; the protagonist, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, is a Player of Games, nothing more, nothing less. There is a hint of Ender's Game, but no more than just a hint. The games themselves, set in a world far too much in future, are no high tech video games, but Board games! Strategy based Board and card games! There is less action of the traditional kind, less bloodshed, and the book is much better for that. While game playing is the premise of the book, from beginning to the end, the change in the protagonist is more fascinating. The book is brilliant in that it doesn't lack congruity at any point of time, the culture of Culture is better understood in this book and so is the place of humans and machines in their culture.

There is travel to a distant civilisation, interaction with other humanoid species, and perhaps the most exhaustive game in the universe. The "Minds" in this book continue to be all knowing, benevolent. I could be wrong, but I suspect an Assimovish twist to the story in its latter parts.

Humans in Culture are genetically enhanced, with in-built drug glands, ability to pass food and drinks through, easy sex changes, growing back of parts, among other things. Yet they need to pee, sounds quite wasteful for a civilisation like Culture, doesn't it?


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