• The Player of Games

  • By: Iain M. Banks
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 11 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (4,053 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer, and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game... a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.

©2008 Iain M. Banks (P)2011 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more." ( NME)
"An exquisitely riotous tour de force of the imagination which writes its own rules simply for the pleasure of breaking them." ( Time Out)

What listeners say about The Player of Games

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great introduction to The Culture series

On the surface this is a great adventure story in which the playing of games becomes as exciting as a physical combat scene in an action movie. Underneath it is a provocative discussion of how intelligent individuals who live as part of larger social groups might best arrange their relationships with each other. The themes are abstract, brilliantly captured in the game play itself, yet never, ever tedious or boring. I agree with reviewer Guy that this is a great introduction to the The Culture series, so this is especially recommended for those who have not previously encountered Banks. Peter Kenny read the story brilliantly, doing an exceptional job of giving each character a unique voice.

20 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Spectacular reading of a cult sci fi classic

Iain M Banks is one of my favorite authors, and this early culture book is possibly the best one to start with - it has the most accessible and linear plot but is still though provoking and gripping. Peter Kenny does an outstanding job reading this as well as other Iain Banks books (Surface Detail for instance). I must have read this book at least half a dozen times since it first came out almost 20 years ago, listening to Peter Kenny made it seem brand new. I can't recommend it highly enough.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing after the hype

The Culture novels get a lot of praise, and so I've tried to break into the series many times. I started in with Matter, lost interest and then tried Consider Phlebas, lost interest and then finally tried The Player of Games, which was supposed to be the best entry point into the Culture universe.

As with the first two novels I tried, I found that Banks has no interest in easing the reader into his universe. In fact, had I not already had a little bit of back story from my brief forays into his other works, I probably would have been left with a lot more questions at the end of this novel.

Thoughts on the writing style: It's somewhat engaging, accessible certainly, but far from captivating. This was not a page-turner so to speak.

There were moments, conservatively scattered, where I did find myself very invested in the protagonist... but then there were also passages that hardly even held my attention. Oddly when I tuned back in 20 minutes later, I found I really hadn't missed anything critical.

There are definitely some very clever aspects to the Culture universe. I love Banks's handling of robots- from tiny droids to powerful AI minds he them utilizes them more cleverly than almost any sci-fi writer I've encountered.

The characters and the plot seem under cooked in this novel, but Banks's unusually sharp grasp of humanity's inevitable progress in the future kept everything on track.

I realize that this is one of Banks's earlier attempts, and so I am hopeful that as I return to some of his newer works I will find that he grew into a better author regarding character development and crafting suspense.

9 people found this helpful

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Culture, Contact, Special Circumstance its genius!

I enjoyed this book immensely, even more than Consider Phlebas and I really hope that Peter Kenny will narrate Use of Weapons, The State of the Art and especially Excession of which I've heard great things. Please release these books on Audible. The Culture Series is fantastic. Thanks to Banks for this work of art and Kenny for narrating. If you enjoyed The Player of Games then please take a moment to write the publishers or contact audible and ask them to release the rest of the series on audio.

8 people found this helpful

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Great culture story

Would you listen to The Player of Games again? Why?

Yes! This is one of my favorite Culture novels. It presents the story of a cuture citizen traveling to a non-Culture world to play a game. The visit, of course, is engineered by Special Circumstances so you KNOW something will happen. When it does, of course, it's marvelous and even better than you are thinking.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Player of Games?

Love the tiny twist at the end of the story... listen to the very very end!

Which character ??? as performed by Peter Kenny ??? was your favorite?

The droids! Of course. :)

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not as great as I hoped

I've heard a fair amount of praise for this author, and this was supposed to be his best. I had tried starting with his first book (Consider Phlebas) and it failed to grab me, to the extent that I gave up around halfway through. Disappointed in that, but thinking that 'Hey, an author's early work is usually poorer,' and knowing Banks' books to be more episodic than not, I thought I would give him another chance, but alas.

It's hard for me to describe why I grow so easily bored with this author. I can say that some of it stems from feeling unattached to most of the characters, the main protagonists especially. Gurgeh, the main for this book, was too close a Mary Sue for my tastes. I cared very little as to whether he would succeed or fail, especially after some rather cartoonish efforts were made to make his opponents (a whole civilization) out to be thoroughly vile and contemptuous.

Spoilers (sort of?) from this point on.

The fact that Gurgeh was shown to be obviously capable of breezing through every obstacle in his path, yet still had to be manipulated into doing "what needed to be done", and therefore was not so much the glorious hero as a selfish but useful buffoon, didn't make him any more interesting or respectable, it just made me feel all the more disappointed for giving *his* story any attention. The perspective of his handler(s) might have been more interesting, but on the whole, the lack of any real conflict/challenge means it would likely feel stagnant either way.

5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Should have been shorter or longer

Okay, this is my last Iain Banks book. I gave him two tries, and that should be enough.

Someone else mentioned that this could have been a novella. That is true and all you really need to know.

He's not a bad writer. And the book does have a satisfying conclusion. It just didn't take me in the direction I wanted it to go. Too much time was spent on inconsequential things, in my opinion. I also do not like the amount of sexual references and depravity that we see or hear mention of. Sure the Empire is a decrepit and corrupt place and needs to go, but there must have been more tasteful ways to convey that.

The personalities of the droids shine through again, and he does a good job of describing the game without getting too bogged down in details. I just don't understand why both this book and the previous one, Consider Phlebas, actually center around fringe storylines rather then really taking us through the Culture and all the vast wonders that must surely be part of it.

Alas, I don't have the patience to try another one to see if this ever happens.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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And the winner is... THE DROIDS!!! Yayyy... Boooo

And the winner is.... THE DROIDS!!!

Yeah, of course the best part of The Player of Games (TPoG) is the droids and how they are played by Peter Kenny who, I believe, makes this book much more than it would have been without his involvement. TPoG is Not a Game of Thrones by any stretch of the imagination nor is it even in the class of something like The Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse though certainly some comparison may be drawn. For example, “the game” or the rules of which, are only alluded to in each book and are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of practice and we are lead to believe the hero of our story becomes such a master on his trip to the planet where it is played. The stakes are high, any thing from castration to death by torture, but the reward, ah yes the reward: emperor over this planet of ethnocentric, sexist, megalomaniac planet of degenerates. Sound interesting? Me thinks not. I found the performance to be excellent but what the narrator had to work with utterly moronic, waste-of-time and -credit stupid.

This was my introduction to the Iain Banks Culture. I chose this book because a reviewer said that it was a good intro to that series. I seldom give up on an author after just one book so I will continue to search for another installment in the hopes that something more than this drivel will obtain.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Cerebral

This is an idea book. And there are lots of good ones. The world building is amazing. Not a ton of action an adventure and the main character is not terribly likable. I was tempted to quit reading at one point because I wasn't sure if I cared what happened to him, but I did finish and was glad I did. I think I will try a few other books by this author.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Chess with Planets

Player of Games focuses on Jernau Gurgeh, a famous game player in galactic utopia known as the Culture. Gurgeh is unwillingly(?) drafted into a gaming competition with a less enlightened alien empire, with stakes as higher than he could possibly imagine. Imagine a spy thriller set in space and you'll have some idea about how this goes.

I was on the fence about starting this novel, since Ian Bank's first Culture novel left me feeling very "Meh." That said, I am very grateful to a friend for pushing me to give the second book a shot, because this novel is superb! I'll certainly be checking out future Culture novels after this!

Finally, Peter Kenny's narration is absolutely on point. He has grown dramatically better since Consider Phlebas. If you love science fiction, you need to give this a listen. Very highly recommended!

3 people found this helpful

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