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Player of Games Discussion Thread

First discussion thread for the book club. This is for August's book Player of Games by Iain Banks.

Upcoming events: September ~15th: Voting for October's book September 30th: Discussion Thread on Winter World by A.G. Riddle

  • So I flew through this read but I'm not sure I enjoyed it. Also my first read of a Culture novel. Some stray thoughts:

    -The initial presentation of Azad as a meritocracy through performance at essentially a competitive test a la the SAT, ACT, A levels, only to be revealed again and again how it's set up to enforce the class structure. Elite schooling and training to perform better, performance enhancing drugs, and just straight out blocking people from participating at a certain level.

    -Gurgeh got played begining to end by Special Circumstances. This coupled with the heavy handed commentary about the utopian possibilities offered from having the same virtues as the Culture I think are somewhat at odds? Also a surprisingly high number of people die in the Culture (like at the end) after spending a chunk of time talking about how that rarely happens.

    • I think whenever you start messing with Special Circumstances, you in for a wild ride and can pretty much count on being played, if not by the drones, then by the Minds running things behind the scenes. That's kind of a signature aspect of Culture novels in some respects.

      A lot of Culture novels contrast aspects of authoritarian societies vs the utopian Culture, and PoG is definitely no exception to that rule because Banks absolutely loathed authoritarianism/fascism and wasn’t very fond of capitalism either, IIRC. But in a lot of ways that is what makes his books so fun (for me). Quite a few very rich or very powerful people who think they can get away with things because The Culture is the good guys and have to play nice are quite surprised by what a benevolent society can get up to when it puts its mind and tech to it in Banks’ Culture novels. Such as finding a guy who just absolutely loves games amongst their zillions of happy citizens and partly manipulating/partly just pointing him in the direction of a game he hasn’t played before and weaponizing his idea of fun into a tool to take down an empire.