The Player of Games
Iain M Banks Orbit 1988 this ed:1997 309pp
“This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just o play a game”
Ian M Banks is one of my favourite SF authors. ‘The Algebraist’ was abit weird but his other novels in this genre are stunning. I had not read this book for a long time and so sneakily purloined it from my visiting sister’s bag (well, swapped it for ‘Pecked to Death by Ducks’) and have really enjoyed revisiting it.
Note to young players – the use of a middle initial in Mr Bank’s name denotes the GOOD books as even though he still writes well, I don’t really like any of the stories that he publishes without this ‘M’. ‘Dead Air’ was frankly crap – I really hated the main character and all that he stood for – I only finished it out of some misguided loyalty. ‘The Business’ is okay – ending abit lame though. The first book by Iain Banks that I ever read – many many years ago - was ‘The Wasp Factory’ – which I remember was very disturbing and upset me greatly at time – and so I have never re-read it.
The ‘m’ however rocks!! Most of the books – as is this one – are set in a universe with the ‘Culture’ as the main society. Imagine fully sentient computers, amazing technology, unlimited wealth and freedom for its citizens and the ability to not grow old, to change gender and to gland all the mind-altering substances that you want – whenever you want. It’s a Utopia, but every once in a while someone suffers ennui and a strange sense of dissatisfaction and then Mr Banks writes a book about them.
The characters are all very engaging and the situations believable. I always develop a bit of a crush of whoever the main character is and always find these books to ‘haunt’ me for along time after I have read them. ‘Consider Phelabas’, ‘Against a Dark Background’ and ‘Inversion’ are so very good and so very sad – not a weepy kind of sad, just a lingering melancholy of the good ending unhappily and the bad ending unluckily kind that sticks to my skin and to my thoughts and won’t leave me alone.
‘Haunting’ is a good word – I always continue to think about these books long after I have finished reading them. A continuing theme that runs through his novels is that of human nature and suffering – similar to that explored more visually in Von Trier’s ‘Dogville’. Are humans inherently bad or is it their circumstances that make them so? Is freedom the answer to all our woes, or does happiness and peace always come down to something internal – however much we search for the external panacea? All this and robots and lasers and spaceships and aliens
Highly Highly recommended - but you can’t borrow mine – I am only just now building up the set again