My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the best Ian M. Banks Culture novels I have read to date. Perhaps only Matter was possibly better.
Player of Games starts in the perfect Culture universe of parties and general good life - everything is provided for, there is no concept of money because its unnecessary and sentient robots are everywhere. It focuses on the protagonist, the best Culture player at any game ever designed. He has been studying and playing games all his life and is a natural recruit for Special Circumstances (Culture CIA equivalent) to go deal with a new civilization that centers completely around playing one game. This game decides who gets what post in their social and political hierarchies; all the way to the top: the game's ultimate winner is crowned emperor.
Interesting, fast paced, has many of the usual Culture elements of advanced civilizations meeting backward ones (but not willing to take them by force). Humorous sentient drones, interesting personality studies and a good story line make this book a very compelling read. Recommended if you like hard sci-fi, have enjoyed the works of Ian M. Banks, Vernor Vinge or Alastair Reynolds.
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