The Player of Games (The Culture, #2)
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The Player of Games

by Iain M. Banks
Release date: 1988
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fictionspace opera

Gurgeh is one of the greatest game-players the Culture’s ever produced: respected and rarely beaten, he is successful at almost everything he attempts. Nevertheless in time, feeling unfulfilled, he becomes restless and asks Contact – the Culture organization whose job it is to find, investigate, analyse and occasionally interfere in other civilizations – to find something that might challenge him.

What they find him is the Empire of Azad, a civilisation of immense wealth and appalling cruelty, a hundred thousad light-years away from home and everything he knows, where there exists a game so complex and so closely modelled on the rules of existence that the winner becomes Emperor.

Under threat of blackmail, and with no real choice, Gurgeh accepts the challenge and sets off on a year-long journey to a strange land where the ultimate game becomes one he knows he cannot win.

(updated 2014-06-13)

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