Tag Archives: Iain M. Banks

A Player of Games

So I totally abandoned this and my other blogs for a good long while due to a lack of interest in writing anything recently. Recently however there has been something buzzing around in the back of my mind that won’t go away – in the past the only thing that has dealt with such a pest is to lay it out on digital paper so here we go:

Anyone who knows me would know I freaking love the science fiction of Iain M. Banks. When asked my favourite book of the Culture series I would happily talk at length about Player of Games. What has always fascinated me about the Game, named Azad played by the Empire of Azad. The concept of a game so complex its playing could and would be used for everything from government policy, peoples societal ranks and could even encompass and incorporate intrinsic concepts like your beliefs, point of view, culture and personality. A game so vast it was played over vast halls entirely given over to its play. Given I am very much a game geek all these things have me coming back to this book again and again.


This however is not the point of the book and recently the point of the book keeps coming back to haunt my thoughts. The book is really about controlled societies, sham democracies. In theory any person could win at the games and become emperor or at least better their situation, in practice any position of real power has already been chosen and people who upset this tend to end up having accidents. Using the unfettered oberservation point of a member of the Culture, even one so much a throwback as Jernau Morat Gurgeh Banks can explore the depths of our own broken system. I swear I am getting to the point.

There comes a point in the book when Gurgeh has come to appreciate Azad and respect its people, his game playing starts to become affected as he starts to think more and more like them. His drone companion whose name I cant for the life of me remember, in an effort to shock Gurgeh back to his senses hacks into the government encrypted information channels. Beyond the first layer of encryption is pornography of every imaginable type (and there is quite a few – they have 3 sexes) even though there are strict laws against anything more than their concept of a heterosexual relationship. Beyond the second layer of encryption are live rapings, again of every conceivable variant between male female and apex. Beyond the third and final layer of encryption there is no more sexual content, simply live feeds of torture – not for any reason, just torture for tortures sake.

A pretty grim society. Given it was written in the 80’s Banks must surely have been a clairvoyant. Just the other day a man who held a government position under the previous Con/Dem government has been charged with making multiple indecent photographs with children as young as 10 and downloading more where”the youngest of the girls in the pictures was aged 10 years and four months when he downloaded the image, meaning she was even younger when it was taken.” This man also advised Thatcher.

Given the ongoing almost media blackout on the Tory election fraud and the Westminster peadophile ring where people are only held accountable when they are dead – because apparently you can be too senile to stand trial for allegedly raping children but still be competent enough to turn up to the House of Lords to pick up your paycheck – I do wonder at what point do we stop living in the present and start living in a dystopia?

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