The Webs We Weave: The Player of Games

5:36 PM

Mark Zuckerberg's "A Year of Books" offers an opportunity for considered dialog around a series of readings. To this point, the readings were mostly selected from the social sciences, although the book at hand represents an exception from that trend. For each book, I offer a commentary so as to participate in the dialog prompted by this reading series.

To be honest, I have not read a work of science fiction in a very long time. In fact, the last would have been the last science fiction works would have been in the late 1990s, Mary Doria Russell's great The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God. It has been so long, I had forgotten how enjoyable science fiction can be!

Mark Zuckerberg's latest selection is The Player of Games by the late Iain M. Banks. Banks, a Scottish author of fiction. science fiction, and non-fiction died in June of 2013. The Player of Games, a 1988 work, is the second of nine works in the Culture Series. Wikipedia describes the overall concept of the series in this way:
The Culture series is a science fiction series written by Scottish author Iain M. Banks. The stories center on the Culture, a utopian society of humanoids, aliens, and very advanced artificial intelligences living in semi-anarchist habitats spread across the post-material-scarcity Milky Way galaxy. The main theme of the novels is the dilemmas that an idealistic hyperpower faces in dealing with civilisations that do not share its ideals, and whose behaviour it sometimes finds repulsive. In some of the stories, action takes place mainly in non-Culture environments, and the leading characters are often on the fringes of, or non-members of, the Culture, sometimes acting as agents of Culture plans to civilise the galaxy.
Iain M. Banks
In a nutshell, the description applies to the work of The Player of Games. I'd rather not describe the plot to a potential reader, posting spoiler alerts, so I'll simply say that Banks has imagined an equally thrilling and repulsive world that wrestles with all sorts of ethical dilemmas and plays with concepts of culture and language amid a foreign landscape that bears a certain resemblance to some issues that vex us today. The story is entertaining, but it also raises deeper questions about the story we live.

While I plodded through the early portions, trying to get my bearings, I found the book increasingly difficult to put down as I continued reading. I am grateful to Zuckerberg's nudge that brings me to read this book.

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