After weeks of on/off reading I FINALLY finished The Player of Games, and boy did I love it.
That it’s full of brilliantly unique ideas goes without saying. It blends vast, magestic concepts and descriptions with Iain M. Banks’ trademark humour so that, while the universe is always awe-inspiring in its complexities, it is never dour. Characters are brimming with personality and it reminded me why I loved Consider Phlebas so much – for every grand idea there was a remarkably human personality which undermined it’s pomp and circumstance in a rather sweet way.
The thing I enjoyed most – beyond the twisting, turning plot which unfolded with gradually increasing stakes – was how Iain M. Banks described the games. He did not spend pages explaining all the rules or getting bogged down in piece-by-piece movements so readers could keep up with the game mechanics (thank god, can you imagine how dull that would have been to read?) instead he used every move as a form of language, as a conversation between players and a code which could be cracked if studied and understood as Gurgeh did.
That approach struck me as utter genius – I was always drawn in and never lost despite never really grasping how any of the games actually worked. And that is exactly why Iain M. Banks was so revered as a writer – he could describe mind-boggling concepts in a simple yet completely relatable way, all the while pumping his stories full of action and humour.
What a unique writer.