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The Player of Games (SF) - Iain Banks *****

The Player of Games was recommended to me when I admitted that as an SF fan I had never read any Banks, and I'm glad it was - I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to get my hands on another of the Culture novels. I was a bit worried from all I had heard that Banks's writing would be too clever-clever, but this was never the case, and he manages to make what is in some ways quite a cerebral concept into an engaging story. I was particularly impressed with the way he gave us enough detail of the game at the centre of the story to make it interesting without ever having to fill in lots of dull detail or, probably, expose the fact that it simply couldn't exist for real.

What is also very impressive is the way that Banks leaves a lot unsaid, with passing references to concepts which I believe are expanded in other Culture novels, but manages to do this without it being frustrating for the reader. I have always considered most of the modern SF writers not even close to being on a par with the old masters, but Banks has certainly proved a worthy exception, and I'll be straight on to buying another of these books as soon as this review is up.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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