Friday, 4 April 2008

The Player of Games

The Player of Games Iain M. Banks

That 'M' is important and very distinctive. This is a completely different author to Espedair Street; even though both books list all Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks books. No? Don't believe me? Well, yeah. His fiction is published as Iain Banks and his sci-fi as Iain M. Banks. Strange, but that's the way he does it.

His sci-fi is some of the best I've read since Philip K. Dick. And as he doesn't produce anywhere near as much as Dick, it averages a lot better. Though without some of the crazed inventiveness. But that sounds like damning Banks with faint praise: his sci-fi really is that good. There are fantastic ideas and a very plausible feel to everything. He doesn't shoot himself in the foot by trying to explain how everything works: the technology is just there and it works.

But his strongest points are actually his characterisations and story. You get involved, you believe, and most importantly, you care. And on top of that, the story is usually about the growth and life of a character - sometimes a descending spiral with no apparent way out; sometimes a broadening and opening of a character you initially dislike.

This book is fascinating for the first real peek inside the Culture, instead of the view of a mercenary looking from the outside, in.


Mana said...

Is it true that his stuff has graphic horror in it? I'm too chicken although I hear from you and others that he is awesome.

Giles said...

I used to think that about his stuff. But I think I was now just unlucky with what I picked first. 'The Algebraist' has some pretty tough scenes; one chapter of 'Consider Phelabas' is pretty full on. But his non-genre fiction is pretty straight forward.

Even 'The Wasp Factory', which is described as a gothic horror. It's no where near as tough to read as some of his sci-fi. I'd highly recommend that one, by the way. Totally awesome.

Or maybe I've just got a lot tougher... :)