The Player of Games

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by Iain M. Banks

Gurgeh is one of the best Game Players to emerge from the Culture, which is a human/machine symbiotic civilization. Every board, computer, and strategy are in your hands. Gurgeh, bored with success, travels to the ruthless and opulent Empire of Azad to participate in their fantastic game...a game so complicated, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Gurgeh accepts the game, as well as the challenge of his life - and maybe his death - despite being mocked, blackmailed, and almost assassinated

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— Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games