The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It sucks you in. The start was slightly slow and contrived, but as it progresses, you can feel yourself empathizing, understanding, even appreciating Gurgeh's priorities, background, motivations - and even a sense of the massively high stakes and the posthuman and AI intelligence's perspectives - a very difficult thing to do, making you think like someone a lot smarter than you yourself are.
The setting as well - strong social commentary there, is that what we would look like to outsiders?
The most fascinating thing though was the gradual creeping understanding of exactly how big a threat Azad really was - from a primitive, laughably easily conquerable empire to a cohesive, structurally sound entity with potential for equating the technological disparity while retaining it's barbarity - that was terrifying.
Surprisingly fast-paced, too.
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