The Player of Games

Book 2 of the Culture series

Iain M. Banks

Illustrated by Dániel Taylor

Following science-fiction landmark Consider Phlebas, Folio continues Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels with The Player of Games, featuring mesmerising original artwork by series artist Dániel Taylor.

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‘Banks is a phenomenon.’
  1. William Gibson

Folio presents The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, the second book in the acclaimed Culture series and the first ever illustrated edition, featuring brooding cinematic artwork by sci-fi artist Dániel Taylor. The Player of Games offers a view inside Culture itself – in this far-future utopia, there is no money, no scarcity, even death is uncommon, while society itself is automated by seemingly benevolent AI known as Minds. Bound in sumptuous maroon cloth, star-speckled and foil-blocked in gold and blood-red, this exclusive slipcased edition is a crucial volume in the library of any sci-fi connoisseur. 

Though part of a sequence that broadened the intellectual scope of science-fiction literature, The Player of Games remains a mesmeric standalone read, an idea supernova that combines the surreal concepts of Philip K. Dick with the world-building of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels and the intellectual rigour of Asimov. Iain M. Banks has influenced a host of writers and artists, from Irvine Welsh to experimental pop star Grimes, while The Player of Games showcases precisely why The Times named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

Bound in cloth, foil blocked in red and gold 

Set in Garamond with Scene as display 

376 pages 

Frontispiece plus 6 full-page colour illustrations 

Blocked slipcase with secret printed lining 

9 ½˝ x 6 ¼˝

Printed in Italy

You want something you can’t have, Gurgeh. You enjoy your life in the Culture, but it can’t provide you with sufficient threats; the true gambler needs the excitement of potential loss, even ruin, to feel wholly alive.

Since publication, The Player of Games has become a startlingly pertinent tale of gamified living. Broad in extent, but intense in focus, the novel follows Jernau Morat Gurgeh, a master game-player himself manoeuvred into joining a lethal game, one so galactic in scope that the winner determines the fate of an entire civilisation.  

Bored by his own flawless victories and the anodyne comforts of Culture society, Gurgeh learns to experience life by dicing with death. Like many a modern gamer, his life is absorbed by the game of Azad, which takes two years to learn and another three to play. The tournament itself supports an entire civilisation, with players – from lawmakers to labourers – staking life and limb on the chance to become emperor. Azad becomes a model of life more lifelike than anything Gurgeh has ever known. This ominous world is perfectly evoked by the seven full-page, colour illustrations by Dániel Taylor, the Hungarian sci-fi artist who previously illustrated Folio’s edition of Banks’s Consider Phlebas. A wireframe gameboard provides a suitably iconic cover for this edition, housed in a blocked slipcase, with a secret printed lining…

About Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks (1954–2013) was a Scottish novelist educated on both the East and West coasts of Scotland. He studied at the University of Stirling, gaining a degree in English with Philosophy and Psychology and, while there, appearing as an extra in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Banks’ first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984 to widespread controversy. Declared a work of ‘unparalleled depravity’ by one newspaper, the book made Banks’s name as an exceptional new talent and has since been acclaimed as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Banks saw himself as a science-fiction writer but was encouraged by his then-editor to make a clear distinction between his literary and science-fiction by the simple addition or omission of his middle initial, M (the family name of Menzies).  Alternating between these genres, Banks wrote 14 literary novels including The Crow Road, which was adapted for television by the BBC, and ten science-fiction novels. The first of these, Consider Phlebas (1987, Folio 2023), launched the Culture series of space operas for which Banks is best known today. The Folio series continued with The Player of Games (1988, Folio 2024). He also wrote short stories, poetry and a travelogue, Raw Spirit.  His final novel, The Quarry, was published shortly after his death in 2013.

About Dániel Taylor

Dániel Taylor is an artist and graphic designer from Budapest who has been a full-time professional illustrator since 2015. His work, produced digitally, is inspired by 20th century Surrealism, science-fiction and comic-book art; it has been commissioned by clients including Marvel, Playboy, Disney, Adobe and New Scientist. Dániel has illustrated Consider Phlebas (1987, Folio 2023) and The Player of Games (1988, Folio 2024) and has exhibited his art in London, Paris and Munich.


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