The first of three books I took away on holiday this summer, and my second Iain M. Banks read following Consider Pleabas, the first Culture novel. For some reason I found it hard to get started, it was the same with Consider Pleabas. Maybe it’s the strange names, typical randomly generated names with lots of consonants thrown in, popular in sci-fi and fantasy of a certain ilk, but once going I was thoroughly drawn in and loved every minute. As a gamer myself (boardgame and tabletop rpgs) this sci-fi novel about a gamer playing the ultimate game with high diplomatic stakes was for me as it promised to be, an absorbing and satisfying read. The story was enjoyable, but most fascinating for me was the underlying question being explored, why do we play games and what does how we play say about who we are and what we represent? I will most definitely be picking up the next Culture novel when I can.