Review From User :
That´s nothing more than one of the best allegories on human culture ever written, described from the point of view of an objective observer of a far higher developed civilization.
I had the luck to read this, probably his best novel, as one of the first out of Banks´ amazing universe and in contrast to the other, often very complex, eclectic and multi-plotted novels it stays focused on the main premise to show us how freaking average and dull we are. I guess Banks did it on purpose, as a stylistic element, to say much with less and because it might have seemed inappropriate and weird to mix present history with the lighter space opera elements and humor of his other novels.
To integrate "The game" as an element of selection in an authoritarian government is a marvelous plot vehicle, looking at you, Hunger Games, Battle Royale, The Long Walk, etc., but mixing it with higher, superior entities that could wipe the floor with the dictators while optimizing quantum gravity time dilation multiverse theoretical physics stuff with the other, (and doing whatever with as many hands, tentacles (I know what some of you are thinking now, shame on you!),... as they wish to have and create gripping devices by telekinetic manifesting them with grey/green goo nanotech in nanoseconds. nano nano nano) makes it both entertaining and insightful.
Although it might be unrealistic that any evil despots might take the risk of participating in unfaked, unmanipulated competitions instead of letting the suppressed population kill each other in epic battles to keep them calm Roman emperor style. Except the tech is so highly advanced and secure and the probability of black swans so unlikely that they come down from their throne from time to time to slay their own people directly and under frenetic applause instead of conventionally killing them with secret police and incompetent agriculture politics.
Just this moment I am realizing for the first time that Banks could be compared to Stanislaw Lem, another author that dived so marvelous and smooth into the depts of human nature. Of course, Lems´ complexity is unreached and the space opera focus makes the comparison difficult in some regard, but the authors' main intentions seem similar to me.
Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
I’m naturally gifted on the field and between the sheets. With flashy cars and enough media attention to put the Royal Family to shame, I’m the definition of Most Eligible Bachelor.
I’ve never met a man who doesn’t want to be me or a woman who doesn’t want to tame me. Until I meet Camila.
From the moment I lay eyes on her, I know I have to have her.
She wants to keep me at arm’s length.
I want her naked in my bed.
She thinks our worlds are too different.
All I want her to think about is screaming my name.
She says I’m bad news.
I have three weeks to prove her wrong.