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The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

Book cover for The Player of Games
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Jernau Morat Gurgeh, a famously skilful player of board games and other similar contests, lives on Chiark Orbital, and is bored with his successful life. The Culture's Special Circumstances inquires about his willingness to participate in a long journey, though won't explain further unless Gurgeh agrees to participate. While he is considering this offer, one of his drone friends, Mawhrin-Skel, which had been ejected from Special Circumstances due to its unstable personality, convinces him to cheat in one of his matches in an attempt to win in an unprecedented perfect fashion. The attempt fails, but Mawhrin-Skel uses his recording of the event to blackmail Gurgeh into accepting the offer and insisting that Mawhrin-Skel be admitted back into Special Circumstances as well.

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