Finished this last night - excellent story!
It’s pretty much the best intro the Culture series of novels by the (now unfortunately deceased) author Iain M Banks, and was a cracking read all the way through.
It covers a person who plays a lot of games in the utopian civilisation known as The Culture, as he gets roped into it’s contact agency (a foreign affairs department basically) to play in a series of games in the Azad Empire, a civilisation whose entire structure revolves around an enormously complex game that decides one’s role and place in it’s society.
It’s really well done, very funny and definitely conveys the idea of The Culture and Utopia very well. And like great sci fi, really drags you into its world and the what ifs and potential of its technologies. It’s also very human, characters written well enough with enough flaws and desires to convey who they are within the light year spanning piece. it’s a very focused story to boot.
The only real weakness is that it’s ending kind of peters out, like an afterthought. the epilogue is somewhat unsatisfying, but maybe that’s the point.