The Player of Games is an SF novel set in Iain M. Banks' Culture series that tells of Jernau Gurgeh, the Culture's greatest game player, who travels to the Empire of Azad to participate in a complex competition that is ultimately a contest between two galactic civilizations.
The text flows well and is very engaging as a straightforward SF adventure story. Beyond the surface plot, The Player of Games is thought-provoking and rewarding as an examination of the contrasting values and shortcomings of the Culture and the anti-utopian Empire of Azad.
Initially, Banks appears to set the Empire of Azad as an exotic and vibrant anti-utopian alternative to the Culture, with its belief in its own moral perfectibility and willingness to lie and manipulate to shape the galaxy. Further exploration, though, reveals the empire to be depraved and terrifically unjust, recasting the Culture in a better moral light.
I definitely recommend The Player of Games.