I’m nearly finished with my review of Player of Games by Iain M. Banks and just wanted to quote/paraphrase a scene that I really enjoyed for its satirical view of honorifics in society. For those not in the know, Gurgeh is the protagonist and a master game. He’s also part of the Culture which has no such things as wealth or status. When Gurgeh attends a party and sees a bunch of “gaudily uniformed males” standing guard, he asks his new drone companion, Flere-Imsaho, “What are they standing there for?”
“Show,” he’s told. When Gurgeh seems confused, the drone explains, “Yes; to show that the Emperor is rich and important enough to have hundreds of flunkeys standing around doing nothing.”
“Doesn’t everybody know that already?” Gurgeh asks.
The drone doesn’t answer and instead sighs. “You haven’t really cracked the psychology of wealth and power yet, have you, Jernau Gurgeh?” Later on when Gurgeh is announced, the speaker completely mispronounces his name. When another member of Azad looks unhappy, he finds out it was “because the ‘senior’ in his name was missed out.”
“Is that important?” he asks.
“Gurgeh, in this society everything is important.”
It’s hilarious that ‘human’ behavior is inexplicable to Gurgeh, who has to have it explained back to him by a machine. My full review will come in the near future.