I'd say in practice the Empire acts an absolute monarchy even though the ruling monarch gets selected in a funny way instead of being born into the role (though sons appointed as successors to the previous Roman Princep did not usually end well).
Azad in previous centuries could've been not so blatantly tyrannical and batshit insane as it was when Gurgeh paid them a visit, in previous centuries the Game could've been an eccentric but bearable competitive democracy up until the Azadian hardliners (ie the military junta, industrialists, and aristocratic houses, etc) slowly corrupted and then intentionally rigged the Game in their favour (with a long succession of external wars and internal crackdowns cranking up the institutional sadism).
The Empire of Azad is a winner takes all society taken to pathological extremes, with the quality of life for most sentients living under its yoke being inexcusable given the technology (or because of it, with perhaps early AI and perfected automation abused by the ruling caste to indirectly produce a gigantic slum class). It's shown that even many Apex Azadians, in spite of their privileged gender and racial "purity", get punished by the Empire's economic system that's even less self-aware of its own mercilessness than our own economic system.
Medical technology was implied to be almost advanced as the Culture's but of course the ruling Azad plutocrats sat on it. The system had grown untenable and there were strange contradictions to it (crushing poverty alongside vulgar gaudiness, noble heroism alongside systematic brutality).
I imagine in my head that the Empire of Azad would be North Korea in space:
Last edited by Big Orange; 20-06-2013 at 01:15 AM.
'Poverty is not an injustice. There is no such thing as causes for poverty, only causes for wealth. Poverty is not a wrong, but taking money from those who have it to equalize incomes is basically theft, which is wrong.' - Typical Randroid