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Look to Windward Hardcover – August 1, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews
Book 7 of 10 in the Culture Series

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Hardcover, August 1, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Banks's far-future interstellar civilization known as the Culture, this highly literate novel from this celebrated British SF author (Inversions) centers on an act of revenge. The Culture is enormously rich and values personal freedom above all else, but it also has a tradition of meddling in the affairs of other, lesser civilizations. This is invariably done with the best of intentions, but occasionally things do go wrong. Parallels to U.S. foreign policy are probably intended, witness the book's dedication to "the Gulf War veterans." In a recent attempt to covertly overthrow the repressive caste system at the center of Chelgrian society, agents of the Culture's secret Special Circumstances unit accidentally triggered a civil war that left five billion Chelgrians both dead and dishonored. Now Chel has sent an ambassador named Quilan to the artificial, bracelet world of Masaq' Orbital. Ostensibly he's there to try to convince Ziller, a famous Chelgrian expatriate composer, to return home, but his real mission is to eliminate the AI that controls the Culture orbital. This action will also bring about the destruction of approximately five billion human souls held in suspended animation, thereby, the Chelgrians believe, balancing the books. Although things start a bit slowly, Banks's fine prose, complex plotting and well-rounded characters will eventually win over even the most discerning readers, and all will find themselves fully rewarded when the novel reaches its powerful conclusion. (Aug. 14)Wasp Factory, etc.).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When the 800-year-old light of a distant space battle reaches the Masaq'Orbital, an emissary from Chel arrives on a mission hidden even to himself. Only Ziller, a Chelgrian composer, can unlock a secret that could save or destroy an entire world. Banks (Consider Phlebas; Inversions) uses the far future as a playground for the interplay of ideas and images. First published in Great Britain, this literate and challenging tale by one of the genre's master storytellers belongs in most sf collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Star Trek; First American Edition edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743421914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743421911
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,383,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, let me say I'm a fan of Ian Banks' Culture novels. Look to Windward is solid and enjoyable, if not quite the pinnacle of Culture books. Others are better reviewers than I, so I'll leave it at that.

What I really want to focus on is the inexcusably bad editing of the Kindle edition. Be warned that if you purchase the electronic edition of this book, you'll grit your teeth every time you encounter one of the DOZENS of typos in the text. I don't consider myself a perfectionist. I've encountered the occasional typo or two in printed books and not been upset. But this book quite literally as 10 times as many typos as any other book I've ever read, and I have read many hundreds of books.

Whoever was responsible for the Kindle edition of this book should be ashamed of themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title of Banks' latest Culture novel comes from the 4th part of T.S. Eliot's 1922 landmark poem, "The Wasteland." The full text of lines 325-326:
Gentile or jew,
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
Those familiar with Banks' work will immediately recognize the two words immediately following "look to windward" as the title of another Banks' Culture novel. What's going on here?
Not every SF author can get away with titling his books from one of the 20th century's greatest poems. A lot of them have the chutzpah, but can't bring their word craft up to their pretensions. Banks can. While _Look to Windward_ doesn't have the machine gun pacing or extraordinary violence of earlier Banks' works, it does offer remarkably good writing, generally good characterization, and a further display of Banks' astonishing imaginative powers. Masaq' Orbital and its billions of residents are seeing the supernovae from suns destroyed by the Idirans near the end of the Idiran War 800 years earlier. The Mind - the self-aware AI that runs Masaq' was a fighter in that war. Billions died, some at the hand of that Mind. More recently, Special Circumstances, The Culture's meddling, would-be uplifters of the disadvantaged, had another of their surreptitious interventions go horribly wrong, and 5 billion Chelgrians died. Look to windward, indeed. Masaq' Orbital's Mind has commissioned Ziller, an expatriate Chelgrian, to compose a symphony for the occasion of the second supernova. In the meantime, the Chelgrians have sent Major Quilan, a veteran of the civil wars triggered by The Culture, to Masaq', ostensibly to persuade Ziller to return to his home world.
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Format: Paperback
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. He has since divided his writing career between writing 'standard' fiction - as Iain Banks - and Science Fiction, as Iain M. Banks. "Look to Windward" was first published in 2000, and was the sixth of his Sci-Fi books to feature the Culture.

The Culture is a symbiotic society - part humanoid and part artificial intelligence. The artificial intelligence element to the Culture can be sub-divided into two parts - Drones and Minds. For the most part, a Drone's intelligence will be roughly similar to a humanoids. Minds, on the other hand, are significantly more powerful than both humanoids and drones. They tend to act as the controlling intelligence behind, for example, the Culture's ships and Hubs (artificial habitats). Minds are also largely responsible for making decisions at the very highest levels of society - only a very small number of humanoid Referrers would be intelligent enough to join the process.

In the first Sci-Fi book Banks wrote, "Consider Phlebas", the Culture was at war with the Idiran Empire - a war they eventually won, though not without a great loss of life. Although 800 years have now passed, "Look to Windward" could be considered a sequel of sorts. A single battle, towards the end of the Culture - Idiran War, had brought the destruction of two stars. The loss of life was not restricted to the combatants, as both systems had supported life. The light from the first star's destruction has only now reached Masaq, a Culture Orbital. Hub, Masaq's controlling Mind, is observing a period of mourning, between the two supernovae - for reasons that become clear later in the book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Look to Windward is the seventh book in Banks' science fiction universe based on a utopian society of advanced artificial intelligences and the humans (and other organic life forms) that originally created them, loosely termed the Culture. With each book, Banks has built his plots out of the interstitial area where the idea of this utopia fails, typically in its dealings with other, different societies, through its para-military/intelligence arm called Special Circumstances. This time, the Culture has interferred in the "advancement" of another society, failing miserably, and then must deal with the diplomatic fallout from their actions. That the other society, the Chelgria was a predator-based race with a rigid class structure and a warlike demeanor, makes this all the more difficult.
On this backdrop is placed several interesting characters: the Chelgrian Ziller, a composer who has ex-patriated himself because of his support for the rebels who attempted to overthrow the class structure, and wishes to have nothing to do with his old society or race; the Chelgrian emissary, Quinlan, whose despair over losing his wife in the war between the traditionalists and the rebels will drive him to commit the unthinkable; and the orbital Mind known as Masaq', who has hosted Ziller for years and asked the composer to create a new symphony based on the fading light of two suns--suns that went nova two thousand years ago when Masaq', as a warship, set off a chain reaction that destroyed them and the two orbitals around them.
As in his other novels, this one has several storylines to follow that eventually come together by the climax.
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