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Look to Windward Mass Market Paperback – October 29, 2002


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (October 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743421922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743421928
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel, was published under the name Iain M. Banks in 1987. He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative, and exciting writers of his generation. Iain Banks lives in Fife, Scotland. Find out more about him at www.iainbanks.net.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sardan on February 8, 2010
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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Glen Engel Cox on January 5, 2004
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Craobh Rua on February 7, 2008
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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is not on par with Use of Weapons or Excession. With that said, it is an entertaining read exposing all the elements that you come to expect from a Banks' Culture novel. If you are new to the Culture, start with another (Consider Phlebas, Player of Games, or Use of Weapons) and save this one for later.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jane Avriette on June 17, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This would be a good introduction to Iain Banks, if you're new to his books. Probably this and Excession are his two most accessible books.
The book starts with the description of an Orbital. Orbitals are rings (see Freeman Dyson), millions of kilometers in circumference, which orbit a sun. The surface area of these habitats are gigantic. Think populations in the billions. As Banks describes this majestic Orbital, we begin to learn more about the people on it, and the background of the Idiran war (see _Consider Phlebas_, also by Banks).
The core values of Banks are here: Betrayal, Protagonists you really wish you didn't like, Death (lots of it), the Culture and its Minds, and high and hard science fiction.
Perhaps my favorite item from the novel is the notion of the Airspheres: large (planet-sized) habitats in which reside multi-kilometer-long dirigible-style creatures, millenia old. As is typical, Banks even develops these "characters" to an extent that we begin to wish for more information about them. The pages keep turning, and you're left at the end wondering just what hit you.
There are so many different plots and subplots that each could be developed into their own respective novels.
Definitely recommended.
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