- Series: Culture (Book 7)
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Pocket Books (July 26, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781451621686
- ISBN-13: 978-1451621686
- ASIN: 145162168X
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 141 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Look to Windward (Culture) Paperback – July 26, 2010
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"The New York Times" Set in a far-future, multi-species galaxy rife with hope and despair, this sophisticated space opera deals artfully with the appeal of terrorism and the necessary dangers of a free society....Banks writes with a sophistication that will surprise anyone unfamiliar with modern science fiction.
"SFX" A page-turner of reader's cramp-inducing intensity....A book that could only be harder to put down if it was superglued to your fingers..."Look to Windward" is a work of genius.
"Locus""Look to Windward" is a serious novel [yet] levity and humor seep through the cracks... it is elegant, moral, funny. What more could a reader ask?
"Starburst" Banks' mind-expanding future history is unrivaled for imaginative sweep, startling ideas, and savage but wry sense of humor. One of the very best just got even better.
"The Guardian" (U.K.) Like some latter-day Isaac Asimov, [Banks writes] space operas, complete with galactic civilizations, mighty spaceships, and brains the size of planets... Banks has tremendous fun....He crams in his beloved battle scenes, wickedly named space-ships (I Blame the Parents; Lapsed Pacifist; Now Look What You Made Me Do...)... and all the time Banks keeps ratcheting up the suspense.
About the Author
Iain M. Banks (1954 – 2013), one of the United Kingdom's most popular authors of science fiction, wrote such highly regarded novels as Consider Phlebas, Excession, and Inversions. Under the name “Iain Banks,” he also published mainstream fiction, including such novels as The Wasp Factory and A Song of Stone.
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The Culture is a vast conglomeration of worlds, Orbitals, and God only knows what else, running to trillions of (mostly human) people. And, through its Special Circumstances operatives, the Culture meddles with other civilizations - always for their own good.
One such civilization is the Chelgrians, a kinda-sorta humanoid species with a fifth limb, the midlimb, and other deviations from human norm like fur and being descended from predators rather than omnivores. The Chelgrians were a firmly caste-driven society until the Culture interfered; that interference resulted in a bloody civil war for which the Culture accepts guilt.
Our two main characters are both Chelgrians. One, who missed the civil war, is Ziller, a composer who lives on a Culture Orbital, a sort of ringworldy thing run by a Mind. (The Minds of the Culture are vast artificial intelligences capable of running whole worlds ... and other things.) He is composing a new symphony to be played by the light of a nova caused in the Culture's last great war, hundreds of years ago, as it reaches the Orbital.
The other is Quilan, a military officer who barely survived the Chelgrian civil war, and lost his wife. He comes to the Orbital on a mission so secret even he does not know what it is; that knowledge is buried in his brain along with another personality, a General sent as his co-pilot and advisor. (Or so it seems.)
The clash of interests between the two (who never actually meet) takes up a great part of the narrative. Other parts take place in an "airsphere," a bubble of air so large that it is, apparently, gravitationally stable, and supports "dirigible behemothaurs," creatures bigger than most starships, who may or may not be sentient as we understand it. Here a scholar from the Culture makes a potentially deadly discovery - which, in turn, ties in to the main plot, as you would expect.
Banks's weakness as a writer was usually endings. This novel, I am happy to say, has a completely satisfying climax, though it is very much in Banks's style. Like all of Iain M. Banks's science fiction novels, it is thoroughly worth reading.
Look to Windward not only has a coherent plot but also investigates some of the attitudes of the Culture towards other races in the galaxy. You also have a graphic example of why you shouldn't "mess" with the Culture so keep reading to the end. It really is worth it.
Banks maintains several lines of suspense in a wonderfully creative interstellar setting, involving a work of art performed against the vision just arriving of the destruction of a world many years back. The manifold meanings woven into the event include plots for a form of revenge, and suspense as to how the artist is related to them. The question of whether cultures mature to the same standard form gets surprisingly insightful treatment - it may change the way you think about such matters
Heroism can be futile here, and cynical manipulation can be moral. Nobody gets off easy. Including the reader.
I personally liked "The Algebraist" better, but in its own way "Look to Windward" is just as satisfying and engaging.