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Look to Windward [Mass Market Paperback]

4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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The barges lay on the darkness of the still canal, their lines softened by the snow heaped in pillows and hummocks on their decks. Read the first page
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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh Joy once more! April 21 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Mysterious, subtle and thoughtful. Less of a mindless space adventure story with juvenile one dimensional space morons(i.e. Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction behemoth) than a crime fiction novel of sorts that moves with wit and finess, inexorably towards its ultimate conclusion.
Quilan is a Chel. A member of a nation moving out of the shadow of a sudden and violent civil war. It's relationship with the vast Culture civilisation is ambiguous. Quilan is sent as an emissary to a Culture orbital to meet with a famous Chel exile. As we move through the book the past of the central character is slowly peeled away as both he and the reader come to understand the implications fo his terrible mission.Muhahahaha!
This is one of those rare novels that reminds one of how truly satisfying it is to read, wrapped in blankets or draped across a sofa with a coffee in easy reach. The repartee between the Culture figures is almost Vancian (as in Jack Vance)in its quick indulgent interplay. There is little of Bank's (at times maligned) penchant for descriptive violence. Rather mystery blends deliciously with succulent characterization in this truly worthy addition to Bank's Culture series. I growled at times at pointless scences reading through 'Consider Phlebas'(esp the eater scene on a Caribbean-esque beach - Nice book title though!)Such superfluity has been truly expunged in this tight novel. Here I whoopped and chuckled with joy and delight as I read, locking myself in the bathroom so that I might finish it undisturbed by my family. It is perhaps Bank's finest work; Subtle in ways many people seem not to have picked up on. Ho ho.
If you enjoy this then do all you can to read any of Jack Vance's works. The Demon Princes series is as good a place as any to start.
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular banks novel June 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Finally ... May 4 2002
Format:Hardcover
Yes, finally we see Banks portray the Culture as something
other than the civilised good guys and other races as something
other than simple primitives in need of the Culture's high-
handed intervention. Banks also expresses the sentiment,
implied previously in Excession, that the Culture is in
danger of stagnating, and also offers a shot in the arm,
hopefully to be revealed in a sequel.
In Excession (which I found to be faster-paced), the
primitives in question were the "hearty but horrible" (sic)
Affronters. However, in "Look to Windward" we are presented
with two Chelgrians.Two different characters with much more
depth. This made "Look to Windward" very rich in comparison
to "Excession" which only presented the Affronters as "the
Culture's Burden". Quilan, in particular is a noble and
complex character, made mature by his experiences, his
suffering and bereavement. His interaction with the
comparatively simple-minded amiability of the Culture
citizens around him was nicely assayed, and poignant
when you bear in mind that they are arguably responsible
for his anguish. Imagine how poor the story would have
been if he had been presented only as a terrorist.
In addition we have samples of the elder races: the Oskendari
inhabitants and their wonderful strangeness, and the very
patient Homomdan ambassador. They, along with the endearing
Uagen Zlepe, illuminated a bigger picture of the Culture's
place in the Galaxy, while hinting at the powers of the
unknown forces gathering against them.
I loved this book. Even the smug complacency of the
Culture added to the story. The Culture needs a wake-up
call, and I want a sequel!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Resistance is Character Forming
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2008 by Craobh Rua
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Insightful clear thought wrapped in a fantastic and surprisingly humorous package. It took me a little while to figure out why Mr. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by Yethrib
5.0 out of 5 stars consider...windward
While not a sequel to 'Consider Phlebas', this book results from the consequences of certain events that happened in the idiran/culture war of that novel, namely, the destruction... Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2002 by DAVID NELSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Look no further !
The setting is Masaq; an Orbital (a man-made space station housing millions of people and machines), where the light of two exploding suns hundreds of light years away can now be... Read more
Published on March 23 2002 by buckrichard@hotmail.com
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but only average for Banks
A solid book that's worth the read, but only average to below-average for Banks. Readers of his work will find most of the book fairly predictable. Read more
Published on March 8 2002 by John Faughnan
1.0 out of 5 stars Look to Storyline
I think this (the latest Culture novel) is the worst of Banks' novels. It appeared to me as if a good down payment from his publisher was his key motivation rather than literature... Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002 by J Hurwitz
4.0 out of 5 stars Tentative
I get the feeling that Banks is beginning to doubt himself, which is too bad. I was at the WorldCon in Philadelphia last year and attended a panel discussion where Banks and his... Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2002 by Robert I. Katz
4.0 out of 5 stars Life, the Universe and a Brain.....
Definitely not for those with a short attention span 'Look to Windward has' a lot to offer in respect to it's parallels to our own present 'Culture'. Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2002 by Suzanne Bartkiw-Egan
4.0 out of 5 stars Look to Windward
I've searched out all of Banks novels about the Culture. I first read Look to Windward in Summer 2001 and enjoyed it immensely. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2002
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