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Look to Windward

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The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, one of the most horrific. Desperate to avert defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds & biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion--gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended & life went on. Now, 800 years later, light from th The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, one of the most horrific. Desperate to avert defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds & biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion--gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended & life went on. Now, 800 years later, light from the 1st explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the Culture's most adventurous & decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent & to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event. Also journeying to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel. In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart, most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star & self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller. Ziller claims he will do anything to avoid a meeting with Quilan, who he suspects has come to murder him. But the Major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident, as part of a conspiracy more ambitious than even he can know--a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he can't remember it. Hailed by SFX magazine as "an excellent hopping-on point if you've never read a Banks SF novel before," Look to Windward is an awe-inspiring immersion into the wildly original, vividly realized civilization Banks calls the Culture.


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The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, one of the most horrific. Desperate to avert defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds & biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion--gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended & life went on. Now, 800 years later, light from th The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, one of the most horrific. Desperate to avert defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds & biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion--gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended & life went on. Now, 800 years later, light from the 1st explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the Culture's most adventurous & decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent & to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event. Also journeying to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel. In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart, most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star & self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller. Ziller claims he will do anything to avoid a meeting with Quilan, who he suspects has come to murder him. But the Major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident, as part of a conspiracy more ambitious than even he can know--a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he can't remember it. Hailed by SFX magazine as "an excellent hopping-on point if you've never read a Banks SF novel before," Look to Windward is an awe-inspiring immersion into the wildly original, vividly realized civilization Banks calls the Culture.

30 review for Look to Windward

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Kelsey

    I.e., look to change, look to the future, look forward, etc. In the introduction this book was dedicated to the Gulf War veterans, and that seems very appropriate after finishing it. It deals primarily with PTSD, suicide, revenge, apathy, and the effects of trauma; the true cost of war both societally, and individually. It accomplished this while also somehow being the most humorous novel in the series so far. In a lot of ways it is a direct sequel to the first Culture book, 'Consider Phlebas', e I.e., look to change, look to the future, look forward, etc. In the introduction this book was dedicated to the Gulf War veterans, and that seems very appropriate after finishing it. It deals primarily with PTSD, suicide, revenge, apathy, and the effects of trauma; the true cost of war both societally, and individually. It accomplished this while also somehow being the most humorous novel in the series so far. In a lot of ways it is a direct sequel to the first Culture book, 'Consider Phlebas', even taking its name from the same line of the infamous T.S Eliot poem 'The Wastelands'. It is a much, much better story. The more of this series I read, the more difficult it is for me to pick a favorite. It seems that each entry becomes a new favorite in a different way. I think that sounds a bit trite, but it really is accurate. Reading the culture novels has established Banks as my new favorite author, as well as one of the most capable authors I've read. This book shows terrific maturity of Banks' as a compelling storyteller and epic world-builder. 'Consider Phlebas' was 90% world-building / 10% story, and it was extremely boring as a result. Look to Windward is very nearly half-and-half. The whole thing reads like Banks' wasn't quite happy with the end result of 'Consider Phlebas' and decided to take a crack at covering the same moral message in a better story. It is also the most detailed look at life aboard an Orbital in the series so far.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    Back to Iain M. Banks’ phenomenal Culture series of space opera set in a post-scarcity universe where humans are the most powerful known species. Well, not really the humans, but the massive AI entities originally created by humans thousands of years ago. It is quite unusual for humanity to (sort of) be the top dog, this is one of the most unusual features of the Culture universe. Banks’ Culture setting bucks the current trend of dystopian fiction. In this post-scarcity society, all of humanity Back to Iain M. Banks’ phenomenal Culture series of space opera set in a post-scarcity universe where humans are the most powerful known species. Well, not really the humans, but the massive AI entities originally created by humans thousands of years ago. It is quite unusual for humanity to (sort of) be the top dog, this is one of the most unusual features of the Culture universe. Banks’ Culture setting bucks the current trend of dystopian fiction. In this post-scarcity society, all of humanity have the AIs catering to our every whim. Consequently, humans have become decadent, self-indulgent, and quite ineffectual. The AIs run everything, fortunately, they are loyal to and very protective of, the descendants of their creators. Books in the Culture series are standalones and do not need to be read in any order*. Like most Culture book, Look To Windward has a complicated (but not convoluted) plot which is hard to summarize. If you want a detailed synopsis, have a look at the lengthy official one from the publisher. In a nutshell, Major Quilan, a Chelgrian (alien) war veteran is on a mission so secret the objective has been temporarily wiped from his memory, the details of the mission to gradually resurface as he progresses toward its completion. In the meantime, renowned Chelgrian composer Mahrai Ziller is living in the Masaq' Orbital, an artificial world, and a part of the Culture empire. He is about to conduct his latest musical masterpiece at this orbital. These two developments are related and billions of lives are at stake. Iain M. Banks was† a more literary writer than most sci-fi authors, he has also published successful novels in the mainstream. However, as he was more ambitious with his prose than most authors in this genre it takes a little more effort to read his books, compared to the likes of Clarke or Asimov who were more concerned with writing clear, accessible narratives. Banks was also more concerned with telling intelligent, thought provoking stories than a page turner. For me, this sometimes means it takes longer to immerse into his narrative and the pacing is not always so compelling. More than half of Look To Windward seems to consist of dialogue. Generally very well written dialogue but sometimes I just want the characters to shut up and do something. That said the narrative shifts into high gear towards the book’s conclusion and the climax really is worth the wait. Banks is always full of surprises. Culture novels are always a feast for the imagination. The Minds (gigantic sentient AIs) and the drones (highly advanced sentient robots with full legal rights as citizens of The Culture) are always great to come back to the series for. In this book, we are also treated to weird new alien species and cultures. My favorite is the “dirigible behemothaur”, a race of massive biological spaceships with bizarre biotech. Character development is often lacking in sci-fi novels (not always to the books’ detriment, some books just don’t need it), but Banks never skimp on this, his central characters are always complex and believable. While Major Quilan is clearly up to no good with his super secret mission he is surprisingly sympathetic, and you can’t help but things turn out well for him personally. Pacing issues notwithstanding, Look To Windward is another good read from the Culture series, it does require some patience and commitment but if you have read a few Culture books beforehand you will come to trust Iain M. Banks (RIP) to deliver something worthwhile by the end of the book and he never fails. _____________ * Some Culture novels are better starting point than others. Personally, I recommend The Player of Games, IMO the very best Culture novel. Consider Phlebas is the first book in the series, I like it but Culture fans tend to regard it as a poor start to an excellent series. † Mr. Banks is no longer with us :_(. Fortunately, he was quite prolific and if you are just starting on the Culture series you are in for a treat and I kind of envy you. For some reason whenever I finish a Culture novel I start thinking about which Culture novel to read the next time I come around to the series again. There is something very addictive about this series that keep reeling me back every few months. New to the series? Here is the Guardian's Top Five Iain M. Banks novels. _____________ Quotes: “Before, we believed that the soul might be saved. Now our technology, our better understanding of the universe and our vanguard in the beyond, has robbed us of our unreal hopes and replaced them with its own rules and regulations, its own algebra of salvation and continuance. It has given us a glimpse of heaven, and made more intense the reality of our despair when we know that truly it exists and that those we love will never be found there.” (In the Culture universe heaven and hell are real – but virtual - places, digitized “souls” can be sent (uploaded) to. “Symbols are important, symbols do work. And when the symbol is a person then the symbol becomes … dirigible. A symbolic person can to some extent symbolic person can to some extent steer their own course, determine not just their own fate but that of their society. At any rate, they will argue that your society, your whole civilization, needs to make peace with its most famous dissident so that it can make peace with itself, and so rebuild.” “The action of averting his face from others when eating had become habitual; members of Kabe’s species had very big mouths and some humans found the sight of him eating alarming.” “They spend time. That’s just it. They spend time traveling. The time weighs heavily on them because they lack any context, any valid framework for their lives. They persist in hoping that something they think they’ll find in the place they’re heading for will somehow provide them with a fulfilment they feel certain they deserve and yet have never come close to experiencing.” ‘In the old days people died and that was that; you might hope to see them in heaven, but once they were dead they were dead. It was simple, it was definite. Now . . .’ He shook his head angrily. ‘Now people die but their Soulkeeper can revive them, or take them to a heaven we know exists, without any need for faith. We have clones, we have regrown bodies - most of me is regrown; I wake up sometimes and think, Am I still me? I know you’re supposed to be your brain, your wits, your thoughts, but I don’t believe it is that simple.’

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Look no further if you're looking for a tale of fantastically huge sources and end results of regret, suicide, the negation of life-affirmation, exploding suns, and excellent tales of love between non-humanoid sentients and nearly god-like Minds. This is a Culture novel. Ian M. Banks had ten of them before his death and he's known equally well for his hard SF as for his standard fiction, strangely enough. It shows in this one. I have to admit that I was very impressed by the technological fantasti Look no further if you're looking for a tale of fantastically huge sources and end results of regret, suicide, the negation of life-affirmation, exploding suns, and excellent tales of love between non-humanoid sentients and nearly god-like Minds. This is a Culture novel. Ian M. Banks had ten of them before his death and he's known equally well for his hard SF as for his standard fiction, strangely enough. It shows in this one. I have to admit that I was very impressed by the technological fantastics going on this this novel. Even down to the evacuation of three enormous orbitals in preparation to kill the world-spanning AI Minds, even as a memory 800 years past, was shocking and very disturbing. The rest of the novel might have benefited from some tightening, as a whole, but in general, I loved being on the planet that would celebrate survival and a symphony just as the light of a few novas finally reached their star system, commemorating the end of an enormously costly conflict between themselves and the Culture as it finally caught up to them at light-speed. But what of the plot? It's suicide missions, baby, on both sides. Do you really think that such conflicts end so easily, so restfully? Motivations are complicated and hate runs deep. Maybe not on the Culture's side, of course. They're pretty much above or beyond such petty things, even when the death toll is in the billions. They've got a lot more population than just that to consider. But as for the other high-tech civilizations that still consider themselves impressive when they count their age in terms of mere thousands of years instead of complete revolutions of the galaxy, by hundreds of thousands of years? Well, they tend to be outclassed and out-thought by these nearly god-like AIs devoted to making sure all the citizens of the Culture are happy. Of course, that doesn't stop grand gestures from giving everyone a really bad day. This is a rather freakishly impressive novel on several levels and it marks a serious return to huge scopes in the series, but some things did still kind of drag, unfortunately. Not that I really cared when the emotions started getting to me. :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    heavy, heavy themes done with a light and benevolent touch. the topics on display include suicide and suicide bombings, terrorism, genocide, imperialism/cultural colonialism, the nature of war, the afterlife... and feature a loveable cast of pretentious robot drones, adorable and often furry alien creatures, and one very melancholy Artificial Intelligence. VAGUE SPOILERS: the last four chapters are jaw-dropping in scope, moving from an elegiac double suicide (i teared up!) to a mind-boggling che heavy, heavy themes done with a light and benevolent touch. the topics on display include suicide and suicide bombings, terrorism, genocide, imperialism/cultural colonialism, the nature of war, the afterlife... and feature a loveable cast of pretentious robot drones, adorable and often furry alien creatures, and one very melancholy Artificial Intelligence. VAGUE SPOILERS: the last four chapters are jaw-dropping in scope, moving from an elegiac double suicide (i teared up!) to a mind-boggling check-in with minor characters set millions of years in the future to a vicious and literally gut-wrenching display of retribution to a surprisingly wry ending (complete with a snappily ironic gotcha moment of role reversal). awesome. good stuff on its own; amazing when considered as just one piece of the author's Culture novels. my favorite one so far.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Brad: If you were a GSV (General Systems Vehicle), what would you call yourself? Brad: Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale" Brad: If you were a GCV (General Contact Vehicle), what would you call yourself? Brad: Inoculate by Means of Blankets Brad: If you were a GOV (General Offensive Unit), what would you call yourself? Brad: Process of Peace and Reconciliation Brad: If you were a VFP (Very Fast Picket), what would you call yourself? Brad: Cerebrovascular Accident Brad: If you were an Orbital, what wo Brad: If you were a GSV (General Systems Vehicle), what would you call yourself? Brad: Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale" Brad: If you were a GCV (General Contact Vehicle), what would you call yourself? Brad: Inoculate by Means of Blankets Brad: If you were a GOV (General Offensive Unit), what would you call yourself? Brad: Process of Peace and Reconciliation Brad: If you were a VFP (Very Fast Picket), what would you call yourself? Brad: Cerebrovascular Accident Brad: If you were an Orbital, what would you call yourself? Brad: S'qulett Orbital, so why are you asking me what I'd call myself? Brad: Because you can't review this book. It exhausted you, and there is too much to say. Brad: It made me cry. Brad: It did. Why give it four stars? Why not five? You love this book. Brad: I do. Brad: So why? Brad: Because of all the Culture books it is the least accessible. Brad: I thought it was accessible. Brad: But you've read the preceding Culture books. Brad: You have. Brad: Okay, I have, but this book was written for people who've read the preceding books. It is not a book one can come to without knowledge. Brad: Why is that a problem? Brad: It's not, but I feel compelled -- Brad: --To what?! Criticize a book because it's not for everyone. Brad: Something like that. Brad: Cause it is for everyone if they do the work to get here. Brad: I'd rather just keep this book for mark and me. Brad: Impossible. Brad: If only I could gland you into silence. Brad: Will wine do? Brad: It'll have to. Brad: Say g'night, Cerebrovascular Accident. Brad: G'night, Cerebrovascular Accident.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Amazing. My second Culture novel after The Player of Games, and I think I'm at a point where I'm going to be ravenously devouring them. Like many others have mentioned, this is a novel about loss and mourning -- thinking back on the events of the book, not much actually happens, but Banks uses enough narrative shift and experiments with perspective that it always remains fascinating. Part of the joy in reading these books is just for the world-building, honestly. And as always, his aliens are a Amazing. My second Culture novel after The Player of Games, and I think I'm at a point where I'm going to be ravenously devouring them. Like many others have mentioned, this is a novel about loss and mourning -- thinking back on the events of the book, not much actually happens, but Banks uses enough narrative shift and experiments with perspective that it always remains fascinating. Part of the joy in reading these books is just for the world-building, honestly. And as always, his aliens are a delight; the airsphere chapters and behemothaurs are some of the most interesting things I've ever read. The cast of characters was solid and I was always happy to learn more about them and the societies/histories attached to them. And bonus: one of the near-final chapters had me in almost constant tears, sitting on a bus in public. Beautifully written. Beautifully done. The plot trundled onwards towards the tribute symphony, and I felt an amazing sense of satisfaction and remorse when it reached that point. The Culture is both alien but also so very human, in all our mistakes and risks and sorrow and manipulation and meddling, and I love it. And can we take a moment to mention just how awesome Ziller is? Yes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Simeon

    Say hello to Kabe (pronounced Ka - beh), a tripedal, three-and-a-half meter tall triangular bulk of politely plodding philosophical awesomeness, who can stand so perfectly still while lost in thought that silly humans often mistake him for some sort of humongous, statuesque work of art. Also, mistakenly, even though he’s a Homondon (a vegetarian species), Kabe’s very large mouth makes the sight of him eating distinctly alarming. These outwardly endearing qualities are hardly the extent of adorab Say hello to Kabe (pronounced Ka - beh), a tripedal, three-and-a-half meter tall triangular bulk of politely plodding philosophical awesomeness, who can stand so perfectly still while lost in thought that silly humans often mistake him for some sort of humongous, statuesque work of art. Also, mistakenly, even though he’s a Homondon (a vegetarian species), Kabe’s very large mouth makes the sight of him eating distinctly alarming. These outwardly endearing qualities are hardly the extent of adorableness that is Ambassador Kabe Ischloear. Here’s an excerpt of him traipsing through the snow: He could hear his own footsteps as they sank into the untouched whiteness. Each step made a creaking noise. […] He looked back at his tracks in the sow covering the canal path. Three lines of footprints. He wondered what a human – what any bipedal – would make of such a trail. Probably, he suspected, they would not notice. Even if they did, they would just ask and instantly be told […] Ah, so little mystery these days. Kabe looked around, then quickly did a little hopping, shuffling dance, executing the steps with a delicacy belying his bulk and weight. He glanced about again, and was glad to have, apparently, escaped observation. He studied the pattern his dance had left in the snow. That was better… But what had he been thinking of? The snow, and its silence. Yes, Kabe is hilarious. He spends pages locked in philosophical debate with Ziller (a cantankerous misanthrope and composer living in exile on a Culture Orbital – which is a ring-shaped world with the surface and continents of a planet, a bit like Halo), and Kabe listens, pondering his surroundings with a prodigious sense of humor. This is the first Culture novel that I gave five stars, since I was never bored. Look to Windward is a deeply philosophical book. At one point, Hub, the sentience directing the Culture Orbital and its surrounding Solar System where a lot of the action plays out, explains what it’s like to be a Mind, an AI a trillion times cleverer than we; the perspective of death, of responsibility, of shame and kindness and other concepts that result from that small foray into the depths of every sentient soul… This book deals with suicide, bereavement, and religious rationalization of mass violence; with the mores of life in a technologically unlimited anarchist utopia. And oh, does it succeed, and more. One thing, I got through almost half the novel before I realized how totally awesome it was, and went back to re-read many parts a second time with a much deeper appreciation for the characters and subtle waves below the surface. The ending is pretty much amazing. Read this now, or next time you’re in a deeply philosophical mood.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    This is a book about mourning and regret, set in the universe of Banks's Culture series. There are several interwoven subplots, two of which display remarkable technical virtuosity. The first is a moving love story between completely non-human extraterrestrial creatures; I think it's the only successful example I've ever come across. Some of the flashbacks where Quilan recalls his lost love brought tears to my eyes. I'm not sure how the author did it, and I liked it enough that I'd rather not pi This is a book about mourning and regret, set in the universe of Banks's Culture series. There are several interwoven subplots, two of which display remarkable technical virtuosity. The first is a moving love story between completely non-human extraterrestrial creatures; I think it's the only successful example I've ever come across. Some of the flashbacks where Quilan recalls his lost love brought tears to my eyes. I'm not sure how the author did it, and I liked it enough that I'd rather not pick at the illusion. I was also impressed with the companion thread about the Mind, and its terrible feelings of guilt for the things it has done during the Idiran war 800 years earlier; without apparent effort, Banks succeeds in making the reader empathize strongly with a disembodied, superintelligent, artificial intelligence. These two themes eventually link up in a satisfying way, to create a powerful ending. If the rest of the book had come out equally well, it would have been a masterpiece. From what I have seen in interviews, Banks used to do a lot of rewriting at the beginning of his career. I think he said somewhere that he completely rewrote Use of Weapons after a first draft that he was very dissatisfied with, and the final result is indeed one of his best books. Unfortunately, by the time he reached Look to Windward, he had a loyal fan base who would buy anything he published, and I suppose he didn't feel as motivated any more. A pity.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris Neumann

    Iain Banks died earlier this year, and what a huge loss to the science fiction community it was. Out of all the Culture novels he had written, I had read all but one...this one. I figured I'd end the year by visiting his wonderful universe again for one last new adventure - something that will never happen again. If you're interested in his Culture series (you should be), don't start here, as it is actually a loosely connected sequel to Consider Phlebas, the very first Culture novel, and shock wa Iain Banks died earlier this year, and what a huge loss to the science fiction community it was. Out of all the Culture novels he had written, I had read all but one...this one. I figured I'd end the year by visiting his wonderful universe again for one last new adventure - something that will never happen again. If you're interested in his Culture series (you should be), don't start here, as it is actually a loosely connected sequel to Consider Phlebas, the very first Culture novel, and shock waves (literally) from that book are felt in this one. That being said, this was a beautiful book with all of the splendid prose and quirky, funny, and caring characters that readers have come to expect from an Iain Banks novel. There is hardly any action here, but it isn't needed. In the best way, this is philosophical sci-fi, with questions raised on nearly every page that make you stop and think. Look to Windward was his quietest, most personal Culture novel. Instead of going out with a loud bang, this series fades away, for me, into the cosmos with a quiet whisper - I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Cheers, Iain. You wrote perfect science fiction, and I figure your like will not be around again for quite some time. Enjoy being out there in the stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sumant

    Look to windward I think is book in which Banks goes back to what he does best i.e. tell a engrossing story which has a lot of twists and turns. This time the story exclusively takes place on Masaq orbital and the descriptions of the orbital is another point which made this book really fascinating for me. Some of the strong points of the book for me where 1.Masaq orbital. 2.The varied species with their background story. 3. Subliming concept. Let me elaborate on above points of the book 1.Masaq orbita Look to windward I think is book in which Banks goes back to what he does best i.e. tell a engrossing story which has a lot of twists and turns. This time the story exclusively takes place on Masaq orbital and the descriptions of the orbital is another point which made this book really fascinating for me. Some of the strong points of the book for me where 1.Masaq orbital. 2.The varied species with their background story. 3. Subliming concept. Let me elaborate on above points of the book 1.Masaq orbital. Although throughout the culture series we have seen lot of orbitals, but they were lacking complete description in order to visualize them clearly. Banks gives detailed description of orbital in this book. The orbitals are basically circular objects which are millions of kilometer in diameter and they go about spinning around a star. It is their spinning motion around themselves, which basically provides gravity on their surface. On the surface of orbital we have plates which represent continents, and these plates are seperated from each other by thousands of kilometers. These plates are also different from each other in a sense that some may have arid deserts while other may have lush greenery on them. Masaq is one such orbital, and it is unique in a sense because it revolves around a star which will explode when it dies which will definitely cause harm on orbital too. The people living on Masaq are also adventure loving, as they sometimes go rowing in lava ya you read it right, or they modify themselves like birds so they can go flying around the orbital. As all orbital are basically managed by a hub mind, now a mind in culture is an AI who are a sort of sentient beings, they are not just your normals computers but they are so advanced that they are able to feel and observe more than a normal human mind is capable of. The minds are also have various personality traits which act as their identifiers. The hub mind of Masaq orbital is unique in a sense because it was previously an a GSV i.e. General systems vehicle mind, which are a sort of warships in culture. It also participated in the Idrian war and was responsible for the destruction of three orbitals. It has decided to commerate Battle of the Twin Novae where in the Idrian destroyed two stars in the war due to which there were mass casulties. As the light of destruction will be reaching the orbital, it asks a famous composer Ziller to present a symphony. 2.The varied species with their background story. Now Ziller is a rebel himself he is a chelgrian, a species who have evolved from tigers. He has run away from his homeland Chel during the caste wars and has spent more than 10 years in exile on the orbital Masaq. He is a brilliant composer, but is petrubed by the fact that his homeland are sending an ambassador Major Quillan in order to convince him to come back to Chel as the war has ended. Ziller has completely gone in his shell, once he has heard the news about Quillan and refuses to present the symphony if the major is present any where hear the arena. The hub mind then takes help of Kabe who is an homondan a tripedal species who is an ambassador in culture in order to convince Ziller. The story progresses where in Kabe,Ziller and the hub mind, take various journeys across the orbital. They discuss various things from the background of Kabe who we come to know has come to orbital when his lover left him. We also learn regarding the history of hub mind during their discussions. Major Quillan is another strong character in this book, he is a broken man as he has lost his wife in the caste war, from that time onward he is desperately trying to find meaning of his life. When the war gets over and then Quillan comes to know that it was the Culture who were basically responsible for the caste war, at the same time he gets recruited on a mission which will finally lead him to redemption. 3. Subliming concept. Subliming is a new concept introduced by Banks in this book, and it is fascinating due to the fact that a sublimed soul leaves the material plane altogether and only survives in form of pure energy. The chelgrians are unique due to the fact that subliming is not easy, because even culture is not able to do it, but it has been done only by a few AI minds in it, but the chelgrians have made it into a process due a device called as soul keeper, this device basically captures traits of of an individual when he dies. But when the chelgrians come to know that the people killed in the caste war have died because of war instigated not by themself but by a third party they stop the trapped souls of their fellow chelgrians from being sublimed. If Quillan's mission succeds he will be able to help these souls too. So with so much riding on his mission will the major succed in his mission? will Ziller ever go back to his homeland?. It is better to read the book in order to get the answers to these questions. All in all this book is an solid entry in the culture series. I give this book 4/5 stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    This is spectacular. It deals with huge, terrible themes (war, loss, revenge, suicide, suicide bombings) and philosophical questions (exile, redemption, forgiveness), in multiple storylines spread across hundreds of years. The scope is HUGE. There are three things that came out of Banks's mind I desperately want to be real: GSVs, drug glands and Orbitals. The fact that a large chunk of the story takes place on an O made me very happy indeed. The geography, the landscapes, the subway system - I a This is spectacular. It deals with huge, terrible themes (war, loss, revenge, suicide, suicide bombings) and philosophical questions (exile, redemption, forgiveness), in multiple storylines spread across hundreds of years. The scope is HUGE. There are three things that came out of Banks's mind I desperately want to be real: GSVs, drug glands and Orbitals. The fact that a large chunk of the story takes place on an O made me very happy indeed. The geography, the landscapes, the subway system - I ate up every bit of physical description I encountered. Conversely, I wasn't quite so interested in the airspheres with the behemoths, so those sections got a bit long for me - hence the 4 (.5) stars. This time, the AIs, while present, disappear behind the towering humanoid characters. Kabe is magnificient, Ziller is brilliant, Quilan is heartbreaking. The philosphical debates between Kabe and Ziller, in particular, are an absolute joy to behold. I'm gonna quote a short passage for my own amusement: Ziller was staring at him. 'Are you saying the sun could explode?' 'Well, sort of, in theory. It's a very--' 'You're not serious!' 'Of course I am. The chances are--' 'They never told me that!' 'Actually, it wouldn't really blow up as such, but it might flare--' 'It does flare! I've seen its flares!' 'Yes. Pretty, aren't they?' :) And this isn't even one of their great debates, just a small thing that made me laugh. It might not work out of context, but I don't care. Read this, if you haven't already. You will laugh. You might cry a little. (I did.) You will stare into space, lost in wonder, hoping against hope that someone, somewhere has built such marvels and is going to invite you along for a visit.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I don't know whether I like this as much or more than any of the other Culture novels I've read. It seems to be a different sort of beast, really. The others are things that are happening, even in Use of Weapons with the dual flow of the story; this one is the aftermath, things that have happened and dealing with them (or not). That's not to say that there isn't a plot, but the things that're happening are happening as a direct result of a known and understood past: in Consider Phlebas, the conf I don't know whether I like this as much or more than any of the other Culture novels I've read. It seems to be a different sort of beast, really. The others are things that are happening, even in Use of Weapons with the dual flow of the story; this one is the aftermath, things that have happened and dealing with them (or not). That's not to say that there isn't a plot, but the things that're happening are happening as a direct result of a known and understood past: in Consider Phlebas, the conflict is new; in Use of Weapons, Zakalwe gets involved in a lot of unrelated (except by his presence) situations; in The Player of Games, the Culture is actively meddling. But Look to Windward is the aftermath of Consider Phlebas and of the same kind of situation that is played out in Use of Weapons and Player of Games. The depictions of grief and guilt, loss and longing, are incredibly well done. There's some gorgeous writing in the way Banks unveils his world, and some amazing background to his world. Two complaints, really: one, I'm no longer sure if Banks is really managing to distinguish aliens from humans, in terms of character and outlook -- I could forget Kabe and Quilan's races if I let my mind wander; two, the last couple of sections/chapters wrap everything up so very neatly, and I've realised that happens in his other books too. Oh for a little bit of ambiguity to take away with me...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I have read so many of the Culture novels in such a short period of time that I find it difficult to know what to write this time. My online book club is doing a series read, so every month, there is another one. My relationship with the series tends to be up and down - some books I really enjoy, some I find frustratingly opaque. This was not one of the opaque ones. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to t I have read so many of the Culture novels in such a short period of time that I find it difficult to know what to write this time. My online book club is doing a series read, so every month, there is another one. My relationship with the series tends to be up and down - some books I really enjoy, some I find frustratingly opaque. This was not one of the opaque ones. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ints

    Kultūras cikla projekts man jau rit otro gadu. Nevar teikt, ka man šī sērija nepatiktu, vienkārši pēc katras grāmatas izlasīšanas nerodas vēlme tūlīt lasīt nākamo. Autors prot uzburt jaunas, interesantas pasaules, risināt aizraujošas problēmas. Vietām rakstītais ir dikti garlaicīgs, taču to pilnībā kompensē labi sarakstītās daļas. Ir jau aizritējuši 800 gadi kopš Dvīņu Novu kaujas dienas. Viena no asiņainākajām kaujām Kultūras vēsturē. Masak orbitālā stacija atrodas 800 gaismas gadu attālumā no k Kultūras cikla projekts man jau rit otro gadu. Nevar teikt, ka man šī sērija nepatiktu, vienkārši pēc katras grāmatas izlasīšanas nerodas vēlme tūlīt lasīt nākamo. Autors prot uzburt jaunas, interesantas pasaules, risināt aizraujošas problēmas. Vietām rakstītais ir dikti garlaicīgs, taču to pilnībā kompensē labi sarakstītās daļas. Ir jau aizritējuši 800 gadi kopš Dvīņu Novu kaujas dienas. Viena no asiņainākajām kaujām Kultūras vēsturē. Masak orbitālā stacija atrodas 800 gaismas gadu attālumā no kaujas vietas un gatavojas mirušo piemiņas pasākumam. Šeit dzīvojošajiem 50 miljardiem cilvēkiem ir grūti saprast, kā var iznīcināt veselas planētu sistēmas un to, kāda ir bijusi Kultūras civilizācijas loma šajā notikumā. Uz Masak dodas arī planētas Čel sūtnis majors Kvilans (Quilan). Viņa planēta nesen ir pārcietusi pilsoņu karu, un daudzi šajā ceļojumā saskata Čel vēlmi samierināties ar Kultūras pārstāvjiem. Iespējams, viņš vēlas satikt savas planētas slavenāko disidentu komponistu Zilleru. Taču patieso misijas iemeslu nezina neviens, pat pats Kvilans ne. Lai nu kur, bet planētu būvēšanā autoram nudien ir talants. Šajā grāmatā autors bez Kultūras orbitālās stacijas ir radījis vēl divas ekosistēmas. Planēta Čel ir tipiska planēta, uz kuras rasties saprātam, taču šoreiz saprāts ir radies no plēsoņām. Viņu sociālās iekārtas dinamika ir pavisam savādāka nekā visēdāju civilizācijām. Pirmkārt, tā ir kastu sistēma, kurā piederību nosaka iedzimtība. Kastu robežas tiek sargātas, un bieži vien tās ir bijušas par iemeslu asiņainiem kariem. Šos karus bieži vien arī sauc par kastu kariem. Čel iemītniekiem ir vēl viena neraksturīga iezīme. Atšķirībā no pārējām augsti attīstītām kultūrām viņiem zināmā vēstures posmā transcendējusi ir tikai neliela daļa no populācijas. Pie tam šī aiziešana no fiziskās pasaules nav notikusi pilnībā, viņi joprojām uztur sakarus, uztur ticību. Ir radusies sava veida reliģija, kuras adeptiem tiek garantēta nemirstība un atdzimšana pavisam reālās debesīs. Kultūra nez kādēļ nav ņēmusi vērā visas šīs nianses, un savā veidā mēģinot demokratizēt sabiedrību, ir izraisījusi visasiņaināko pilsoņu karu planētas vēsturē. Savu viņi panāca - planētas iedzīvotāji apvienojas, taču ne jau labas gribas vadīti, bet naidā pret Kultūru. Ir jau tik viegli sevi attaisnot un teikt, redz, mēs jau neesam vainīgi, mūs sakūdīja. Arī viņu transhumānie radinieki nav nekādai miera mikas. Ja tā vispārīgi skatās, tad grāmata ir tāda interplanetāra alegoriju par ASV iejaukšanos Tuvajos austrumos. Par to, ka vienu vērtību sistēmu mēģina aizstāt ar ko citu. Varbūt īpaši neprasot demokratizējamo viedokli par savu nākotni. Kultūrai vēlme nest gaismu citām civilizācijām ir tādā pašā līmenī, viņa reizēm ir gan labdaris, gan policists. Iespējams, ka tā ir kritika par ASV ārpolitiku. Otra pasaule ir behemotozauru apdzīvota atmosfēras planēta. Tā nenoliedzami ir veidota mākslīgi ar nelielu kodolu, bet milzu atmosfēru, kurā lēni peld behemotozauri un citi ar kontinentiem salīdzināmi simbiotiski organismi. Šeit katra suga pilda noteiktas funkcijas. Visu šo zoodārzu, kurš atrodas uz augstas attīstības pakāpes. Ja cilvēki būtu skudras, tad behemotozauri būtu cilvēki, pēta kāds Kultūras pārstāvis. Viena lieta gan ir skaidra, ja kāda rase mēģina nodarīt pāri šīm būtnēm, tad neskatoties uz to, cik tās ir varenas, šādas civilizācijas sagaidāmais dzīves ilgums ātri tuvojas nullei. Iespējams, tādēļ šai vietai visi ir iemācījušies mest līkumu. Sākumā kad notikumi rit nesteidzīgi, šī pasaule kalpo lasītājam par glābiņu, kur lasīt labu SF ar interesantu bioloģiju un filozofiju. Grāmatas galvenie varoņi ir visnotaļ interesanti. Kabe trīsarpusmetrīgs trīskājains radījums, kas izskatās pēc trīsstūra. Viņš ir reportieris, kas savai planētai vēsta ziņas no Kultūras. Grāmatas pirmo daļu viņš vada filozofiskās diskusijās ar Zilleru. Zillers, komponists, kas reiz piederējis vienai no augstākajām Čel kastām, atteicies no visa un aizmucis uz Kultūru. Taču viņš zina savas planētas reālijas un ne par ko negrib tikties ar majoru Kvilanu. Viņam ir pamatotas aizdomas, ka šis planētas emisārs te ierodas tikai ar vienu mērķi - viņu novākt. Kvilans izbijis karavīrs, kuram ir zudusi dzīves jēga, taču ir vēlme aiziet ar lielu blīkšķi. Viņa emocijas var saprast, bet kādēļ izvēlēties šādu veidu, lai pieliktu punktu savai dzīvei, var nojaust tikai pēc visas grāmatas izlasīšanas. Un, protams, Masak mākslīgais intelekts, saprāts, kurš spēj garantēt visu savu 50’000’000’000 iedzīvotāju dzīvību, vadīt visu stacijas infrastruktūru un, ja vajadzīgs, ar katru aprunāties. Viņa iespējas nav prātam aptveramas. Neskatoties uz visām foršajām planētām un interesantajiem tēliem, autoram paiet pus grāmata, lai iešūpotos. Sākumā ieliktais pamats nudien ir noderīgs, taču varēja to visu pasniegt interesantāk. Kauns atzīties, bet kad biju ticis līdz pusei, es apsvēru nolikt grāmatu malā pavisam. Aizmirst par tādas eksistenci un pieķerties kaut kam citam. Līdz ar to sērijas lasīšana būtu pabeigta priekšlaicīgi. Labi, ka izdevās sevi pārvarēt, jo beigas bija izcilas. Autors visu grāmatu izliek dažādus māneklīšus, ar kuriem pievilināt lasītāju, likt tam izdarīt nepareizus secinājumus un tad parādīt to visu nedaudz citādi. Tas man patika, liek visu laiku domāt līdzi un ielikt notikumus jaunajā perspektīvā. Grāmatai lieku 8 no 10 ballēm. Laba demokratizācijas kritika, par to, ka ar atvainošanos ne vienmēr var remdēt visas sāpes un izskaust atriebības alkas. Par augsti attīstītu reliģiozu sabiedrību, kurā debesis ir īstenība un par tās indivīdiem. Var lasīt atsevišķi no visas sērijas, taču pirmās divsimt lapaspuses būs iemidzinošas.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Thompson

    Gentile or Jew O you who turn the wheel and look to windward Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. I have a weakness for anyone who quotes Eliot, particularly the Waste Land. At first I thought that this title was a bit much given that Banks had already used Consider Phlebas, which seemed to me more appropriate to the novel it graces. But it just occured to me: the people in this book are those who 'look to windward'; the entire book is an extended meditation on the message of Ph Gentile or Jew O you who turn the wheel and look to windward Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. I have a weakness for anyone who quotes Eliot, particularly the Waste Land. At first I thought that this title was a bit much given that Banks had already used Consider Phlebas, which seemed to me more appropriate to the novel it graces. But it just occured to me: the people in this book are those who 'look to windward'; the entire book is an extended meditation on the message of Phlebas the Phonecian. A meditation on death, and loss, despair, remorse, I suppose, but mostly on the different kinds of relationships one can have with death. Windward is very closely linked to Phlebas, both thematically and because it is in part about the aftermath of the war. Maybe the title is supposed to signal the importance of that link, which I didn't pay much attention to at first. I should read the two books back to back some time. This is the Culture, of course, so the characters have far more relationships with death at their disposal than mere humans do, just as they have more freedom of choice with regards to just about everything else. They can Sublime (which I don't quite buy), have one or several of various kinds of uploaded personality-continuation afterlife, artificially extend their lifespans to arbitrary lengths, enter suspended animation, and probably others I've forgotten or which Banks hasn't thought of yet. But many opt to have the old-fashioned, no backup available, risky kind of relationship, and some of them go to a great deal of trouble to expose themselves to the risk of being killed, and have a horrible time while doing so. (Lava-rafting has to be the most unenjoyable sport I've ever seen described.) And then the Mind... "There are places to go, but either I would not be me when I went there, or I would remain myself and so still have my memories. By waiting for them to drop away all this time I have grown into them, and they into me. We have become each other. There is no way back I consider worth taking." Quilan said something similar,earlier in the novel, that he could not live with the knowledge of his wife's death, and would not live without it. Two different kinds of death, and loss of the self while continuing to live is judged the greater evil.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    In my quest to read the Culture books in publication order (for no good reason, since doing so isn't necessary), I've made it to my seventh stop along the way. Everything I love about Banks is here: amusing AIs, thoughtful humans and aliens, the Culture and other cultures, etc. (if you're not in the know, the Culture is a post-scarcity galactic civilization whose citizens are freed from such drudgeries as money and jobs - it's an idea that makes for great science fiction). A lot of typical Bansk In my quest to read the Culture books in publication order (for no good reason, since doing so isn't necessary), I've made it to my seventh stop along the way. Everything I love about Banks is here: amusing AIs, thoughtful humans and aliens, the Culture and other cultures, etc. (if you're not in the know, the Culture is a post-scarcity galactic civilization whose citizens are freed from such drudgeries as money and jobs - it's an idea that makes for great science fiction). A lot of typical Banskian themes show up, too: love, loss, regret, as well as ruminations on life, the universe, and everything. One atypical thing is that all of the main characters are non-humans - Quilan and Ziller are five-limbed Chelgrians and Kabe is a Homomdan (former friends of the Idirans featured in Consider Phelbas). You don't need to have read Consider Phlebas to read this one; Banks fills readers in on what they need to know (of course, you should read Consider Phelbas, because it's awesome). The Mind that runs the Orbital becomes a major character, too (a Mind is a super-intelligent AI, an Orbital is like a giant space station and this one has a lot of extreme sports fanatics). Unfortunately there's really only one drone character, although the rest of the characters make up for this one flaw (I mean Banksian hilarious, sarcastic drones, not the killing kind or Radio Shack kind we have in the real world). War, or more specifically its aftermath for combatants and their civilizations, is another major theme. I don't want to say much about the plot, but the ending is emotional and makes it all worth it. In typical Banks fashion, there are times when you're not sure what's going on (especially in the non-numbered chapters), but you have to trust that it all comes together in the end. Speaking of the end, death is another major topic: would you really want to live forever, or is there something to be said for the sweet oblivion of nothingness? EDIT (June 7, 2015): See my reviews of all ten Culture books here: http://examinedworlds.blogspot.com/20...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    The Chelgrians, the Homomdans, the Culture all vie for galactic respectability in this, the 6th Culture novel: Look To Windward [2000]. (This is my second reading of this novel, the first in 2006). The Culture series reached its peak - in my opinion - in terms of wit, humour, sophistication, structure, craft and sheer entertainment value in Excession (1996) - what followed hereafter, it seemed, would have to be something exceptionally special. Inversions followed in 1998 - of which I have little The Chelgrians, the Homomdans, the Culture all vie for galactic respectability in this, the 6th Culture novel: Look To Windward [2000]. (This is my second reading of this novel, the first in 2006). The Culture series reached its peak - in my opinion - in terms of wit, humour, sophistication, structure, craft and sheer entertainment value in Excession (1996) - what followed hereafter, it seemed, would have to be something exceptionally special. Inversions followed in 1998 - of which I have little memory of reading in 2006 - and then this, in 2000. Neither of which, nor their successors (Matter [2008], Surface Detail [2010] and The Hydrogen Sonata [2012]), shone like the nova Excession was in the series (after the superb opening of Consider Phlebas [1987], the enjoyably intricate The Player of Games [1988], and the staccato pleasures of Use of Weapons [1990]). Perhaps this is because it was by then an established medium, an already explored set of genius ideas and invention, the Culture itself, and the Ships and the Minds, the pre-eminent creations, taking science fiction to an altogether loftier level of excitement and invention, but by now, familiar. Ideas, perhaps not as sociologically complex as Asimov's Foundation and Empire series, nor Herbert's Dune worlds, were nonetheless as vast, cohesive and thrilling - space was expanded by the Culture, the mind too, and reading any of the series put you into a comfortably inspirational and wittily humourous world, which only sagged in reading each novel during tracts of occasional pedestrian description (compared to the pace of plot) or Banks's metaphysical proselytising - both of which we can affectionately forgive as (i) being necessary to place plot - always pacy and witty - and character - invariably sexy and witty - and (ii) as being necessary to explain the backstory to the unitiated while allowing a mind by now overly familiar with his universe that to explore the metaphysical quandaries and delights of the fringes of life in that universe - storage, subliming et al - was an inevitable form of self-massaging of the inventor of his wonderful worlds. Getting back to Look To Windward, it simply seems to offer nothing new, especially after Excession. The Orbital is a familiar concept (nee Niven's Ringworld), the canal a spectacular but retro one, but Banks does have a fondness for such archaic settings in the galaxy of 3030 - The Player of Games uses a quayside, to thrilling effect. But here, the pace is lacking; somehow, Banks took his foot off the pedal. Perhaps it is simply difficult to create great story during a (roughly) bi-annual contract commitment that has to fit in with his alternating mainstream fiction commitments and his other non-Culture sf too (Transition [2009] being the strangely superb misfit). I'm not knocking this - it works brilliantly for Banks in a career stemming from '84 and this alternation of production since '86 - a massive output of very high quality. But to sustain the (to me) benchmark quality of Excession after all that, to get the ideas and superb cohesive structure that was Excession time after time in the Culture series, is asking a huge biggie Mr. B. So perhaps I shouldn't complain. Certainly there is much merit in this book. It explains succinctly the chosen names of the Culture craft, a perennial pleasure for all we fans: "...the Culture - while it has a sprinkling of ships with [romantic, purposeful or poetic names] - ususally went for ironic, meticulously obscure, supposedly humorous or frankly absurd names. Perhaps this was partly because they had so many craft. Perhaps it reflected the fact that their ships were their own masters and chose their own names." (p124 Orbit 2000). It also discusses and potentially (but not quite) answers the central quandary I have had about the Culture machine intelligence, the Minds, chosing to live symbiotically with their humanoid counterparts in an egalitarian and morally altruistic civilisation while at the same time effectively serving their human counterparts' every need. Banks does not in the end come to any convincing argument, except to suggest that possibly because of the seeding in early AIs of a moral loyalty to their masters (the humans), when the time came for AIs to be able to be fully self-designing, self-creating and procreating, that that seed was inherited by default in the advanced Minds that the machine Culture were to evolve into. A kind of inbuilt machine-genetic moral altruism. Dubious, true. There should have been an extended discussion as to why such disproportionately powerful intelligences - the Minds, the ships, drones and orbital hubs - should even be interested in living symbiotically if even at all peacefully alongside the less able human(oid) species. Like the lack of seeded love, or that intrinsic bond, family. Their - the Minds', the ships' - need for community is displayed throughout Banks's Culture series: in their cliques and special interest groups (the Interesting Times Gang of Excession, as case in point). But Banks leaves this argument there, and I am surprised that extending this argument to include the fascination with human love and family and all the higher things those conditions can aspire to did not either occur or appeal to him to pursue. Certainly it is the key issue that has fascinated - nay, obsessed - me since Bank's Culture pointed the way for such altruistic symbiotic respect. (view spoiler)[Much of this insight is through the eyes of Quilan - the pseudo-ambassador from Chel on a mission after the resolution of the Chelgrian civil war - which, according to them, the Culture both started (by interfering in local politics because they were morally opposed to the Chelgrian caste sytem), and ended (when the conflict that they did not expect to arise had become too destructive). It is the slow unwinding of this backstory, and the tease of the reveal of the purpose of the mission, that is the book's plot-reveal and tension device. Does it pay off? As mediator between these two civilisations, the Homomdan ambassador, Kabe, stands as moral referee. Kabe is entirely conciliatory between the Chelgrians and the Culture on the orbital Masaq', where the former is represented by Ziller, the defectee composer, whom the Culture consider a major cultural catch. It is interesting that Banks makes for us of a tripartite structure for the tension, and that both the cat-like Chelgrians and the trefoiled Homomdans have additional limbs. A separate side-story of the scholar Culture mutant simian Uagen and his friend 974 Praf aboard the living dirigible entity, the behemothaur Yoleus, in the billion-year-old airsphere, is introduced, to further the intrigue. I found this aspect of the book initially rather dull, just as I had found the gas-giant-dwelling Dwellers in The Algebraist (2004) rather uninteresting. Banks is superlative when it comes to the Ships, the Minds, the Culture. When he gets onto his dirigibles, I sigh. However, it was a sufficiently well-designed side-plot to enliven the by-now tedious development of the Quilan backstory, which unfolded time-sequentially from the opening prologue to catch up with its opening in Winter Storm, chapter 2. (hide spoiler)] Banks deploys the interleaving of time events well; in Use Of Weapons (1990), he fills in the backstory of Zakalwe's arrival at the opening of the book in a similar way. The problem is, with this device, you have to have sufficient interest in or liking of or sympathy with that character to appreciate being thrust back into such detail where the backstory can take up half to a third of the book and is always distracting from any forward momentum of tension in the main plot 'present'. In this case, Quilan is not an especially interesting character, nor his circumstances (view spoiler)[- losing his wife Worosei in the Chelgrian civil war - (hide spoiler)] of sufficient emotional impact for you to care what happens to him, let alone all that has happened to him restrospectively to get him to the point of the present unwinding. Indeed, the main problem I have with this novel is that there are no central characters that are noteworthy or likeable, with the exception of the Homomdan Ar Kabe Ischloear. Typically in a Culture novel, it is a Mind or Hub or drone whose character is suitably wise to carry the gravitas that is the most advanced technological civilisation not yet Sublimed. There is always some rascal or supercilious drone, GCU, ROU or youthful character who represents the quirky, wreckless, facetious or sexy (see Ulver Seich in Excession, or Diziet Sma in Use of Weapons, favourites of mine). But here, the entity closest to that role is the drone Tersono, and he is little more than a fop for the cruel humour of Ziller, the exiled Chelgrian composer. Ziller himself portrays most of the book's humour, and the chapter Absence of Gravitas is one of the most enjoyable since he is allowed to represent Banks's significant wit and humour - if I could match one paragraph of that witty dialogue, I would feel it a lifetime achievement. Yet, despite these intermittent flashes of brilliance, even in a book that explains most lucidly the concept of Orbitals (as Excession did of Subliming and Surface Detail did of Hell), and despite it being characterstically well designed, it lacks memorable character, the fatal flaw. And so, any reckoning is deviod of at least one sixth of a basic requirement of the novel as form (of story/plot, character, structure, dialogue, sub-plot, style). Banks is the most exciting sf writer I've read, and there is some class competition. Look To Windward is a second-class Culture novel, where the Culture is first class in the sf pantheon. However, I'd rather have read this than twenty other sf novels I have done. There is a balance in the universe, and it will always be held by Banks's Culture. I thank him eternally for that. And for the affectionate humour and wit with which he gifts it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patric

    „Look to Windward“ ist ein Roman, der innerhalb des Culture-Universums von Ian M. Banks spielt. Es ist auch ein Roman über die Culture selbst. Der Roman handelt neben der eigentlichen Hauptgeschichte auch vom Leben in einer Gesellschaft, die keinen Mangel kennt und deren Bewohner langlebig und durch das Anlegen von Backups praktisch unsterblich sind - oder sein könnten. Banks lässt seine Charaktere eine Vielzahl von verschiedenen Orten und Landschaften besuchen, die fantastisch bis gelegentlich a „Look to Windward“ ist ein Roman, der innerhalb des Culture-Universums von Ian M. Banks spielt. Es ist auch ein Roman über die Culture selbst. Der Roman handelt neben der eigentlichen Hauptgeschichte auch vom Leben in einer Gesellschaft, die keinen Mangel kennt und deren Bewohner langlebig und durch das Anlegen von Backups praktisch unsterblich sind - oder sein könnten. Banks lässt seine Charaktere eine Vielzahl von verschiedenen Orten und Landschaften besuchen, die fantastisch bis gelegentlich absurd sind. Was die Rassen, Geschlechter und andere Unterscheidungsmerkmale der Charaktere angeht, erfreut Ian M. Banks mit seinem bekannten Panoptikum: Menschen, Katzenartige, Gasblasenbewohner, Giganten, Androiden, Digitalisierte, Sublimierte, außerirdische Botschafter, Drohnen, Avatare, Schwarmintelligenzen und Raumschiff-KIs mit Namen wie „Resistance is Character-Forming“. Die Haupthandlung ist spannend, die Charaktere sind interessant, glaubhaft, geheimnisvoll und bisweilen witzig, die Bühne ist fantastisch! Am überzeugendsten für mich war am Ende die Beschreibung der Culture. Die Gepflogenheiten, Leben und Tod ihrer Bewohner, Diplomatie und Krieg, gemachte Fehler und Folgen. Für mich einer der besten, wenn nicht gar der beste Culture-Roman - 5/5!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Olethros

    -Una intencionalidad sociopolítica enorme bajo el barniz de género.- Género. Ciencia ficción. Lo que nos cuenta. En el libro A barlovento (publicación original: Look to Windward, 2000), Worosei es un militar chelgriano que viajará hasta un orbital de La Cultura en una misión diplomática con el objetivo de que Zeller, un músico autoexiliado allí, regrese con él. Pero detrás de la misión hay algo mucho más peligroso, un acto que mezcla la agresión, la venganza y la acción socioreligiosa. Y es que la -Una intencionalidad sociopolítica enorme bajo el barniz de género.- Género. Ciencia ficción. Lo que nos cuenta. En el libro A barlovento (publicación original: Look to Windward, 2000), Worosei es un militar chelgriano que viajará hasta un orbital de La Cultura en una misión diplomática con el objetivo de que Zeller, un músico autoexiliado allí, regrese con él. Pero detrás de la misión hay algo mucho más peligroso, un acto que mezcla la agresión, la venganza y la acción socioreligiosa. Y es que las acciones de La Cultura, mucho tiempo atrás, provocaron infinidad de muertes entre los chelgrianos. Sexto libro de la serie La Cultura. ¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite: http://librosdeolethros.blogspot.com/...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anthony V

    This entry into the series has many themes similar to Consider Phlebas (being the spiritual successor), while being a story that can be enjoyed on its own. Much of this story takes place upon one of the Culture's more unique orbitals, Masaq', which allows for a interesting look at how different members of the civilization view life and death.

  21. 5 out of 5

    tom bomp

    I sort of have a problem with the main backstory premise to the book, this spoiler reveals a lot of stuff that's revealed slowly over the course of the book (view spoiler)[So the Culture is considered responsible for the caste civil war. They did this by influencing politics so a caste-ending politician became president, which led to a gradual but almost complete destruction of the caste system. Then the former lower castes just tried to kill the higher castes suddenly for some reason just at th I sort of have a problem with the main backstory premise to the book, this spoiler reveals a lot of stuff that's revealed slowly over the course of the book (view spoiler)[So the Culture is considered responsible for the caste civil war. They did this by influencing politics so a caste-ending politician became president, which led to a gradual but almost complete destruction of the caste system. Then the former lower castes just tried to kill the higher castes suddenly for some reason just at the moment the caste system was pretty nearly abolished. One of the members of the species suggests it was "natural" for it to happen because they're a "predator species". Yet it turns out that the two sides immediately make peace when it turns out the Culture had influenced things. The only reason the Culture are considered responsible for it is because they bribed parliamentarians to vote for this guy for president. The sudden civil war was entirely started by Chelgrians, apparently based on a sort of inevitability and their own plans. So like 1) In what way is it the culture's responsibility? 2) Why is the ending of the caste system presented as inevitably resulting in terrible violence worse than the caste system itself? I don't want to be too like "well this doesn't follow my communist morality so it's bad" but it does feel like a very strange moral tale to have the oppressed become atrociously violent suddenly for no good reason and for it to be the wrong thing to have helped them at all. But even if we accept this, it seems strange to blame the Culture given that this was apparently something a significant amount of the population immediately took to. Although the Culture influenced things somewhat, apparently if the caste-enders had come to power "naturally" the same thing would have happened. If the politicians or even a decent amount of the population had a serious investment in the caste system they could easily have stopped things getting that far in the first place (although again that'd be bizarre, morally). So if there were no Culture intervention at all, either 1) the same thing would have happened, possibly over a longer timescale, given there seemed to be widespread agreement on what was done up until the war and no major pushback 2) the caste supporters would have objected, taken up a stronger position, and probably catalysed a civil war anyway which would probably have been just as bloody except with the oppressed castes in a far weaker position. Of course, this is me being silly to a certain extent. Obviously it's fiction, you have a certain set up, and it's not pushing a super simplistic "oppressed people are bad for resisting" thing exactly. It's an attempt to set up a decent moral dilemma, and obviously if it's a moral dilemma there's no starting position that will totally satisfy me because it's always going to be unpleasant in some way! I mean like as a general opponent of most "intervention" in a real life context it's kind of weird of me to be defending the Culture in the book, even if it's not really like real interventions - we "know" the Culture is far more "good" than any state in real life, even with the bad stuff it does sometimes. The Chelgrian intervention also had very little benefit to them - in real life the bad consequences are often down to continuing oppression to benefit those who intervened. But it's near impossible to create a close to real scenario in the Culture universe I think. I definitely appreciate the effort and think he did a great job - that I'm writing all these words about it is a good indication I think what he's written is worth thinking seriously about, heh. It's a pretty great thing to do to try and write a book about intervention like this - even if I don't think the premise is perfect to talk about the problems and consequences of "humanitarian intervention" even with seemingly "perfect" societies is good. Although I did feel the civil war was intended to evoke memories of the Rwandan genocide, which seems kind of dodgy? (hide spoiler)] The book is good in general. It's full of descriptions of the Orbital, which are amazing although I'm bad at picturing stuff from descriptions and if you're better at that than me you'll probably like it even more. The truly alien environment of the airsphere was great to read about too. The ending is good - I did think (ending spoiler) (view spoiler)[that the wormholes would have been planted by people from the Culture but I thought it was because they truly believed the Culture deserved revenge taken against it for what happened... ah well (hide spoiler)] Anyway yeah it's good

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    A quarter of the way through this Culture novel, I already knew it was my favorite, and Banks cemented this opinion with this passage: What bizarre fates our technologies dream up for us, he thought as he lay there. Here I am, a male, becoming pregnant with the ghost of an old dead soldier, to travel beyond the bounds of light older than our civilisation and carry out some task I have spent the best part of a year training for but of which I presently have no real knowledge whatsoever. What bizarr A quarter of the way through this Culture novel, I already knew it was my favorite, and Banks cemented this opinion with this passage: What bizarre fates our technologies dream up for us, he thought as he lay there. Here I am, a male, becoming pregnant with the ghost of an old dead soldier, to travel beyond the bounds of light older than our civilisation and carry out some task I have spent the best part of a year training for but of which I presently have no real knowledge whatsoever. What bizarre fates, indeed! Banks continually amazes me with his ability to imagine and then bring to life such fantastic scenarios, to describe them so beautifully, and to render them so completely believable in the context of the current plot movement and the larger universe he creates. Look to Windward deals with the matter of the Sublimed, which is repeatedly hinted at by previous novels. The Sublimed are basically older civilizations that eschewed the tedium of matter-based existence in the universe and sublimated their consciousnesses to... someplace else. The left-behind races don't have any concept of what's outside the universe, but what's clear is that Sublimed civilizations can still influence events in the normal universe. Uniquely, in the Culture's experience, a race of tiger-like people called the Chelgrians are in contact with roughly a quarter of their population who sublimed millennia ago. These gone-before Sublimed took it upon themselves to make real the Chelgrian's ancient religious beliefs -- which almost all of the race had by then abandoned -- by creating heaven, exactly as it was described in ancient religious texts. With the consent of the Sublimed and the assistance of a device that backs up one's mind-state at the time of death, called a Soulkeeper, a Chelgrian knows for an empirical certainty that a promised paradise awaits him upon death. As you might expect, a race for whom heaven is an empirical fact adopts particular political and military beliefs, and this fact forms the basis for the main plot. There's a lot of other fascinating ideas at play, including more tantalizing glimpses into the interior lives of the hyper-intelligent Minds. This book, more than any other Culture novel, does a great job of exploring what life is like for the everyday inhabitant of the civilization: how they spend their time, what their goals in life are, and how they find happiness in the absence of material struggle. All of this forms the backdrop for a gradually revealed espionage plot that does an excellent job of creating dramatic tension. I would recommend that anyone wanting to start reading the Culture books start here. All of the Culture books can more or less be read independently, and there's no book more accessible (or enjoyable) than this one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. After reading The Algebraist , I was going to swear off Iain M. Banks for the rest of '08. But, Ginnie recommended it so highly that I felt it was worth bumping up the list. I can definitely see why she gives it such praise. It's a dense, nuanced story that explores the motivations for terrorism, throwing that into sharp contrast against what it means to love another, reciprocating entity. Even if that love becomes cancerously deep and pathological? Of course, the story is also a clear allegory After reading The Algebraist , I was going to swear off Iain M. Banks for the rest of '08. But, Ginnie recommended it so highly that I felt it was worth bumping up the list. I can definitely see why she gives it such praise. It's a dense, nuanced story that explores the motivations for terrorism, throwing that into sharp contrast against what it means to love another, reciprocating entity. Even if that love becomes cancerously deep and pathological? Of course, the story is also a clear allegory for U.S. involvement in the Middle East (as indicated by the dedication) though it could just as easily refer to any "more advanced" culture dabbling in the interference of some perceived-as-less-advanced culture. To that latter statement: Banks seems careful not to overly vilify the "Othered" group here. The Chelgrians are not monsters; they are not lawless nor are they barbaric. They are in fact a highly complex, very technologically advanced (certainly by 21st century Earth standards) species with a millennia old cultural tradition that has recently been through some major turmoil. Just by chance they happen to encounter The Culture; and just by chance The Culture's intervention throws the Chelgrian social order wildly out of balance. And in the aftermath of the precipitate Caste War, even The Culture comes forward with some apologetic hand-waving. If anything, Banks goes out of his way to "properly" paint The Culture as wanton aggressors. The Chelgrians just happened to be the victims. And yet it's not all of Chel that seeks revenge. Just a handful of militant zealots -- apparently with the backing of some more sophisticated parties. Where Banks takes this for an ending is shrewd and sly and a manifold of tragic. Oh, there's a bright note at the end that attempts to resolve on a hopeful note. But mostly the denouement is a subtle jab that says: "In war, we are all childish." --- For those nit-picking over the rating: it was close to 4-stars for me. If I could, I would have given it ★★★½. I found the story a little slow to start and Banks' style a bit exaggerated. I'm not sure if the novel would have worked as well without the narrative being constructed the way it was but sometimes I found the prose got in the way of the story. (On the other hand, the behemothaur sections were perfect.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barrett Brassfield

    This is my fourth Iain M. Banks novel and they just keep getting better. I can't honestly say that Look to Windward is "better" than Excession, better being somewhat subjective. They are very different novels and both brilliant, but Look to Windward is very touching for the reader on an individual level, given the attention Banks pays to characterization of the principals involved. Look to Windward also gives the reader a very interesting look at what happens when the Culture makes a mistake, de This is my fourth Iain M. Banks novel and they just keep getting better. I can't honestly say that Look to Windward is "better" than Excession, better being somewhat subjective. They are very different novels and both brilliant, but Look to Windward is very touching for the reader on an individual level, given the attention Banks pays to characterization of the principals involved. Look to Windward also gives the reader a very interesting look at what happens when the Culture makes a mistake, despite their good intentions. The mistake reminds me of why Horza decides to assist the Idirans in their war against the Culture as it plays out in Banks's 1987 novel Consider Phlebas. The Culture's attitude towards the Chelgrians strikes me as the proper one. Owing to their misguided interference, the Chelgrians suffer a civil war that results in terrible losses on both sides. The Culture realizing the cost of their intervention not only admit they were wrong to interfere in the first place but also take responsibility for their actions to the extent that they are able. The Hub Mind who controls the Orbital where most of the novel's action takes place also feels regret over events that it carried out during the Idiran war as a ship Mind eight hundred years earlier. Somewhere in here is a lesson in advancing as a species and being able to admit costly mistakes! Of course it is not all strawberry milkshakes and self-heating gel-filled anal beads. The Culture also punishes those who seek to do it harm and not in pleasant ways as we see with their E Dust Assassin at the conclusion of the main plot line in Windward. Very unpleasant! As a whole, what Banks creates in the Culture novels is nothing short of remarkable. Well developed in all respects, far future science fiction just doesn't get any better. Behemothaurs might be the coolest creations in all of syfy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    I wasn't sure what I was going to make of this book. Having previously read and loved several M.Banks books including Consider Phlebas, I was concerned that Look to Windward might be something of a less fulfilling dour introspection. How wrong can one person be? Look to Windward is another Banks triumph. The story handles some seriously heavy subjects; terrorism, love and loss, suicide, the aftermath of war, post colonialism and empire are all addressed with immense skill. Whilst at the same time I wasn't sure what I was going to make of this book. Having previously read and loved several M.Banks books including Consider Phlebas, I was concerned that Look to Windward might be something of a less fulfilling dour introspection. How wrong can one person be? Look to Windward is another Banks triumph. The story handles some seriously heavy subjects; terrorism, love and loss, suicide, the aftermath of war, post colonialism and empire are all addressed with immense skill. Whilst at the same time the reader is challenged to envisage some wonderful Sci-Fi dioramas such as the dirigible behemothaurs and the mighty Masaq orbital. If ever anyone wanted to hold up an example of how Science Fiction can be relevant and important to the questions that challenge the "human condition" throughout our lives, then this is the book. The humour is still there and better than ever, and somehow Banks manages to mix this in with some profound discourse. Some of Hubs conversations with Quilan and Ziller are wonderfully poignant and thought provoking. Hubs final scene with Quilan in particular shows Banks' talent off in superb style and is deeply emotive. This will be one to reread along with Consider Phlebas in the future and I have no doubt that like Phlebas the second reading will only uncover more perspective and depth of understanding of the text. I loved it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ignacio

    He terminado este libro con sentimientos encontrados. Como fan de las historias de La Cultura me ha resultado tan estimulante como cualquiera de las anteriores. De los cinco libros que he leído sin duda es el que más me ha acercado a la vida en esa utopía comunista, iluminando claves fundamentales para entender la relación entre los seres humanos y esas IAs en el cruce de caminos entre la tutela, la divinidad y la servidumbre. Además sobrevuelan toda la novela ideas (la muerte, la venganza, la e He terminado este libro con sentimientos encontrados. Como fan de las historias de La Cultura me ha resultado tan estimulante como cualquiera de las anteriores. De los cinco libros que he leído sin duda es el que más me ha acercado a la vida en esa utopía comunista, iluminando claves fundamentales para entender la relación entre los seres humanos y esas IAs en el cruce de caminos entre la tutela, la divinidad y la servidumbre. Además sobrevuelan toda la novela ideas (la muerte, la venganza, la expiación, el perdón...) muy bien tratadas en las diferentes tramas que Banks plantea. No obstante son varios los hilos a engarzar y alguno queda un tanto cojo en una secuencia demasiado irregular. Está contada un poco a machacamartillo, practicando primero la inmersión y después sobreexplicando cosas que más o menos habían quedado asentadas desde la sugerencia. En este sentido, narrativamente me ha parecido la novela más discursiva de la serie. Si a esto le añades el cabreo que me ha despertado el epílogo, un texto en primera persona introducido para dar una sensación de cierre, absolutamente a la contra de las 400 páginas anteriores, se entiende mejor mi valoración en plan "está bien pero...".

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    In the ordinary scheme of things I'd probably give this a 4. I was so sad when Iain died. I knew I still had his great gift of 2 more Culture books to enjoy, this and Inversion. So while thrilled to read another Banks books, it was with heavy heart knowing there would be no more. This was beautiful book about death and memory and loss but also about life. Loved the alien Homondan. There's a great twist at the end. As always there's Banks wonderful touch of humor and humanity. One of my favorite In the ordinary scheme of things I'd probably give this a 4. I was so sad when Iain died. I knew I still had his great gift of 2 more Culture books to enjoy, this and Inversion. So while thrilled to read another Banks books, it was with heavy heart knowing there would be no more. This was beautiful book about death and memory and loss but also about life. Loved the alien Homondan. There's a great twist at the end. As always there's Banks wonderful touch of humor and humanity. One of my favorite scenes is some anonymous Culture members at a party riff on Ship's names. I've always gotten such a kick out of those.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    It happens so rarely that I sat quietly for a while after finishing to bathe in the wonderful delight of a book that works so well. I love this story and right now want to re-read every Culture novel again to find every last bit of genius missed during late night reading. Despite wonderful craft of this storytelling, the book didn't really grab me until about 1/2 way through, at which point I was surprised to find myself completely engrossed within the multiple storylines and reluctant to stop fo It happens so rarely that I sat quietly for a while after finishing to bathe in the wonderful delight of a book that works so well. I love this story and right now want to re-read every Culture novel again to find every last bit of genius missed during late night reading. Despite wonderful craft of this storytelling, the book didn't really grab me until about 1/2 way through, at which point I was surprised to find myself completely engrossed within the multiple storylines and reluctant to stop for the beauty sleep i so desperately need. Oh, but that is good enough. I highly recommend this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Luke Burrage

    Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #263. Coming soon: Culture Read-Through Wrap-Up show.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kes

    3.5 stars. I didn't have a good impression of the first novel, but I enjoyed this a lot more. It takes time to grasp the characters, but the plot basically centers around (view spoiler)[Quilan, a Chelgrian, who is sent to kill a Hub (hide spoiler)] . The reveal of this central plot is unfurls slowly and beautifully. The reasoning behind that turn of events is great too - it deals with the aftermath of a war, where Quilan lost his wife. Quilan's journey also appears to parallel (view spoiler)[the Hu 3.5 stars. I didn't have a good impression of the first novel, but I enjoyed this a lot more. It takes time to grasp the characters, but the plot basically centers around (view spoiler)[Quilan, a Chelgrian, who is sent to kill a Hub (hide spoiler)] . The reveal of this central plot is unfurls slowly and beautifully. The reasoning behind that turn of events is great too - it deals with the aftermath of a war, where Quilan lost his wife. Quilan's journey also appears to parallel (view spoiler)[the Hub's, who has lost its twin in another battle years ago. (hide spoiler)] It's a book that deals beautifully with losing people and the different stages of grief. I loved the Culture too: They spend time. That's just it. They spend time traveling. The time weighs heavily on them because they lack any context, any valid framework for their lives. They persist in hoping that something they think they'll find in the place they're heading for will somehow provide them with a fulfilment they feel certain they deserve and yet have never come close to experiencing." Ziller frowned and tapped at his pipe bowl. "Some travel forever in hope and are serially disappointed. Others, slightly less self-deceiving, come to accept that the process of travelling itself offers, if not fulfilment, then relief from the feeling that they should be feeling fulfilled." It's a quote that feels relevant to today - I know too many people who like travelling. I liked that the epilogue deals tangentially with the Culture's cultural imperialism, and (view spoiler)[Huxler and Kabe are revealed to be Culture agents (hide spoiler)] . I didn't really understand the point of Uagen Zlepe's plotline though - was it meant to show that in the grand scale of things, (view spoiler)[even the Culture and the Chelgrian disappear - meaning that their struggles are meaningless? Because in a sense, Ziller's symphony is dealing with the same idea (by celebrating a grand battle that took place thousands of years ago). (hide spoiler)] But this was a great book.

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