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Look To Windward [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2001

It was one of the less glorious incidents of a long-ago war.

It led to the destruction of two suns and the billions of lives they supported.

Now, eight hundred years later, the light from the first of those ancient mistakes has reached the Culture Orbital, Masaq'.

The light from the second may not.

'Confirms Banks as the standard by which the rest of SF is judged' GUARDIAN

'In terms of sheer storytelling prowess and verve, Look to Windward is a work of genius' SFX

'A great book' NEW SCIENTIST

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Look To Windward + Inversions + Excession
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (2 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841490598
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841490595
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.

Product Description

Amazon Review

When using that middle initial M., Iain Banks writes grand space opera combining galactic scope with twisty, tricky probes into the darkest secrets of human and other minds. Look to Windward revisits the utopian but ruthless interstellar Culture introduced in Consider Phlebas, exploring the complex aftermath of a rare Culture mistake--humanitarian tinkering with an unjust civilization that accidentally led to massive civil war and billions dead.

After a harrowing battle flashback, the scene shifts to one of the Culture's wonderfully landscaped, ring-shaped artificial worlds called Orbitals. A ghastly light is awaited in the sky from distant suns detonated in the war of Consider Phlebas eight centuries earlier; an occasion for sombre festivity, pyrotechnics, and a memorial symphony from exiled alien composer Ziller. Meanwhile another tortured member of Ziller's race--aggressors and victims in that more recent civil war--arrives on a mission whose dreadful nature emerges through fragments of slowly returning memory. Elsewhere, in the exuberantly imagined airsphere home of floating "behemothaurs" almost too huge to imagine, the clue to what's happening falls belatedly into inexperienced hands...

While scattering red herrings and building tension for his final burst of literal and moral fireworks, Banks shows us around the Orbital in sensuous, lyrical travelogues. Rich scenery, high living, low comedy and dangerous sports contrast with reflections on mortality and the lingering aftershock of both those wars, recalled by ravaged veterans. Look to Windward culminates with deft twists, inversions, parallels, and savage justice, as unexpected as we expect from this author. Recommended. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In terms of sheer storytelling prowess and verve, LOOK TO WINDWARD is a work of genius (SFX)

A great book (NEW SCIENTIST)

Banks keeps ratcheting up the suspense (GUARDIAN)

A mordant wit, a certain savagery and a wild imagination (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best stuff has an "M" 20 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I REALLY don't understand all those previous reviews which give this one or two stars. I think Look to Windward is a beautiful, subtle meditation on life, death, revenge, heaven, eternity, oblivion. The final dialogue between the Hub Mind and Quilan is just wonderful - I had tears in my eyes. The people who compare this to the previous Culture novels, don't really seem to get it (IMHO). Banks has written several Culture novels, but can anyone really say that any two are similar in style and content to each other. I don't think so. And that is part of Banks' genius - he can create a whole universal canvas which is entirely consistent from one novel to the next, but still have the ability to place individual stories within their own framework and context. Look to Windward contains some of the best imagery Banks has produced - I particularly like the idea of the light from the dying star arriving at the orbital millenia (in real time) after the war which caused it has ended, and being witnessed for a second time by those that took part in that war. I also wouldn't mind a go at lava-rafting (backed-up or not!). I read all of Iain Banks' books as soon as they come out, but I've got to admit that I think he writes his best stuff these days with an "M" in his name. Wasn't too taken with the Business (although that did seem to me to be an attempt to place the Culture in the context of the real world - how the Culture might have begun??), and Song of Stone was an interesting exercise in form, but not much else. Look to Windward (and Inversions before it) is fine writing though. I hope it isn't the case (as has been rumoured) that he wont be writing any books (of any kind) for a while.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb addition to the Culture saga 26 Aug 2004
Following the baffling (or intriguing, depending on your point of view) mediaeval shenanigans of Inversions, Iain M Banks has genuinely delivered the goods with this one, giving the Culture aficionados what they *really* wanted.
"Look to Windward" is a staggeringly imaginative chunk of hard sci-fi, with some of the strongest characterization and mind-bogglingly grandiose scope since Banks' classic "Consider Phlebus".
Who could not empathize with the battle-weary, bereaved Quilan whose tortured soul seeks oblivion, and yet who could not condemn him for the ghastly mission he agrees to undertake?
Has absolute power begun to corrupt the Culture? Can they honestly still claim the moral high ground after their ill-judged and catastrophic intervention in the war?
This novel touches on some pretty profound ethical dilemmas along the way. There is also much wise and possibly prophetic investigation into the nature of the soul, heaven and omnipotence.
Please don't get the impression that this is all heavy stuff though; there is much amusing and witty dialogue between the chief protagonists. Some of Ziller's bon mots will have you in stitches!
To the delight of the Culture anoraks, there is also a huge amount of information about Culture minds/hubs, personality backups, orbitals and (delightfully!) a roll call of some of the more eccentric Culture ship names.
How I would love to visit Masaq' Orbital; I guarantee you will too!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go on, give yourself a treat! 17 Aug 2005
Iain Banks has single-handedly re-invented the whole Space Opera genre, and this book is his best yet. He makes Foundation, Norstrilia and Known Space - and any other fictitious universe I have ventured into - look predictable, folksy and unimaginative.
The only drawback to reading Banks is his penchant for putting at least one scene of stomach-churning nastiness into each book. Worrying about what horrors may lie in wait on the next page can make it hard for sensitive souls like me to enjoy reading him. Be reassured that in this one the scene in question comes only a few pages from the end, is very short, and is done with such a light touch that it almost fails to offend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depends on what you like (as always) 10 Aug 2001
By A Customer
I read this book last year, and recently re-read it, and I can understand the spectrum of reviews below. It's not his best-plotted novel by any means, nor do any of the characters leap out at you like they do in his top work (Use of Weapons, Wasp Factory, Player of Games, Espedair St IMHO). However, as a meditation on the meaning (or point) of things like revenge, guilt and the other stuff that keeps people going, it's excellent. He's expressing an opinion, and it's worth listening to - even if you think it's navel-gazing.
It is also an excellent exploration of the milieu of the Culture, where it came from and where it's going, and its small, small place in the grander scheme of things. Banks has said that he writes SF because he's a fan of the "gosh-wow" elements, as much as anything else, and there is a good dollop of that here too.
Bottom line - give this book a try. You'll either like it or hate it, but it's worth reading on the chance (likelihood I think) that your response will be the former.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Banks' versatility proven once again 9 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I only gave this book four stars because I don't think it's Banks' best. But if I had enjoyed it as much as I generally enjoy good books by other authors I'd have given it a two. I just can't get over how fantastically versatile this man is. In his sci-fi books alone he has covered almost every form of storytelling, action, adventure, intrigue, romance, humour. The consistent element is that they are all highly intellectual, and thought-provoking.
Look to Windward is slower paced and more descriptive than the others. Banks plays with the deepest philosophies and shows us, as he often has before, how difficult it is to find simple answers. My head swimming with the fantastic images conjured by the descriptive passages, there was only just room there to be fascinated by the fleshing-out Banks has brought to the Culture's history, and astounded by the new concepts that he introduces as in every novel (I particularly liked the idea of the airspheres and the giant floating sentient behemoths for whom the lifetime of an entire civilisation is a mere blip).
If you want to get into Iain M. Banks, read Feersum Endjinn first, then get into the Culture with Player of Games and Excession. I seriously recommend saving this one until you've read several Culture books because it answers a lot of questions and I think would be a lot more satisfying as a result.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Different to the other Culture novels but that's not a bad thing
I only occasionally dip into science fiction and pick my authors carefully as there is a lot of drivel out there but Iain M has always been a favourite since I started reading him... Read more
Published 3 hours ago by Spiderlung
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and poignant work of art.
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... Read more
Published 5 months ago by E. Motler
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Iain Banks!
Just worked my way through the entire back catalogue and L.T.W. is one of the best of the Culture series. Takes a bit of getting in to, but well worth it in the end. Read more
Published 5 months ago by MR M D SINGLETON
4.0 out of 5 stars M for murky but marvellous
I never normally read science fiction and only bought this book because it's an Iain Banks and I try to challenge myself occasionally with something different. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Stuart Sussex Scribe
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read!
I bought this for my husband as he loves Iain M Banks' books. He says that it is a really good read, and I'll be reading it next!
Published 7 months ago by hillymilly
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre but fascinating worlds
"Look to Windward" has all the hallmarks of Banks' ingenious invention in the genre of Sci Fi.
A "Chelgrian", Quilan , originating from a technologically sophisticated, but... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Carolingian
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave your biases at the door - and you'll love it.
I bought Look to Windward to take on holiday at the advice of a friend and have to say I'm really surprised at some of the reviews on here. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Brightside
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous
Epic and wonderfully written. The twists and the scenery are equally spectacular while the variety and depth of the characters is simply extraordinary. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Lyon Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars This will be the classic
Like Roger Zelazny's "Isle of the Dead", I think this is the book that will eventually be regarded as one of Banks' best SF novels, and possibly the very best, and will stand the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by M. Liddament
3.0 out of 5 stars Comforting rubbish
The main problem with Ian M. is expectations. He raises them all the time with that wonderful 'bright fourth-form schoolboy' imagination, then dumps them with weak plotting and and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Anthony Long
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