Summary and book reviews of Look To Windward by Iain Banks

Look To Windward

by Iain M. Banks

Look To Windward
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2002, 496 pages

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Book Summary

An awe-inspiring immersion into the wildly original, vividly realized civilization that Banks calls the Culture.

The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, and one of the most horrific: desperate to avert their inevitable defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds and biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion -- gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended, and life went on.

Now, eight hundred years later, light from the first explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the Culture's most adventurous and decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent and 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 and self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller.

Ziller claims he will do anything to avoid a meeting with Major 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 cannot 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 that Banks calls the Culture.

Chapter One
The Light of Ancient Mistakes

The barges lay on the darkness of the still canal, their lines softened by the snow heaped in pillows and hummocks on their decks. The horizontal surfaces of the canal's paths, piers, bollards and lifting bridges bore the same full billowed weight of snow, and the tall buildings set back from the quaysides loomed over all, their windows, balconies and gutters each a line edged with white.

It was a quiet area of the city at almost any time, Kabe knew, but tonight it both seemed and was quieter still. He could hear his own footsteps as they sank into the untouched whiteness. Each step made a creaking noise. He stopped and lifted his head, sniffing at the air. Very still. He had never known the city so silent. The snow made it seem hushed, he supposed, muffling what little sound there was. Also tonight there was no appreciable wind at ground level, which meant that -- in the absence of any traffic -- the canal, though still free of ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Banks's fine prose, complex plotting and well-rounded characters will eventually win over even the most discerning readers, and all will find themselves fully rewarded when the novel reaches its powerful conclusion.

Booklist - Roland Green

Banks makes the passions and follies of his characters real enough to remain distinct .... Even if this is no more than a thinking reader's space opera, it will definitely please such readers, in and out of Banks' established audience.

Library Journal

Banks (Consider Phlebas; Inversions) uses the far future as a playground for the interplay of ideas and images. First published in Great Britain, this literate and challenging tale by one of the genre's master storytellers belongs in most SF collections.

Reader Reviews

DotCommie

Better than Phlebas?
I found this one of Bank's most satisfying works. Intelligent, high-flung science mixed with very believable characters, and shot through with the kind of grim melencholy I only previosly found in Consider Phlebas. Despite this it's a tale of ...   Read More

Peter Price

This is Iain Banks back to his best. If you thought his last few books (Song of Stone, The Business, Inversions) indicated a waning of inspiration, then reading this book should provide grounds for optimism. We revisit the Culture once more. The ...   Read More

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