Simeon's Reviews > Look to Windward

Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 09, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: sci-fi, literature, favorites
Read from November 03 to 09, 2011

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.
15 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Look to Windward.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Great review, Yeahiknow3.

message 2: by Simeon (last edited Nov 09, 2011 11:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Simeon Thanks. You should pick up the book if you get a chance; the audio version was really great.

message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I will. I am slowly working my way through the culture novels and have a ways to go. I am only up to book 3 (Use of Weapons).

message 4: by Apatt (new)

Apatt Nice one, it's been too long since I last read a Culture book (Consider Phlebas). Haven't got around to any more since.

Simeon You should. They are addictive after a while. I'm going to be sad when I run out of Culture novels.

Daniel Excellent review, sir. I agree: this is one of the top Culture novels, hands-down.

back to top