Manny's Reviews > Look to Windward

Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Feb 18, 2011

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bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in January, 2005

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.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Robert I found the end anti-climactic; no conflict or drama - the Mind has been in complete control from the outset. Snooze. Banks needs to never write about the Culture again, in my view.

Manny I thought the ending was all in the mind, and you think it's all in the Mind. I believe we're disagreeing...

Robert LOL.

Brad I've been reading all of Banks' Culture novels in order of publication, so Look to Windward is my next (after I finish my current Culture detour back to Use of Weapons), but so far I think I would be very sad if he stopped writing about the Culture.

You two are scaring me a bit with your feelings about this book, though, Manny and Robert. Books that have super high highs and disappointing lows make me angrier than just plain bad novels, and if this book is enough to make me want to stop Banks from writing about the Culture ... yikes!

message 5: by Geraud (last edited Feb 18, 2011 08:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Geraud I felt Look to Windward was a bit anticlimactic in the series, but as Manny put it, the theme of the novel is about sorrow and remembrance and that doesn't lend itself well with a high action novel. Look to Windward is not my favorite Culture novel either but it's a nice read nevertheless.
remember that a lesser Banks is still, in my opinion a good book, and something many writers out there can't achieve.
brad, if this can be of comfort, Matter is evry very different from Look to Windward. so you should enjoy yourself.

Julien Manny-

I agree with your views (and find I do on most of your reviews, which I seem to find on all the scifi I read) except on the ending. Use of Weapons was very much about the action, and I remember thinking multiple times during the novel that it would make a killer movie. I disagree with you in that just because the ending of this novel was anticlimactic, in an action sense, it very much delved into the philosophical and moral themes contained in the rest of the book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Manny Hi Julien,

Well, thank you! And looking further up the thread, it's Robert who's saying the ending is anticlimactic. I liked the ending very much - it's the middle that felt like it was in need of tightening up.

So yes, I agree it's a good book, but I was disappointed because I felt it could have been even better if he'd been prepared to do the necessary work.

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