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Look to Windward

(Culture #7)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  25,256 ratings  ·  803 reviews
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 and life went on. Now, 800 years later, light from the 1st ...more
Paperback, 483 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster (NY) (first published August 2000)
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Matt I just picked this up for $1 at a book sale. I'd be happy to ship to you free of charge if you're still in need of a copy. The cover is a little worn …moreI just picked this up for $1 at a book sale. I'd be happy to ship to you free of charge if you're still in need of a copy. The cover is a little worn but otherwise it's in good shape. Let me know.(less)
Gregs3071 Well, yes, but no. It's more about the impacts and consequences of war, but I couldn't say it's not about war.…moreWell, yes, but no. It's more about the impacts and consequences of war, but I couldn't say it's not about war.(less)

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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: banks-m-iain
Better try not to mess with an almighty war AI, especially if you´re a primitive, status driven society.

Reread 2022 with extended review

Some of the topics are huge habitats controlled by a veteran AI and an, in comparison, primitive, archaic culture that plays around with hightech. Banks thereby criticizes caste systems, the process of deciding against or for war or cultural imperialism prime doctrine style, and the concepts of an afterlife that gets misused by ideology.

Brains for each special
Kevin Kelsey
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015, read-2020
...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
mark monday
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
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
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite
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 ...more
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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 ...more
Chris Neumann
Nov 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Banks dedicated this to Gulf War veterans and I can see why. Culture novels vary tremendously regarding themes, plots, characters, what have you, the only real link being how they are set in the same universe. Here, Banks takes us on a rather philosophical journey involving war, suicide bombers, grief, resilience, love and duty saturated with a rather melancholy prose and plot. Quite a ride!

Largely set on the gigantic Orbital Masaq' (these make Niven's Ringworld look quaint), Banks starts Look T
Wanda Pedersen
Last year, I read Inversions which was very different from the other Culture novels, so I approached this installment with curiosity. I needn't have worried. Here I found the usual AI minds, sentient space ships, smug drones, and a selection of Culture humans and assorted other beings. I must hand it to Banks, he was able to envision lives, ways of life, and potential non-humans in great profusion and detail.

We also get to kind of circle back to the initial Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, as th
Peter Tillman
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-copy
2019 reread: thoroughly enjoyable, and I'd forgotten enough of the plot-points (and twists) that it seemed like a first-time read. A few highlights:
● The dirigible behemothaurs! The lost stylus! The visiting Culture scholar!
● The world-building -- universe-building, really -- is just amazing. Nobody else in SF has ever done this better, imo.
● I particularly liked the sly nod to Jack Vance in the pylon cableway system in one of the Orbital plate deserts, and its curious history.
● Unlike many Ban
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was that the sort of behavior one ought to expect from a mature society? Mortality as a life-style choice?
Look to Windward, p.10
The late Iain M. Banks did not get that choice, it's true—but then no one, least of all Banks, claims that we live in a mature society. Or at least I hope no one's claiming such a ridiculous thing...

The first time I read Look to Windward was sometime in the early Aughts, long before Goodreads even existed, and Banks' science fiction tends to be... slippery, anyway, at
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Look to Windward is the seventh book in Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” series, and my favorite so far, though they all set lovingly on my favorites shelf. It is the story of a Chelgrian major who lost the will to live after his wife and fellow soldier’s death, who is swept into a dubious plot to destroy a Culture orbital.

Look to Windward features a quartet of the most enjoyable protagonists I have had the pleasure of reading. Kabe Ischolear is a shiny, pyramid-shaped, and socially tolerant ambassador
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another gem in the Culture series. My only regret is that I'm now that much closer to reaching the end of the series, and so I suppose I've been putting this off too long.

This one is a bit more introspective than most, giving a close look at Culture society and politics, primarily from the perspective of alien expats on the outside looking in. It gives a fascinating view of life on one of the massive Culture orbitals, essentially an artificial planet created and managed by a Culture "mind", i.e.
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-read
Look to Windward is the seventh book in The Culture series of space opera novels written by Iain M. Banks. The Culture is the name of the Galaxy-spanning, technologically-advanced, post-scarcity society that Banks returned to time after time to serve as the setting for his lyrical, sometimes-comical science fiction novels. Banks is one of the rare authors who was equally celebrated for his traditional fiction (presented under his name without the middle initial) as well as his genre work. In Loo ...more
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, culture
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
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'd recommend Look To Windward, but it wasn't my favorite Banks' book so far. (That's probably Inversions). It took a while to get going, and there were a few too many jumps in time/perspective which I thought detracted a bit from the momentum of the narrative. However, once the reader (finally) figures out what's at stake, it's a tense, unpredictable, and thoughtful (almost philosophical) book set in a complex and interesting milieu (the Culture universe.) Oh, and a great epilogue! ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Look to Windward is at its core a deeply personal and heartbreaking retrospective romance story - not what you expect from a series that spans galaxies and whose stories are usually driven by epic conflicts such as the obliteration of entire planets to make a political statement or an omnipotent object traveling across multiple universes. Yet Banks works dazzling magic here, weaving the culture and technology and history of his universe to convincingly give his main character - rightly an antago ...more
Jul 31, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
This is not only my favorite Culture book so far and not only one of my new favorite science fiction books but one of the best books I have ever read. This book hit hard on so many levels. I am stunned after finishing it.
I hope to do a full review later. Please do yourself a favor and read Iain M Banks. The man was an absolute legend. I am already excited to finish the rest of this series and then to read them all over again.
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
3.5 Star really.

A poignant and haunting ode to the devastating psychological effects of wars on the survivors. This book was dedicated to the veterans of the Gulf War. And in this book, Mr. Banks focused on the issue of how war survivors have to live with tremendous guilt and nightmares for being not dead. I thought the destructive and dispiriting effects of war on one's personal mental health were excellently depicted through the two main characters : Major Quiland and the Hub. Although, they h
Gautam Bhatia
Jul 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What if you committed a war crime, and lived to see the consequences?

What if the war crime was letting a star be destroyed - and billions of lives lost - for the greater good, and the consequence was watching the light from the supernova reach your home-world eight hundred years later?

The premise of Look to Windward is cosmic in its sense of loss and melancholy, and the build-up is perfectly paced, progressing from reflective and deliberate all the way to heart-in-mouth near the end. The only r
Kristi Thompson
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary-sf
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
Megan Baxter
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 4/5

At this point in the series even an average-quality Culture book garners a boost of goodwill and esteem for the Culture decalogy. Thus the series as a whole keeps getting better and better with each installment. In the case of Look to Windward though, it is not simply an average-quality book. This was a better than average science fiction book as well as a better-than-average Culture book.

Banks returns, much to my satisfaction, more to sc
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Iain M. Banks is a pseudonym of Iain Banks which he used to publish his Science Fiction.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, li

Other books in the series

Culture (10 books)
  • Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Excession (Culture, #5)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)

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