Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Look to Windward (Culture, #7)” as Want to Read:
Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Look to Windward

(Culture #7)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  24,257 ratings  ·  721 reviews
It was one of the less glorious incidents of the Idiran wars that led to the destruction of two suns and the billions of lives they supported. Now, 800 years later, the light from the first of those deaths has reached the Culture's Masaq' Orbital. A Chelgrian emissary is dispatched to the Culture. ...more
Paperback, 403 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Orbit (first published August 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Look to Windward, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  24,257 ratings  ·  721 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
Kevin Kelsey
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mario the lone bookwolf
Huge habitats controlled by a veteran AI and in comparison primitive, archaic cultures that play with high tech. Banks criticizes caste systems, the process of deciding against or for war and the concepts of an afterlife that gets misused by ideology.

The discrepancy between an AI that should, on the one hand, protect all living beings in its sphere of influence and be as merciless as possible against attackers on the other hand. As if a high ranking killer general would have to build the best l
mark monday
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Immortals
Recommended to Alan by: Peter T., this time
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Megan Baxter
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
Jun 29, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: Ginnie Jones
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristi Thompson
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It happens so rarely that I sat quietly for a while after finishing to bathe in the wonderful delight of a book that works so well. I love this story and right now want to re-read every Culture novel again to find every last bit of genius missed during late night reading.

Despite wonderful craft of this storytelling, the book didn't really grab me until about 1/2 way through, at which point I was surprised to find myself completely engrossed within the multiple storylines and reluctant to stop fo
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the ordinary scheme of things I'd probably give this a 4. I was so sad when Iain died. I knew I still had his great gift of 2 more Culture books to enjoy, this and Inversion. So while thrilled to read another Banks books, it was with heavy heart knowing there would be no more. This was beautiful book about death and memory and loss but also about life. Loved the alien Homondan. There's a great twist at the end. As always there's Banks wonderful touch of humor and humanity. One of my favorite ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-read, scotland
The Chelgrians, the Homomdans, the Culture all vie for galactic respectability in this, the 6th Culture novel: Look To Windward [2000]. (This is my second reading of this novel, the first in 2006).

The Culture series reached its peak - in my opinion - in terms of wit, humour, sophistication, structure, craft and sheer entertainment value in Excession (1996) - what followed hereafter, it seemed, would have to be something exceptionally special. Inversions followed in 1998 - of which I have little
Again, the most interesting parts to me were in the last quarter of the book or so. After reading 7 books in the series, I'm starting to realize that the main thing that's bothering me with Iain M. Banks' writing is the feeling that he likes to write stories more than to tell stories. By the time the novel is done, I feel unfulfilled. Yes, I learned something, yes, I comprehended various aspects of The Culture more, met various characters (that I didn't connect with), saw stuff happen to them, . ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard to pin down why I enjoyed this novel so much, but likely a combination of the rich contextual vocabulary as well as the artfully woven tapestry of the plot that fulfilled all the elements I enjoy in a novel. It was a murder, mystery, and suspense intertwined with reflective soul searching in the face of great sorrow. This is a novel I would have loved to critique back in school instead of some of the classics I was forced to consume at too early an age. Hope this doesn't set me up for disap ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Gabriel's Hope (Rhyn Eternal, #1)
  • Mercy (Mercy, #1)
  • The Space Between (The Book of Phoenix, #1)
  • Dom Wars: Round One (Dom Wars, #1)
  • Somebody's Angel (Rescue Me Saga, #4)
  • Accidental Leigh (Literal Leigh Romance Diaries, #1)
  • The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur, #1)
  • Redemption Ark (Revelation Space, #2)
  • Culture Series of Iain M. Banks: A Critical Introduction
  • Chasm City
  • Absolution Gap (Revelation Space, #3)
  • The Mystic Wolves (Mystic Wolves, #1)
  • The Business
  • Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)
  • Elfin (The Elfin, #1)
  • Downbelow Station (The Company Wars, #1)
  • Safe Word
  • Idoru (Bridge #2)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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)

Articles featuring this book

Need some help planning your summer reading? Goodreads employees are a very bookish bunch, so we asked our colleagues to...
183 likes · 43 comments
“Oh, they never lie. They dissemble, evade, prevaricate, confound, confuse, distract, obscure, subtly misrepresent and willfully misunderstand with what often appears to be a positively gleeful relish and are generally perfectly capable of contriving to give one an utterly unambiguous impression of their future course of action while in fact intending to do exactly the opposite, but they never lie. Perish the thought.” 72 likes
“There's an old Sysan saying that the soup of life is salty enough without adding tears to it.” 35 likes
More quotes…