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Look to Windward

(Culture #7)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  20,844 ratings  ·  621 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.
Paperback, 403 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Orbit (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.

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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  20,844 ratings  ·  621 reviews

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Kevin Kelsey
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: _library, read-2015
I.e., 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',
Science (Fiction) Nerd Mario
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ...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
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 Banks
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 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

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
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.
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 ...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 ...more
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
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
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
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
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!
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-read
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
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 ...more
Anthony V
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This entry into the series has many themes similar to Consider Phlebas (being the spiritual successor), while being a story that can be enjoyed on its own. Much of this story takes place upon one of the Culture's more unique orbitals, Masaq', which allows for a interesting look at how different members of the civilization view life and death.
Eric Lawton
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent Culture novel, as usual it has a philosophical and political background, exploring the clash between cultures that revel in war and those that choose peace but are prepared to fight if need be but are often able to avoid it. The Culture Minds ― machine minds thousands of times more powerful than humans ― offer a perspective on human weakness no matter how well-intentioned.

While remaining a fast-moving, interesting story.
tom bomp
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sort of have a problem with the main backstory premise to the book, this spoiler reveals a lot of stuff that's revealed slowly over the course of the book (view spoiler) ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quarter of the way through this Culture novel, I already knew it was my favorite, and Banks cemented this opinion with this passage:

What bizarre fates our technologies dream up for us, he thought as he lay there. Here I am, a male, becoming pregnant with the ghost of an old dead soldier, to travel beyond the bounds of light older than our civilisation and carry out some task I have spent the best part of a year training for but of which I presently have no real knowledge whatsoever.

Barrett Brassfield
This is my fourth Iain M. Banks novel and they just keep getting better. I can't honestly say that Look to Windward is "better" than Excession, better being somewhat subjective. They are very different novels and both brilliant, but Look to Windward is very touching for the reader on an individual level, given the attention Banks pays to characterization of the principals involved. Look to Windward also gives the reader a very interesting look at what happens when the Culture makes a mistake, ...more
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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,

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)
“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.” 65 likes
“There's an old Sysan saying that the soup of life is salty enough without adding tears to it.” 34 likes
More quotes…