Look To Windward

March 17, 2008

Look To Windward, by Iain M Banks

Look To Windward, by Iain M Banks.

Back again after a little while off due to miserable personal circumstances. I’ve read a lot lately but because of the aforementioned many of the titles have gone out of my mind. Will rectify that at a later stage.

Look To Windward is a hard sci-fi novel in Banks’ ‘Culture’ series — a sprawling, pseudoutopian future effectively administered by vast AIs called Minds who benevolently interfere in the development of other civilizations. This particular novel deals with one of those interventions when the Culture, for all its good intentions, gets it wrong and becomes responsible for a stellar war, the destruction of two stars and the deaths of three billion people.

The story starts slowly, with flashbacks to the war and a dual plot dealing with a Culture Oribital Habitat preparing to commemorate the war via a symphony created by an expatriate timed to coincide with the light from the exploding stars visibly reaching their location. The second storyline follows that of a delegate from the defeated system coming to the Habitat on what is ostensibily a peace mission.

As the tale evolves, it becomes darker and more monstrous: no-one is who — or what — they seem, and an elaborate and horrendous revenge is being planned. And what level of revenge can you go to when the original stakes are three billion dead?

The first hundred pages were a little difficult to get through, in my opinion… but then suddenly it clicked, and clicked hard. A sense of dread and inevitability began to build and continued to rise until the very end, when Banks utterly turned the tables and hit me with a series of brutal, often macabre twists and turns that rose to a shuddering crescendo of betrayal and ruthlessness I simply wasn’t expecting — and thoroughly enjoyed. Particularly intriguing was the portrayal of a behind-the-scenes area of the Culture that was capable of eclipsing the military juntas of the beaten world and the revengers alike in sheer ruthlessness. And how it ‘exampled’ some of them…

Loved it and wanted more. And I have more, because Matter, the most recent Culture novel, is upon the to-be-read pile as we speak… 

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