Look To Windward – Iain M. Banks

First of all, let me apologize for being AWOL for a few days.  Carting small ones around to various activities takes up more time than any reasonable person should expect.  So, I will have several posts today to make up for my absence.

I finished Look To Windward 2 days ago.  This is the first Banks I have read, and I have mixed feelings about it.  The plot was great – a technologically dominant and proudly ‘civilized’ species interferes behind the scenes in a less enlightened/advanced species’ affairs, inadvertently triggering a massive and brutal civil war by helping establish a new political system.  Lots of room to explore there – did the more advanced species have a right to interfere?  were they truly just trying to help?  does it matter if they were?  what should be the consequences of their actions?

Add in some awesome AIs, a variety of interesting alien species and world settings, and a load of metaphysics (Sublimed beings – they sound a lot like ascended beings from Stargate, but without all the rules), and you have the makings of a killer sci fi story.

The down side was that the pace occasionally dragged, and some of the descriptions were longwinded.  I even found myself skipping ahead a few times – only by a sentence or two, but it is still a bad sign.  Also, I wasn’t very clear on what a lot of the aliens looked like until 2/3 through the book.  (In retrospect, that may be because of the skipped sentences.  Like I said, some of it dragged.)  Also, although he did explore some of the questions raised by the story, Banks wasn’t as thoughtful in his approach as I would have liked.  I do enjoy social commentary disguised as sci fi.

Overall, I enjoyed the book enough to read more by this author, perhaps Consider Phlebos – it comes highly recommended – but he isn’t jumping to the top of my book pile.



2 Responses to Look To Windward – Iain M. Banks

  1. I’m reading Consider Phlebas right now, matter of fact. It’s my first foray into Banks as well. My reaction is much like yours: mixed feelings. Some parts of it are great, and some are a little clumsy. But for his first SF novel it’s pretty good, and I definitely want to read more of his work.

  2. Michael says:

    I also skipped a few paragraphs of the book. I’d had enough of how wonderful everything looked on Masaq about halfway through the book.

    Also, I think Iain never met a comma or dash he didn’t fall in love with. Some of his sentences were annoyingly long.

    All in all, I enjoyed this book and will probably read another by him in the future.

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