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.