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Reviews of Look to Windward (2000)

Review by ropie (2006-06-17)
What really separates Banks from other science-fiction writers is that he can indeed write. In my experience most sci-fi writers excel at descriptive writing but fall well behind other fiction genres in many areas. Laughably stereotypical characters, cliched sub-plots, weak 'linking' passages or chapters between story events, and heavy handed sentimentality are some common examples of this failing. This is, for the most part, not the case with Banks. His writing is confident and credible in every area and the reader never feels he is about to be let down by poor writing technique.

Because of this confidence and solidity one can throw themself into the novel, willingly accepting the many and awesome ideas that Banks casts our way. Another quality is a certain 'transparency' of description that allows the story to flow and not be hindered by the words in any way. Though the language is sometimes archaic or slightly cryptic it never impedes the pace of events.

The overall effect is of a believable universe with a past, present and future that is cunningly revealed in measured doses. This credibility is something that many writers struggle to attain, Ursula LeGuin springing to mind as an example of someone who has also succeeded here.

This is so far my favourite of the Culture series. I've also read Excession and Player of Games and whilst these were good they just couldn't match the ambition that is portrayed in this novel. It is not a perfect book by any means - it is occasionally wandering and even a little dull - but for the most oart it works very well.

Review by doom70 (2004-10-08)
I've become a big and of Banks SF writing. He seems to be able to nicely mis crazy, neat, creative ideas and real, gritty, lifelike characters. His stuff isn't boring, or predictable. Windward deals with loss and guilt over terrible deeds and crimes, and how you choose to live afterwards. Exellent!

Review by mwisse (2003-03-10)
This is Bank's latest Culture book, which harkens back to his first, Consider Phlebas. During the last stage of the Culture's war with the Idarian empire, two stars were blown up. Now, the light of those explosions will reach the Masaq orbital and the Masaq Mind has announced a day of remembrance, for which the Chelgrian componist called Ziller will write a symphony. At the same time a Chelgrian envoy has arrived to apparantely persuade Ziller to return, but who also has a more sinister mission.

The relationship between the Culture and Chelgria is a bit delicate, because in one of their well intended tampering missions the Culture accidently unleased the Chelgrian civil war, in which millions died. And now the Chelgrians are out for revenge...

Another fine example of space opera from Banks, though far from his best. This novel is certainly not as innovative as his earlier Culture novels, nor has it the same frisson as frex Use of Weapons. The Culture just isn't novel enough anymore to give me the sense of wonder that novel evoked in me.

However, this is certainly not a bad novel. It moves at a fast pace and is one of those books you cannot putdown once you started it, as can be attested from the fact that I read it in one morning whilst staying with friends in London.

(Taken from my booklog at

Martin Wisse

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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