Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Look to Windward USA cover

Look to Windward
(2000 UK, 2001 USA)

A Culture Novel

2001 USA Pocket book hardcover
cover art by Jerry Vanderstelt
369 pages (left)

Orbit Books UK
cover art by Mark Salwowski
357 pages (right)

Look to Windward UK cover

From the back cover of the USA paperback:
       Eight hundred years after the most horrific battle of the Idiran war, light from its catastrophic, worlds-destroying detonations is about to reach to Masaq' Orbital, home to the far-flung Culture's most adventurous and decadent souls.  There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent and to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event.
       Also journeying to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel.  In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart, most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star, the self-exiled celebrity Composer Ziller.
       Ziller suspects Quilan has come to murder him, but the major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident.  He is part of a conspiracy more ambitious than he can know -- a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he cannot remember it.

From the UK edition:
       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, eight hundred years later, the light from the first of those ancient deaths has reached the Culture's Masaq' Orbital.  For the Hub Mind, overseer of the massive bracelet world, its arrival is particularly poignant.  But it may still be eclipsed by events from the Culture's more recent past.
       When the Chelgrian Ziller, a composer of great renown now living in self-imposed exile, learns that an emissary from his home world is being sent to Masaq' Orbital, he fears the worst: that the Chelgrians want him to return.  A considerable debt is owed to the Chelgrians, but Ziller is an honoured guest on their world and the Culture would not force him to leave.  They know that they are facing a slight diplomatic problem.  However, Ziller is not the only thing on the Chelgrian emissary's mind.  If his mission is successful, it will illuminate the Culture's future as well as its past.

Read for group discussion on January 14, 2004

How we each rated this book
Dan 9 Amy 8 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 9 Barb -
Aaron 9 Cynthia -
Jackie - Ron 8
Christine 8 Mitch -

Our book group has read the following books by Iain M. Banks
-- Matter  in October 2009

Iain M. Banks (1954-     ) is a Scottish writer of both science fiction and mainstream fiction.  His middle initial (M.) which he uses to distinguish his science fiction work, stands for Menzies.  There tends to be SF elements in most of general fiction novels.

Culture books:
His loosely connected Culture series, which is far future science fiction, space opera, features a vast interstellar civilization with artificial intelligences and the humans (and other organic life forms).

In Consider Phlebas (1987) the warring Culture and Idirans seek a fugitive Mind; The Player of Games (1989) features a complex life and death game; Use of Weapons (1990) concerns a Special Circumstances' agents of the Culture; in Excession (1996) an artifact appears in a remote corner of space; Inversions (1998) features two stories set in a society emerging from a dark age; Look to Windward (2000) concerns a secret mission by a Chelgrian emissary to the Masaq' orbital; Matter (2008) features
galactic mentoring of lesser developed races by more advanced ones.

Short fiction:
The State of the Art (1991) is a collection of 8 SF stories, some of them Culture tales, including the title story.

Non-culture SF:
Feersum Endjinn (1994) is a far-future SF thriller about of a catastrophe approaching Earth.  Against a Dark Background (1993) is a dark, far future SF quest to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns.  The Algebraist (2004) is a lengthy space opera set in a complex, war-torn galaxy.  Transition (2009) features parallel realities.

Mainstream novels:
Ian M. Banks writes novels under the name Iain Banks (no middle initial). The Wasp Factory (1984) his first novel, is a literary horror novel; Walking on Glass (1985) is a literary novel with SF elements; The Bridge (1986) features an accident victim suffering amnesia; Espedair Street (1987) concerns an aging rock and roll star; Canal Dreams (1989) tells of incident on a ship bound through the Panama canal; The Crow Road (1992) is about a man returning to his Scottish family; Complicity (1993) is a thriller about a series of bizarre deaths; Whit (or Isis Amongst the Unshaved) (1995) features an odd Scottish religious cult; A Song of Stone (1998) is a literary fantasy novel of brutal civil war in modern Europe; The Business (2001) is about a powerful, transglobal organization; Dead Air (2002) features a leftist radio talk host living in London; The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007) is about the Wopuld family and their business and relationships.  Transition (2009), a novel which contains SF elements, is published in the UK as by "Iain Banks".

Other Books:
Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram (2003) is about drinking whisky.

Our book club's page for Matter by Iain M. Banks
The official site of author Iain (aka Iain M.) Banks
Iain Banks - Wikipedia
Steven Wu's Book Reviews: Look to Windward (Iain M Banks)
The SF Site Featured Review: Look To Windward

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This page was last updated December 03, 2009