On Look to Windward

Posted by Jack on 2019-05-20 at 19:00
Tagged: books , scifi
TitleLook to Windward (Culture, #7)
AuthorIain M. Banks

This was a thoroughly enjoyable entry in the Culture series. I've been bouncing through the series based on interest and availability (my local bookstore has a big gap between Use of Weapons and Matter for some reason) but this story is much more in the vein of earlier Culture novels than the experimental Use of Weapons (in which the plot was overly confused by characters having multiple disconnected names in different time periods) or the abstract Excession (which focused too closely on floating conversations between AIs).

This story, similar to Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games, is able to use the Culture universe as a setting for a more conventional humanoid story. Which isn't to say that the story is unoriginal or straightforward, it's actually rather unpredictable and twisty, but it boils down to a much more relatable human level of "character I like is in danger" rather than being a more abstract, less tangible threat to be resolved and this is a perfect setup for Banks' writing.

Banks is at his best when delving into the minutiae of his world. Whether it's reasoning about how the vast megastructure Orbitals are created and maintained, or how the Culture deals with personal danger in a world full of safety nets and backups, or the inner workings of alien societies or even the bizarre mating habits of city sized alien creatures. Look to Windward has these details in droves and it's an absolute pleasure to read and imagine.