The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, and one of the most horrific: desperate to avert their inevitable defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds and biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion -- gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended, and life went on.
Now, eight hundred years later, light from the first explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the 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 and self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller.
Ziller claims he will do anything to avoid a meeting with Major Quilan, who he suspects has come to murder him. But the Major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident, as part of a conspiracy more ambitious than even he can know -- a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he cannot remember it.
Hailed by SFX magazine as "an excellent hopping-on point if you've never read a Banks SF novel before," Look to Windward is an awe-inspiring immersion into the wildly original, vividly realized civilization that Banks calls the Culture....Continua
i was very curious to read something by Banks, and i'm satisfied with this first book.
i'm not completely sold on his universe, and i think that sometimes he wastes too much time in description or episodes that could be shorter and still effective.
surely i'll read more by this author, but let me list what i have troubles with.
like some critic was writing about Banks' universe, the minds are 'too good'. i wonder why, after years, thousands of years of good minds, there are still humans around. they don't work, they don't need to, so usually this leads to decadence and either collapse/extintion or return to barbarism. the minds of course won't let either one happen, but why? they don't need men, and they'll probably be better off without.
the whole mind premise is based on cheap and endless energy. i don't know how this agrees with real physics. it is surely interesting to develop a story where energy is not a problem, nor it is dirty or hard to get. and it is interesting to see how, even without troubles with energy, man can find other way to get in trouble anyway. but is it sound?
let me give you 2 examples. in 'return from universe' stanislaw lem imagines a world without too many problems. people live without worry, and they seem to be in a state of frozen development. they don't need the stars, and they don't care.
they completely renounced their most dramatic human emotions, and live in a pampered world. no dangers, no pains.
here the compromise is evident and yet energy is not free, or endless.
in 'r.u.r.' karel capec imagines biological robots, conceived to save labour from humans. the main reason is greed, and the inevitable mistake will soon appear. again, an almost endless resource of energy is clearly not cheap and not without its problems.
neither capec nor lem imagined the development of information technology that is contained in banks' book, but banks seem to try to get past these past examples and projects his stories forward, in an unbelievable universe that seems closer to p.j. farmer 'makers of universes' than to hard core science fiction.
another thing is the 'star trek' fauna that inhabits the worlds. leaving aside drones and minds, the different creatures seem to come straight from an episode of star trek rather than from a 1990s science fiction masterpiece.
maybe i need to read more, but the descriptions i read so far of an orbital don't convince me so much, as jack vance's descriptions in 'the daemon princes'. that is still my measuring meter for planets and worlds.
nonetheless, the story has lots of surprises and i want to read more....Continua
I think I got used to much to the way Ian Banks ends his stories, they always end in the least expected way, with a huge surprise that he's been building up to since the first page. This book is no different, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect more. It did got me thinking though: is the end all that matters? No, its not all that matters, its important but THAT important. The story till the very end was exciting and intriguing, and with the right amount of imagination the environment can be quite breathtaking....Continua