Friday, December 08, 2006

Iain M. Banks - Look To Windward

This Iain Banks novel is about war and the consequences of war. In Bank's universe where societies span thousands of solar systems, a war means hundreds of billions of people can be affected.

As in several of these novels, we see how the Culture intervenes subtley into the affairs of other civilisations. Though this time, they get it wrong and the Chelgrian civilisation collapses into civil war - 5 billion loose their lives, and the Culture suffers a sort of collective guilt.

The novel deals with the consequences. We can't comprehend the deaths of 5 billion - rather like the Holocaust is difficult to imagine. So Banks tells us the stories of a few individuals - one in particular who is coaxed into a mission of revenge, because he cannot escape the lose of his lover in the war. The story of attempted revenge, exile, war and religion feels a little thin on the ground - but Bank's wonderful writing makes up for this, and once again I was left breathtaken by the sheer scope of the novel.

As an aside I was surprised to see the novel dedicated to the Gulf War Veterans. Until I remembered a pervious Gulf War and the men who still fight for justice because of the chemicals they were exposed to over 10 years ago. Sometimes Science Fiction can be very close to the truth.

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