Wednesday, 12 February 2003

Look to windward

Listening to:

Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem. (I seem to have been listening to this quite a bit while writing my web-log. It’s because I have a much reduced selection of CDs to bring into work to listen to while most of our worldly possessions are being assessed by Australian Customs in Sydney.)

Just read:

Iain M. Banks, Look to windward.

This novel, another of Banks’s Culture stories, is an entertaining sci-fi read. The meat of the plot is revealed through a rather clever device: one of the central characters has had his brain programmed to release more information to him as his mission progresses. Initially he can’t remember the details of his briefing at all. There is one other cool novelty: a species of massive, near immortal floating creatures living on some sort of artificial gas planet.

In addition, there’s quite a bit about Culture society and life on one of its Orbitals. I particularly liked a discussion between one of the main characters, who is a composer, and a Mind (an awesome AI, responsible in this case for general control and upkeep of the whole Orbital and its billions of inhabitants). The composer establishes that if the Mind “put its mind to it” (couldn’t resist!), it could produce music that the composer himself would think a product of his own pen. When the composer claims that this takes the point of it away, the Mind points out that people still climb mountains even though they could just as easily fly to the summit in a helicopter. Similarly, there is a cute digression into the story of a group of people who put up a big system of gondolas (wires, pylons, that sort of thing) across a big wilderness area, despite lots of objections by others. I think Banks does this stuff pretty well. The utopian future he paints seems plausible.

The general thrust of the story involves a thriller-ish secret mission, and an attempt by a non-Culture species to get one over on the Culture. All ends well in the end, though not without some rather graphic gore happening first. One epilogue-like chapter is nothing but gore, and seems pretty unnecessary.

Still reading:

Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March.

I really do seem to have fallen out of the conscientious web-log habit. I will attempt to mend my ways.