Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Substantive post, Look to Windward

As I was reading Look to Windward, I cam across the same problem I have with the majority of the science fiction genre. Even though I start on page one, I feel like I have opened the novel right in the middle and have absolutely no idea what anyone is talking about. I personally need a little more background information and a little less of the author assuming I know what they hell he was writing about. But that is clearly just a personal bias I have, since I don't have any experience with science fiction outside of the readings for this class. Aside from the fact that I spent most of the novel being confused, I did actually enjoy reading it, or at least my interpretation of what I was reading. I'm sure I will be disproved in class today when I realize what I though was going on wasn't really happening. One point that Banks made that I found very interesting was when Huyler and Quilan are discussing the actual reason for the mission and what Quilan is expected to do. Personally, I found Quilan's character slightly annoying, in the way that he was willing to complete a mission that he had no idea what was going to happen and then kill 5 billion innocent people, simply because he was depressed and wanted to die. I found it hard to buy that reasoning, or even feel sympathy for him as a character throughout the novel.

However, the conversation that arose when they were discussing the motives behind the mission made me think of another discussion I had in a different class. Huyler is trying to justify what they are about to do, kill 5 billion innocent people as revenge, and he says that any culture recognizes this kind of trade. “They cost us that; we cost them that. They recognize that sort of revenge, that sort of trade, like any other civilization. A life for a life.” It occurred to me that this sort mentality is exactly how we think about war today, and have thought about it for a very long time. We had a similar discussion in my War and Personal Responsibility class the other day. Is anyone really innocent in a time of war? Are the five billion people that Quilan is supposed to kill guilty simply because they were complacent in what happened during the war all those years ago and have done nothing to make up for it since then? In my class, we had a discussion about whether Americans today are equivalent to the Good Germans during WWII; ordinary citizens who never harmed anyone but never did anything to stop what was happening.In a sense, complacency equals guilt. I think the ending of the novel proves that Banks does not believe this to be true and does not feel that those who do nothing are just as bad as those who did everything. This parallel did not occur to me until the end of the novel, when I finally had most everything straight in my head about who was who and what was going on.

Additionally, I would have liked a little more background on the war, the Chel people, and the Culture. I had a hard time figuring out why the Chel were so blasé about the fact that they needed to kill all these people, and what exactly the Culture had done during the war that would have justified such a severe reaction. It was hard for me to empathize with the Chel people throughout much of the novel. Hopefully in class today, someone will be able to shed some light on the background story so that I can better appreciate the novel itself.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I wouldn't say that starting the way that Look to Windward did is at all exclusive to science fiction. I think of Homeric epics where rule #1 was, start in medias res. And then there's the famous "Backwards Episode" of Seinfeld. I'll admit that there's a steeper learning curve in writing this way, but it's certainly not just a sci-fi thing. Any time we enter someone else's literary world, we must do the same thing.