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West of January

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  435 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Set on a distant planet, far in the future, West of January tells the story of a world in which time moves very slowly. Because it takes a lifetime for each region of the planet to experience dawn, midday and dusk, the planet's population does not remember the catastrophes that occur as the sun moves across the sky - entire civilizations have been scorched into oblivion. T ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Red Deer Press (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  435 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Jan 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Unique worlds in science fiction and fantasy are nearly exhausted. The foreign planet run by a militaristic alien dictatorship, the fantasy world overrun with hordes of evil creatures led by one dark, mysterious force, or the corporate ruling of multiple galaxies provide the setting for countless novels. The recent revival of Dave Duncan’s West of January reminds us what makes science fiction worth reading – the ingenuity inherent in creating a unique world.

Duncan sets his story on an unnamed wo
Peter Tillman
I've always liked Duncan's SF, and finally got around to this one [in 2005]. This is a classic hardscrabble-colony story, set on a resonance-tidelocked planet, where the habitable zone migrates around the world. In their struggle to survive, the colonists have lost most of their technology. The protag is a neolithic-level herdsman, just coming-of-age. He has an untypically upwardly-mobile career.

There are no real surprises here, but good, clean, workmanlike writing that moves right along to an i
Aldous Mercer
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, reviewed
This book has stayed with me for years. It's one of my favorites, and and the same time I dreaded reviewing it because everything about it depresses me.

As I've said before, Duncan has a gift for creating planets, orbital elements down to culture. The reason for this is that function *must* follow structure; people are shaped by their environment, their language, culture and lives must fit into their world.

My depression is caused by two things. First, the MC's life, which is just plain...tragic,
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Revenge was my choice … and I was crazy again. That helped a lot.”

Incredible world building. What if a world, very similar to ours, was in tidal lock with its sun--almost? First published in 1989, this tale slowly introduces the problem and how various groups try to solve it. Folded plot line makes sense in the end.

“Why, when the gods created friendship, did they leave us mortal?”

Some great turns of the phrase: “Voice thin as a lark’s ankle.” “As innocent as a raw egg.” “Madness hung over the g
Raul R
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cwag, 2017
Overall thoughts
I absolutely enjoyed this book, it was a blast to read! While I was a bit wary and skeptical at first, the novel quickly changed my mind and it became an unbelievable ride. Without a doubt, the strongest aspect of this work is the fantastic ability that the author has when building the world in which the story takes place. Indeed, as a reader, I was able to imagine the world perfectly, with all its flaws and qualities. The differences in geographical regions, the ways of living o
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I was captivated by this book. Set on a world which revolves so slowly that everyone has to move steadily West in order to escape Dusk and Night, which is a devastating ice world, and avoiding High Summer, so hot it kills everything in its path, West of January is highly original and superbly written. Not only is the world divided into Months and Days, each a particular climate steadily moving west, but the inhabitants are very segregated, each following the same patterns every cycle, never lear ...more
Bernie May
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-must-read, sf
My favourite SF book ever, an unrecognized classic.
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book about ten years ago, and it has always sat with me. I picked it up and I couldn’t put it down. It is so original, and haunting.
The unreliable narrator, the differing tribes (including their cultures, their adaptations to the environment, and relationships) and the whisper of the mystery of how people came to populate this planet. It was amazing, just as good a second time around.

I think this is my favourite book I have ever read.
Chris Cutler
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memorable
An intriguing world, with some very memorable characters and story elements. The word-play of the place names was my favorite part (e.g. Heaven and Cloud Nine), especially since the ironies were lost on the characters in the story. I liked Knobil's friendship with Quetti, which I consider one of the more original ideas of the book.

Unfortunately the book is obsessed with sexuality, making it a major theme of Knobil's exploration across drastically different cultures. This is the reason I didn't
Alee Bernardi
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is by far one of my favorites. I read it last summer, loved it but I had to return it back to the library. I forgot about it, then suddenly remembered it a few months ago. It was hard to find in my area (I like to buy my books used) so I caved and bought a new copy. I just finished reading it for the second time. I read the last line, closed the book, then opened it up to the front and began to immediately read it for the third time. It doesn't matter that I already know what happens, ...more
Becky Northey
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book a few times now and each time I plan to read a bit and then put the book down and go do something else I need to do.... but I end up staying up all night just to finish it. Love it. ...more
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Vernier is planet that has a year that is a little shorter than that of Earth, but with a day that takes about 200 of our years. This means that half the planet is constantly frozen and the zone that is under the sun is constantly but very, very slowly moving westward. When humans settled this planet, they lost almost all of their technology and over the millennia fractured into several, distinct civilizations that all have to cope in their own way with the unrelenting change in climate.
The book
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Duncan, Dave. West of January. Del Rey, 1989.
Dave Duncan was a Scott who specialized in writing sandal and sword fantasy, but in West of January he built a world without fantasy elements. Human colonists have settled on Vernier, a planet that is barely habitable. The planet’s diurnal rotation is just slightly faster than one of its trips around its primary. A Vernier day-night cycle is about two hundred years long. The result is that the sun seems hardly to move in the sky. The population crashe
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
It's a good read and I would not have been able to say that if I didn't finish the book. Through out the early parts of the book there is a fair amount of misogyny and not much development of any female character. This, at times made me want to dnf however it was a book club read so I powered through! Then the story really began to take hold. Your thrusted on quite a journey and get to see the complicated growth and experience of the protagonist (Knobil). And by the end of the book we see how he ...more
Izzy Corbo
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Very entertaining read with great world building, a coming of age story and picaresque--all features which I deeply enjoy in reading a book. The book does meander a bit and I felt one of the central plots in the main character's journey of discovery is spoiled fairly early on. Also, there were some sexual references which made me cringe a bit, but in the context of the book it made sense. While reading this book, I was never bored and reminded me a lot of a science fiction version of Clan of the ...more
Lance Schonberg
There were times when I enjoyed this book, but there were more times when I wondered when we'd get to the point. To my reading, this is less a novel and more a meandering exploration of an admittedly interesting conceptual world, one that turns so slowly the life on it has to migrate around the globe across generations. A collection of odd, and mostly unpleasant, cultures populate the huge planet and one man has bad experiences as part of enough of them that he sets out to change the evolved ord ...more
Alan Perugini
Mar 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This, is Dave Duncan's masterpiece. Yes, he has done an incredible amount of work. Especially with well written fantasy adventure fiction. but nothing quite matches the atmosphere, and the pathos with sorrow and triumph of West of January. It's altogether different from anything he has ever written. To me, it was unique in the way it hit me when I first read it as a young man. I have other favorites that I have reread in later years, but they all elicit different emotions every time. West of Jan ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this the first time at least 25 years ago, when I was in grade school. I remember loving it then. This time around I would probably give it 4.5 stars. It had a rough start, and I wasn’t even sure for a while there that I wanted to keep reading. There are some really terrible things that happen to the narrator. The world has some really terrible aspects to it. And some of those aspects are more believable than others. But in the end it’s a really good story. And it concludes well.
Filip Peringer
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I would love to rate it way higher, the ending of the book is worth reading the whole thing. You journey with the main character and you discover the whole world at the same time he does.
Unfortunately, Duncan's book is very misogynistic - the women are described either as tools to be used or as monsters to be feared. There is not one woman in the whole book that could be considered as truly inteligent or strong.
Julie Thomas
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, such worldbuilding! This story is a "coming of age" story as we journey around this planet with the main character and visit unusual people and their ways of living. Not all is happy though, the young man falls prey to evil men time and again and has to suffer the consequenses of the things he lives through his whole life. And just like us there is a little bit of "unreliable narrator" as he blames himself for things that are not really his fault. Don't we do that too? ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love discovering new authors... even if their books were mostly written three decades ago. I'm not sure how I missed Dave Duncan in the 90's, but he's an author whose works I want to explore. West of January is an inventive, kingdom-building tale set on a world which faces the sun year-round. Great characters. Exciting story-line. And good writing. ...more
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
George Polansky
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: david-duncan
A new world with different climate and physiology features. Well developed.
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think this may have been the first "sci-fi" book I read, and it can probably be credited to me getting into the genre. I don't recall it being mind-blowing, but recall enjoying it. ...more
Jan 02, 2020 added it
Shelves: non-series
DNF. I rarely, (like never) DNF but this one just did not work for me. I stopped half way through and making it that far was a struggle.

I can't even explain why it hit all the wrong marks but could be the constant "women are property", slavery, and just general ickiness of the majority of the plot. Interesting premise, didn't care for the execution.
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I don't even know where to start on this book. It held my attention from start to finish. This is not a feel-good book at all, but it is extraordinary nonetheless. The main character is complex and despite his circumstances being tragic and not similar to anything most people will ever go through, I found him easy to relate to and root for, even when he was doing ill-advised things.

The world the author has created is breathtaking. I'm absolutely in love with the way he handles time, an
Will V.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book about four times since... well now I can't find my copy so I don't know when I bought it. There is something about it so utterly enthralling that I get consumed by it each time I read it.

Duncan effortlessly describes a world in which a "day" lasts hundreds of years (due to slow planetary rotation) and the geographical and ecological consequences of such a system.

For instance, the parts of the planet reaching "noon" become scrublands populated by nomadic tribes of herders. T
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still brilliant (no pun intended) after all these years!

Dave’s incredible book of a man suffering to become great has always been a favourite of mine.
I just finished another reading of it, and I felt like I was 16 again!

Truly one of the best!
Sean Randall
Jan 22, 2012 rated it liked it
"This action-filled story of a very strange planet showcases Duncan's remarkable ability to create unique worlds", says the book jacket. Dorsey's introduction to my 2002 edition is prolific in its effusion, and so I hove to with some expectation.

I enjoyed the geography of the world, and the variety of peoples and their various motifs were mixed and varied very well. The Angels I found a little too... noble, I suppose, or at least they were supposed to be, once. The decay of the First People's te
Marie Winger
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I've read other Dave Duncan and he is a solid sci if author. This is no different, a really interesting world with a compelling main character. On this planet a day lasts for a lifetime, it is divided by months that left a generation. Civilization can be destroyed by the cruel environment. It up to the Angels to try to save as much as possible. The main character is subjected to an array of suffering in the various cultures to move the plot along. Interesting and different. ...more
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Originally from Scotland, Dave Duncan lived all his adult life in Western Canada, having enjoyed a long career as a petroleum geologist before taking up writing. Since discovering that imaginary worlds were more satisfying than the real one, he published more than 60 novels, mostly in the fantasy genre, but also young adult, science fiction, and historical.

He wrote at times under the pseudonym Sa

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