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West of January

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  392 ratings  ·  38 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. ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Red Deer Press (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  392 ratings  ·  38 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
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
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
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 ...more
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,
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
Bernie May
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-must-read, sf
My favourite SF book ever, an unrecognized classic.
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
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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,
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.
Peter Tillman
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always liked Duncan's SF, and finally got around to this one, which was recently reissued. 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
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
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.
James Ellis
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of "Ringworld"
Shelves: science-fiction
Travelogue novel set on a planet which is almost-but-not-quite tidally locked to the sun, resulting in a very slow creeping of climate around the planet, amidst which a variety of semi-barbaric cultures hold sway. Sort of Ringworld meets Conan of Cimmeria.
Nicholas Barone
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a good read. Duncan plays with an interesting idea - a planet that's not quite tidally locked onto it's sun. The planet rotates around its axis just a bit less time than it takes to go around the sun, so instead of just having one side of the planet always facing the sun, the planet has a day that lasts about 200 years. Duncan does a good job world building around this concept and keeps things moving along at a good pace as the main character learns about the world he lives on.
Gary Brinck
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long tale of a unique man in a strange world, where a "day" lasts what would be a year in most worlds. Following one man's entire life could have been tedious, but instead was riveting.

On a world that revolves so slowly that a "day" lasts as long as a year on most planets, both climate and culture are startlingly affected. Follow Knobil's life and learn how he ultimately alters the world for ever. Highly recommended!
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: just-fantasy
I love Dave Duncan. I've read many of his other books and thoroughly enjoyed them all! This one I just happened upon because it was re-released and I got a copy. Very different from his other works... a lot heavier in theme and broader in scope but still a good read that will introduce you to a completely different world.
Bernice Prigmore
Not much depth

This novel does not have much depth, the author seems fixated on unlimited sexual exploits, and tries to "wrap it up" with a seeming idea for survival of a world that is bumbling at best. I read it, but I did not enjoy it.
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Duncan's earlier books, and it's definitely a hint at some of the themes he works with in the future volumes. It's a great example of world building, a world whose day also equals its year, and so has evolved some unique flora, fauna, and colonist culture.
Lucinda E. Reid
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Savage but well-crafted

A very different view of civilization-building on an unusual planet. The author has created several diverse races to match each environment. The plot is convoluted and keeps the reader guessing. I read it straight through, and appreciated the conclusion.
May 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
This really wasn't one of his better books. Usually I get sucked into his narrative really early on, but this book felt more like a slog. It was all right, and if you're at a loss for something to read, it's not a waste of time, but it wasn't as enjoyable as most of his later books.
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
The worldbuilding gets an A+, the fact that women aren't allowed to be angels is an F-.
Steve Markham
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
A good book with a worth while ending. It did take a while to get there though.
Norman Howe
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Very interesting social SF. Duncan imagines the kinds of societies that might develop on a world that rotates only once every quarter of a millennium.
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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
“Voilet had told me about wives. In cultures where marriage was practiced, he had said, a woman was allowed to choose the man who would own her, or at least she might protest if she did not approve of her father's choice. Usually but not always, a man was limited to owning one wife and therefore might display jealousy.” 1 likes
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