Throughout its phenomenal and interesting history, science fiction has created fans with possibly the highest standards for entertainment. With characters as unforgettable as Data or Chewbacca, and storylines as ingenious as Lord of the Rings or The Matrix, these expectations are self-explanatory. Obviously, Dave Duncan never reviewed these standards when he wrote West of January, or he would have saved the mother ship of fans from the torture of this flavourless, sadistic drama, mistakenly categorized as sci-fi. It should have been placed in the 'self-help' section, because that's exactly what this novel needs. Fans everywhere would be better off if, like Keanu Reeves, discovered that this reality isn't real, that there is no book named West of January, and that it's never really been read.
The story takes place on the distance, and incredibly boring, world of Vernier, where it takes the sun two hundred years to rotate once around the planet.
This forces Vernier's inhabitants to continually move East or they will be scorched by the sun's immense heat. Beam in Knobil, West of January's protagonist. From birth, the blue-eyed, blonde Knobil knows he's different from his browned-eyed brunette race. This introduction sets up for a potentially fantastic novel, but instead his uniqueness sends Knobil on a quest, which descends into a grotesque story of anguish and sadism. Even the unforgiving Sauron wouldn't torture Frodo as Duncan does to Knobil. The plot has no zest or zeal. It only descends deeper into a black hole of misery for Knobil. It's depressing and unentertaining, dry and bitter. Romulan Ale has more flavour.
The only thing worse than the plot is the unoriginal, lifeless personality of Knobil, the fulsome all-American hero. Sci-Fi is fantasy. Quirky characters are expected, possibly craved. As their human-like qualities are revealed, even C-3PO and...