A mix of Doris Lessing’s Canopus at Argos, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, and a medieval history, this very engaging and strange science fiction novel (and part one of three) takes place on the planet Heliconia. Heliconia is a planet in a two-star system where the two stars work in conjunction to create very long seasons. At the beginning of the novel, we are nearing the end of a hundreds-of-years winter where the main human-like society has been tightly cloistered against the weather. Our initial first character is traveling when he is attacked and almost killed by two men with dog sleds. He kills them both, makes it to the nearest city, where he seeks to join a clergy. He is confronted by his crimes, which he confesses, and is allowed to join. After while he is roped into a kind of prison escape (the clergy by the way is similar in ways to Gene Wolfe’s inquisition guild in the Shadow of the Torturer) and he meets a dashing and beautiful archer woman. He helps the escapees flee the city and when they find a small town on the edge of the country, they settle in and become the progenitors of a line of people we will spend the rest of the novel with as spring unfolds. The society is always in contrast to the other inhabitants of the planet, a beast-like race, who are both enemy and vassal.
We learn all this and hear the stories and events in the novel from the recording of a human (as in Earth, not Heliconian) space station acting in a kind of anthropological bent. This is where it feels like the Doris Lessing books and also a lot like some various episodes of Star Trek. It’s both fantasy and science fiction in this way of being like Earth in important ways and very unlike Earth in others.