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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Neighbors saw Enoch Wallace as an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he had done for over a century, still carrying the gun with which he had served in the Civil War. They must never know that inside his unchanging house, he met and conversed with a host of unimaginable friends from the farthest stars. More than a hundred years before, an alien being named Ulysses had recruited Enoch as the keeper of Earth's only galactic transfer station. Now Enoch studied the progress of Earth as he tended the tanks where the aliens appeared, and the charts he made indicated that his world was doomed to destruction. His alien friends could only offer help that seemed worse than the dreaded disaster. Then he discovered the horror that lived across the galaxy . . .
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Clifford D. Simak's Way Station is simply one of the most original and best SF novels ever written. Long considered a masterpiece, published in 1963, this story remains as fresh today as when first written. Though the theme has often been explored, the plot is one of a kind. So different that it remains unduplicated after almost 4 decades. The theme of the book revolves around whether human society is worthy of inclusion in galactic society, mainly because of its warlike tendencies. Written in the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the nuclear uncertainty surrounding that era of the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union, Simak weaves a tale that was modern when written, but timeless in retrospect. This theme has recurred again and again in actual society, such as during the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and now the War against Terrorism. But the plot of this book is so unique, that we are fortunate that no writer has attempted to copy this idea. The Way Station is a galactic transportation transfer point, kept by a lone human being, himself a throwback to another era. Beings from all over the galaxy secretly pass through the Earth, communicating, learning and sharing with the station keeper, and spreading their cultures by so doing. The character development of the protagonist is first rate, and the writing is of exceptional quality. When separate crises develop simultaneously on the Earth and within galactic society, the book comes to a fascinating and exciting climax. Simak's body of work has been rated highly, but this story ranks among the best SF novels of all time. It is a must read for all serious SF fans, and should be a foundation piece for anyone looking to acquire such works on their bookshelf. Way Station is rated at 4.95 stars out of 5.00, easily rounded up to 5.00. The book reads wonderfully now; it will read wonderfully again when you pick it up in 10-20 years.
Most people have never heard of Clifford Simak unless they're longtime SF fans and even those that have tend to gravitate more toward his other classic "City" but those who do, or even those who makes the mistake of ignoring him completely are making a grave error. This book is the equal of any SF classic based purely on the strength of its ideas and subtle conviction in those ideas. It doesn't have an ultracomplicated structure or a hip "postmodern" attitude but the attitude is does have is quiet and understated and undeniably brilliant. What's it all about? Basically Enoch Wallace has been living in his house for what seems like years and years and years but his neighbors are folk who don't question stuff like that. Turns out that Wallace is way older than anyone can think of and his house serves as one of the crossroads of the galaxy, with strange and fascinating aliens visiting him as they pass through, leaving him with a house cluttered with strange and wonderful treasures that he can hardly begin to contemplate . . . while at the same time wondering what all this means to Earth and its place in the galactic community. But forces are closing in on what he actually is while at the same time forces across the farflung galaxy are pushing forward events that even the aliens involved are hardly ready for. What makes this novel so good is not it's depiction of the bizarre array of philosophical and imaginative aliens, although that's part of it, Simak throws out alien races in a few sentences that other authors could spend entire novels trying to explain and describe.Read more ›
Enoch Wallace is 124 years old, the last survivor of the Civil War, living as a recluse in the woods of southwest Wisconsin. For reasons of their own, aliens have selected Enoch to run an inter-stellar way station, a hub of their galactic transportation network that enables aliens from planets across the galaxy to travel instantaneously from one star system to another. Because the aliens have decided that mankind and earth are not yet ready for membership in this galactic federation, Enoch must labour in splendid isolation and keep the station's secret to himself. Inevitably, Wallace's astonishing longevity attracts notice and the US government begins to investigate both Wallace and the odd happenings at his house in the woods.
When the investigating agent inadvertently interferes with alien property, the aliens (whose political alliances are also uncharacteristically strained) threaten retribution and removal of the way station from earth entirely. With the aid of alien science and mathematics, Wallace now believes the world is headed unavoidably for self-annihilation in a nuclear war that will destroy humanity for centuries to come. Despite his obvious desire for a union between mankind and the alien races he has come to know and respect, Wallace is left with what amounts to an impossible Hobson's choice - abandon humanity, join the aliens in their travels across the galaxy and man a way-station elsewhere; or bid farewell to the aliens and toss in his lot with the human species that he is convinced is destined for self-destruction.
In many ways, "Way Station" is a typical Simak novel, quiet and soft in a comfortably low key character and idea-driven pastoral style.Read more ›