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Way Station Paperback – July 21, 2015
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“Well-told and interesting . . . Involving and fast-moving, with plenty of SF heft to its ideas, and plenty of emotional punch as well . . . Highly recommended.” —SF Site
“This is the Old Master at his best.” —Las Vegas Review-Journal
About the Author
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time. Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. DAVID W. WIXON was a close friend of Clifford D. Simak's. As Simak's health declined, Wixon, already familiar with science fiction publishing, began more and more to handle such things as his friend's business correspondence and contract matters. Named literary executor of the estate after Simak's death, Wixon began a long-term project to secure the rights to all of Simak's stories and find a way to make them available to readers who, given the fifty-five-year span of Simak's writing career, might never have gotten the chance to enjoy all of his short fiction. Along the way, Wixon also read the author's surviving journals and rejected manuscripts, which made him uniquely able to provide Simak's readers with interesting and thought-provoking commentary that sheds new light on the work and thought of a great writer.
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This story revolves around Enoch, who performs a job for others in the galaxy while tasked to keep his involvement secret from other earthlings. Unfortunately, his unorthodox actions are noticed, which precipitates several crises before coming to a solid conclusion. Along the way, Simak provides thought-provoking statements for the reader to chew on. (My personal favorite: Was war an instinctive thing, for which each ordinary man was as much responsible as the policy makers and the so-called statesmen? It seemed impossible, and yet, deep in every man was the combative instinct, the aggressive urge, the strange sense of competition--all of which spelled conflict of one kind or another if carried to conclusion).
I almost graded this as four stars, due to the slow middle of the book. Upon further reflection, the story seemed to slow only because of the great detail the author presented concerning the aspects of his job, and the book would not have had the same impact at the end if the reader was not aware of these details. As with most sci-fi back then, this is a very quick read (231 pages) and worth your time.
Written in 1963, this novella is as timely and relevant as ever! Maybe even more so with the recent politics around the world.
Our hero, Enoch is truly a simple man. But not simple minded in any way, shape or form. Can you imagine the agony of being darn near immortal? And also the pleasure of getting to know hundreds of alien visitors? And just how do you keep to yourself?
The book is a short read, and the writing style is not the slap bang style of the early 21st century. It harkens back to a time when thinking was a valuable commodity. And morals were not to be messed with. Yes, the plot is predictable, but it's the telling of the story that is so moving.
No wonder Simak was the very first "Grandmaster"!
It follows the story of the caretaker of a 'way station' - a resting point for aliens who are traveling across the universe. The main character has been give the ability to age extremely slowly and as the novel opens, he has been tending the station for over 100 years.
The main character is a thoughtful man who is alone, but not necessarily lonely. He makes friends with a number of the aliens who pass through his station and becomes the focal point of a galactic crises when the Way Station is discovered by the United States government and a priceless alien artifact goes missing. The care taker of the way station is able to offer a unique perspective to the reader because he values the responsibility that he has been entrusted with, he empathizes with the aliens he has befriended, but he has to contend with being human and a representative of the Earth.
The further I read into the book, the more enthralled I got with the complexities of trying to do the right thing and the consequences that often accompany those decisions.
I recommend this book very highly.