Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: Way Station

Clifford Simak
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ –

This is a little gem of a book. Simak’s writing is calm and un-showy but it also keeps you very much engaged. His main character, Enoch Wallace, is unusually open-minded and tolerant.

As a young man, Wallace was a soldier in the Civil War. Very disturbed by the experience, he returned from the war to his small house in an isolated part of rural Wisconsin to basically become a hermit.

Wallace keeps very much to himself. As the years go by, his neighbors comment to each other that he doesn’t really seem to be aging very fast but otherwise they hardly give him a thought.

The decades come and go and eventually it is the 1960s. The government authorities have finally started to pay attention to the vague local folklore about this man who supposedly was a soldier in the Civil War and yet still looks like he’s thirty. So they start snooping around his innocuous-looking shack of a house.

What they don’t realize is that Wallace is the keeper of a way station for interstellar travelers. When he first came back from the war, an intergalactic travel consortium identified him as someone who would be receptive and open to them (and also as someone who could keep a secret). They use his house as a rest stop and a transfer point during their light-speed journeys across the universe. In return, they provide him with everything he needs to maintain his station and have made it so that he does not age at all when he’s inside his house. The only time he gets any older is when he goes outside to get the mail.

An added benefit to Wallace is that, as the keeper of the way station, he gets to meets many different kinds of extraterrestrials and learns about them and even makes friends with some of them. He is curious about everything and manages, with the aliens’ help, to keep up to date on technology and physics and current events so he knows what is going on in the world around him. He very much enjoys his job and you wish he could just go on and on this way.

But the whole situation threatens to blow wide open when an alien traveler dies at his house while waiting for a transfer and the government investigators discover the body respectfully buried outside in Wallace’s 19th-century family plot.

The only real problem I had with the book was a bit of deus ex machina used at the end to resolve everything, which was unfortunate. But overall this was a fun and unexpectedly touching story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

HTML Tag Instructions

Bold: To make text bold, tag it as follows:

<b>text you want to appear in bold</b>

Italic: To italicize text, tag it as follows:

<i>text you want to appear in italic</i>

Links: To add clickable links, like say to a Wikipedia article on baseball, tag it as follows:

<a href="">text you want to link from</a>

Related Posts with Thumbnails