Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Way Station" by Clifford D. Simak

We often talk about older people in terms of all the technological advances they've seen come and go, and in that respect, Enoch is an example of that but through a more alien process than aging. Enoch is also enduring a semi-forced isolation, so although he does have a bit of human contact, his life is likely more lonely than most people's. Enoch runs a way station, which is basically a pitstop for aliens on their way to different galaxies. For a variety of reasons, these aliens often don't fulfill his hunger for social contact.

Though I put this book in my Action/Adventure category, much of this book is static rather than dynamic. It takes a while to figure out the what and whys of Enoch's situation, but Mr. Simak does an excellent job to keep you in suspense with his use of multiple perspectives. This book was published in 1963, and though there were a few aspects that didn't age well this felt relatively fresh in terms of concept and execution.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Enoch Wallace is an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he has done for over a century, still carrying the gun with which he had served in the Civil War. But what his neighbors must never know is that, inside his unchanging house, he meets with a host of unimaginable friends from the farthest stars.
'More than a hundred years before, an alien named Ulysses had recruited Enoch as the keeper of Earth's only galactic transfer station. Now, as Enoch studies the progress of Earth and tends the tanks where the aliens appear, the charts he made indicate his world is doomed to destruction. His alien friends can only offer help that seems worse than the dreaded disaster. Then he discovers the horror that lies across the galaxy...'

In the vaguest way possible, Way Station did remind me of the Innkeeper Chronicles just due to a similar concept. However, beneath the surface they are very different beasts books. Way Station has much more of a somber tone to it, while you can read Clean Sweep without feeling fatalistic or very sad at all. The reason I bother to mention it was someone mentioning Way Station and Clean Sweep were similar is why I picked Way Station up in the first place.

The only things that really bugged me with this novel were the ways and words used to describe a disabled female character who doesn't talk or hear. In 1963, a lot of words we consider offensive now weren't thought of as such, but it bugged me enough to knock down my rating by half a star. The character, Lucy was portrayed as a bit of a child of the Earth/pixie dreamgirl rather than a fully fleshed character, so that was also on my mind as I finished this.

Way Station is a standalone that incorporates many aspects of science fiction into an easy to digest package. As I mentioned before, it isn't the cheeriest book, but it has a lot of moments where I stopped to think about some of the modern day connotations this book has, even with its age. If you like sci-fi that makes you think and doesn't take very long to read, Way Station may be a good choice for your next book.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent, but pensive sci-fi novel.


Age Advisory: Ages 16+ for domestic and other abuse.


Page Count: 236 pages

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