August Books 6) Way Station

6) Way Station, by Clifford Simak

I think I’d read about this book in Stephen King’s novel/collection Hearts in Atlantis, and then found it on various lists of important sf books. A really charming story. Reflects very much the Cold War environment when it was written, but also pulls in themes recognizable from a lot of other sf before and since – the galactic civilization judging Earth, also from The Day the Earth Stood Stilland Have Space Suit, Will Travel; immortality crops up again in Simak’s “Grotto of the Dancing Deer”; the disabled child who turns out to be the key to everything, of course a much older theme but one I can remember from More Than Human and Martian Time-Slip; and the posse from the village that comes to destroy Enoch’s house is obviously from Frankenstein. I wonder if Neal Stephenson’s immortal Enoch Root owes his first name to Simak’s hero? I was fooled by a couple of points – Enoch gives his visiting alien friend the name Ulysses, after “a great man of our race”, and of course I thought this referred to the much-travelled Greek hero, but it turns out to be Ulysses S Grant. Also I guessed wrong about how the mysterious Talisman would appear on the scene. Anyway it all adds up to a pleasing and mercifully short package.

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