Simak is one of those authors I have as vague an impression of as Fred Pohl. I've only read a couple of his books before, and don't have a clear image of either of them. But Way Station is undeniably his classic.
It's almost as thick in ideas as a first novel, but is a bit more sophisticated in style. It's the story of Enoch Wallace, who was recruited after the end of the Civil War to be the monitor of a transfer station on Earth. A galactic league of aliens was trying to open up this spiral arm, and an alien who Enoch names Ulysses found in Enoch the ideal man for the job.
So Wallace retires from human society, for the most part, for a hundred years. He watches aliens come through, chats with some, receives gifts, most of which he can barely comprehend, and only spends about an hour a day in the outside world, which is the only time he ages.
The first part of the book concerns some CIA agents who become interested in this unaging hermit(and especially the alien body buried beside his parents').
The book soon shifts to Wallace himself, telling his story mostly by flashbacks. But when the action catches up to the present day, we find that a number of factors are converging--impending war on Earth, a mob prepared to stalk him at home, a galactic furor over the disappearance of the alien body buried there, as well as the theft of the Talisman, a holy object which, in the hands of a sensitive custodian, allows communion with The Force. (Or Simak's equivalent to it.) Wallace is faced with a decision between the galactic community and his own planet.
I'll try not to give away the ending, but let's just say that everything is wrapped up nicely, or almost everything.
A great tour de force. I'll definitely have to read more Simak after this.
%A Simak, Clifford D.
%T Way Station
%I Ballantine del Rey
%C New York
%D Copyright 1963
%G ISBN 0-345-28420-8
%P 236 pp.
%O Paperback, US$1.95
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