Clifford D. Simak’s “WAY STATION”
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
The main character of WAY STATION lives in a no-man’s land of his own choosing. Around the time of the US Civil War Enoch was selected by an intergalactic community to operate a transfer point for aliens of all intelligent races and species who are teleporting long distances. Earth is situated at a point relatively free of interstellar dust and gas which can disrupt long distance teleportation. Enoch takes the offer presumably after weighing the advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages include long life. As long as he remains within the converted house that is now the interstellar waystation and tends the equipment needed to support various aliens as they transfer through, he does not age. He only ages for the hour so he daily walks the rural farm property, once his boyhood home, on which the isolated waystation is located.
The disadvantage is loneliness. Enoch cannot establish long-term relationships given that he is, for all practical purposes, immortal. He entertains himself with the technologies and artifacts that are gifted to him by those traveling through, but mostly his days are occupied with equipment maintenance, journal writing, walking his farmland property, and occasional visits by the mailman.
Plus, he gets to converse with those passing through with whom he can actually communicate; a friendship evolves from this which is a bright point for him.
The casual reader of this novel cannot be faulted for asking at some point, “Okay, when is something going to happen?” True, what initially appears to be a tale of a “simple” rural life bumping up against a snooping government, nosy backwoods neighbors, and the tedium of being caught between civilizations, does seem unexciting.
Eventually, though, unforeseen off-world events do intrude. The seemingly well oiled intergalactic societies that set up the waystation do spring a leak. Enoch is caught in the middle. It’s then that Enoch must face imponderable questions of war, peace, and where his loyalties lie.
I really enjoyed this book. I probably would not have understood or appreciated it when it was first published. I was too young. But Simak’s writing is careful, deliberate, and at times poetic. We have passages like this:
And with the quietness came an abiding sense of peace that seemed to seep into the very fiber of one’s being. It was no synthetic thing-not as if someone had invoked the peace and peace then was allowed to exist by sufferance. It was a present and an actual peace, the peace of mind that came with the calmness of a sunset after a long hot day, or the sparkling, ghost like shimmer of a springtime dawn.
If you’re a serious science fiction fan I highly recommend WAY STATION
Review copyright 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald