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Way Station: 09/14/13

cover art

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak won the 1964 Hugo for best novel. I chose to read it based on the award. I should mention that I'm not a Simak fan. I read some of his novels as in college and wasn't impressed. I even threw one of them across the room, The Goblin Reservation. Knowing this one was so well received, I decided I should give it a chance. I should note that I've also repeatedly tossed Huck Finn across the room even though I love most of Mark Twain's books.

Way Station has a contemporary setting — the mid 1960s. The U.S. government has been monitoring a hermit — Enoch Wallace — for decades. As anyone can guess, he's been there since the Civil War.

The government investigation has a Twin Peaks feel to it and had it stayed focused on it, I would have loved it. But the focus changes to Enoch's point of view. Rather than discovering his secret we're told out right that, yes, he's really more than a hundred years old and here's the reason why.

Through Enoch we're in turn introduced to a character named Ulysses who loves to reminisce. Those memories end up being the bulk of the book as well as lengthy discussions on humankind's fate and it's inability to adapt to alien technology. Thus, the drama and mystery of the first few pages is replaced with a rather humdrum dialog between an altered human and his alien guest.

Recommended by Dan Tannenbaum

Three stars

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