Way Station / Clifford D. Simak
Way station is what happens when you write a pastoral science fiction novel set in the present [at time of writing] on Earth.
It’s most definitely not a novel about ray guns and spaceships and things that go boom, although pretty much all of those things are there. I’d compare it with This Immortal/Call me Conrad by Zelazny. It’s a book that takes the assumptions of golden age science fiction and inverts them in interesting ways.
Brief plot summary
A Confederate soldier is chosen by aliens to run Earth’s way station, a sort of highway rest stop for interstellar travelers. Only aging when he ventures into the outside world, he collects the stories of the aliens he encounters.
So how is it?
I really enjoyed it but it’s a book where not much happens. It’s a fairly quick read though and that saves it from being too boring.
Way station is a gentle novel. It’s about a guy who lives a lonely life, going for occasional walks but generally keeping to himself. There’s an overarching plot but it’s really not very important. The resolution of the plot itself is fairly underwhelming which would be a problem in another novel and will certainly disappoint readers looking for a golden age sf adventure story.
It’s a simple book with a big heart and as a horrible sentimentalist I like it for that. It’s about as far opposed to something like Wasp factory or The boys as it’s possible to get.
Way station is a book I recommend relatively often to specific people. It’s short and not very stressful, so it’s good for people who don’t want to have to invest a lot of time and effort into it. It’s very much an old school science fiction novel though so I generally only recommend it to people already looking for something in the genre.
I’ve found that many fans of old school sf haven’t actually read this one, so it’s also a fallback for those looking for classics they somehow missed.