Way Station

By Clifford D. Simak

24,372 ratings - 4.04* vote

Enoch Wallace is an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he has done for over a century, still carrying the gun with which he had served in the Civil War. But what his neighbors must never know is that, inside his unchanging house, he meets with a host of unimaginable friends from the farthest stars.More than a hundred years before, an alien named Ulysses h Enoch Wallace is an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he has done for over a century, still carrying

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Book details

Paperback, 210 pages
1992 by Collier Books

(first published 1963)

Original Title
Here Gather the Stars
ISBN
0020248717 (ISBN13: 9780020248712)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Kevin Kuhn

I may have a new favorite classic sci-fi author – Clifford D. Simak. It’s a tragedy that I’m just discovering him now – a glitch that quickly needs to be rectified. I loved Way Station and Simak’s writing. I found it to be warm, unpretentious, and distinctly midwestern. Lately, I’ve been rereading Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov and some of the luster of my youthful idolization has worn away. Simak might be just the one to restore the patina of my love of the golden age of Science Fiction.

Way Station revolves around a man, named Enoch Wallace. Enoch is a survivor of the U.S. Civil War and his birth records say that he’s 124 years old, but he doesn’t appear to be a day over thirty. The government is watching him – something’s not right. Something about his age, his house, and his life.

Unbeknownst to the government, Enoch is a caretaker. For almost a century, he has been singlehanded running a way station inside his secluded and humble home in the backwoods of rural Wisconsin. His house is a rest stop for individuals passing through. These individuals happen to be otherworldly guests from all over the Galaxy. They teleport (sort of) in, rest for a bit, and then teleport on their way. This ingenious plot allows for all kinds of creatures who not only enjoy interacting (as much as they can), but also leaving him intriguing little gifts behind. Many of which Enoch struggles to understand their purpose and function. However, all is not well. A series of events begin to converge that puts Enoch, his Way Station, Earth and even the entire Galaxy at great peril.

There was one plotline that I didn’t love as much as the rest of the story. It involves Enoch's loneliness and to me, it felt added in and disconnected to the rest of the story. It felt to me like an editor recommended adding some flaws to the MC and this was the response. It’s a small complaint and it just might be my biased perception.

However, overall, this is my favorite kind of science fiction. It’s filled with wonder, possibilities, and intriguing ideas. It satisfies without tricky science, or space battles, or excessive violence. Simak uses this wonderous galactic worldbuilding to explore very human themes. His writing is at times is plain, but at just the right moment, he creates emotion and sentimental beauty.

A line from the opening page - “But silence was an alien note that had no right upon this field or day, and it was broken by the whimper and the pain, the cry for water, and the prayer for death – the crying, the calling, and the whimpering that would go on for hours beneath the summer sun.”

I need to stop the review to run out and get “City” and anything else I can find by written by Simak! While embarrassing to admit this hole in my sci-fi past, I’m excited to have a new grand master to enjoy. Five stars for this imaginative and ingenious far out tale that exposes deeply human themes.

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

Teenage Tadiana: YES! Way Station! All the stars! I love this story of Enoch Wallace, a Civil War veteran whose home is being used as an interstellar way station, a stopping point for alien travelers journeying from one part of the galaxy to another. As part of the deal, Enoch never ages while he is inside his home. For 100 years Enoch isn't bothered by anyone--he lives in the backwoods and the local people leave him alone--but eventually the government becomes suspicious of Enoch's agelessness and the fact that no one else on earth is able to enter his house. Ever.

Older, more cynical Tadiana: Hmm. Way Station. Pretty good SF. Loved it when I was a kid, but it's kind of old-fashioned, informed by the Cold War. 4 stars.

Teenage Tadiana: *shrieks* 4 STARS! You're crazy! This book is the best! I love all the different types of aliens--they're really alien. And the PRESENTS they give to Enoch. SO cool. /gushing

Older Tadiana: Yeah, the aliens and their incredible gifts were pretty cool. But hillbillies? And a mute girl with the ability to charm off warts and fix broken butterflies, for realz?

Teenage Tadiana: C'mon. This book won the Hugo Award in 1964. Back when the Hugo meant something! And how can you not love Enoch's funeral for an alien that combines this: "In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you" and this: "Here lies one from a distant star, but the soil is not alien to him, for in death he belongs to the universe.”

Older Tadiana: *sighs* Okay, back up to 5 stars. I hope you're happy.

Teenage Tadiana: Pffft. You know I'm right.

Lyn

Charming.

Way Station by Clifford Simak is a very good, classic science fiction yarn.

A bit dated, just a little and not hurtfully so, similar to a more modern language than that used by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

A great mix of hard science fiction and the softer social sciences cousin of the genre; like Heinlein, without the sexual aggression and with an almost Bradburyesque idyllic sentimentality. Way Station was first published in 1963 and won the Hugo Award for best Novel in 1964. This was certainly a very influential work for later generations of writers, and specifically I wonder if the producers of the Men In Black stories had read Way Station.

A very good read.

description

Evgeny

I am going to cheat and give a picture of one of the book covers which summaries the main idea perfectly:
Way Station the book
Rarely do I see such a fitting cover picture on a book: it does not show any particular scene, but the plot itself.

There is a way station for intergalactic travelers somewhere deep in the rural USA. The following picture shows exactly what I think the inside of the said station looks like:
Way Station the place inside
And this is outside view:
Way Station the place outside

The book is interesting in the sense that it packed a lot of interesting ideas into around measly two hundred pages. It also managed to be occasionally slow. I would be the first one to say it is outright boring at times. The musings of the main character about whether he still belongs to human race became really old really fast. Please note I am not trying to say there are no interesting parts in here; there are and quite a few of them.

I still gave 4 stars to the novel - boring parts and all. Let me give you my reasoning.

I am overfed on grimdark fantasy. I keep wishing all people living in yet another grimdark fantasy universe would commit suicide to put themselves (as well as their readers) out of their non-stop misery. I am overfed on dystopian future. Speaking about dystopian romances in particular I always want to shout out loud to their heroes at the end, "This is not going to be Happily Ever After; your dystopian world is here to stay and there is no happiness to be had in there!!!".

This book gives something I can really appreciate: hope. I really forgot the last time I saw any sign of hope in a modern science fiction story. This is particularly curious in light of the fact that it was written during the time of Cuban Missile Crisis. Actually some of the things in there strongly point to that particular historical event.

This raises one important question: we were optimistic during the height of the Cold War. This is most definitely not the only example of optimistic science fiction written during that time. Now the war is over and all we can think of is bleak post-apocalyptic future without a single ray of hope in it. Why?

Nancy

Posted at Shelf Inflicted

This spare little story is set in a small Wisconsin town. Despite the pastoral setting and the narrow-minded, clannish inhabitants of the town, Enoch Wallace, keeper of an intergalactic transport system known as the Way Station, is a very likeable and open character.

This wonderful, thought-provoking book is a fast and easy read. There is no action, no alien battles in the stars, no government agents surrounding the Way Station and bundling Enoch off in an unmarked van. Way Station is a very quiet book that explores war and violence, racial tolerance, friendship and loneliness and what the definition of home is.

One of my all-time favorites!

"For years I've tried to understand and to conform to the ethics and ideas of all the people who have come through this station. I've pushed my own human instincts and training to one side. I've tried to understand other viewpoints and to evaluate other ways of thinking, many of which did violence to my own. I am glad of all of it, for it has given me a chance to go beyond the narrowness of Earth."

Apatt

The first science fiction book I have ever read was All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak. I was so astonished and entertained that I immediately looked for more sf to read and to this day I still prefer reading sf than any other form of fiction. Yes, I should broaden my horizon and read more literary fiction or classics which I do from time to time but I will always favor sf. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Simak for helping me find my reading comfort zone. Anyway, All Flesh Is Grass is not Simak's best book as I soon found out, Way Station is.

Way Station won Simak a Hugo award in 1964, in a nutshell it is a story of a man who runs a way station for intergalactic FTL traveling network, Earth branch. For his services, he does not age while within the station, which is his house completely modified by alien techs. He also gets a lot of alien freebies and gifts from travelers and as much alien technology, info, and knowhow as he can manage to comprehend, not to mention a virtual alien safari for target practice. What's not to like eh? The downside is that his neighbors think he is weird and outrageously immortal but they don't inform the media or the authorities because they don't want the press, the military etc. disturbing their idyllic rural lives.

This lovely cover nicely depicts a scene from the book.

This is a reread for me, I reread very few books, there are just too many books in the world that I have not read. Fortunately (or not) I have a memory like a sieve so rereads are generally more than worthwhile. Coming back to this book I was skeptical about Simak's FTL travel idea. Basically, the travelers teleport from one planet to another via stations. What then - I thought - is the point of having way stations? Why not just teleport directly to your destination? Simak dealt with this issue nicely, there are areas of high ionization that distort and disrupt the traveling pattern. There is still a flaw in the idea, though, travelers are duplicated from the point of departure to the point of arrival leaving a corpse behind. They don't simply dematerialize and rematerialize. So the tech is more like cloning than transportation and the travelers are actually committing suicide! I would not want to travel like that, to hell with my clone, he can't have my life! Unfortunately, Simak did not deal with this issue.

But I digress, the story is more concerned with loyalty to the human race, mankind's tendency to make wars, a brotherhood of man (and aliens), and what it means to be human (always a good theme). Simak was not a sophisticated wordsmith like Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe, he writes fairly simplistic prose, not inarticulate, just without much in the way of verbal flourishes. I believe he was well aware of this and used the simplicity of his prose to maximum effect. The strength of his prose lies in its clarity and visual quality, so reading his stories you never have to reach for a dictionary and it is easy to picture the scenes he is describing no matter how otherworldly. Another constant feature of his works is his compassion, warmth, and optimism. His characters are rarely prone to violence and while recognizing how flawed the human race is he was still optimistic that our overall goodness will pull us through.

Art by maronski

Way Station is fast paced without actually being action packed. A lot of the technology is outdated, Simak was never a hard sf writer, he was no Arthur C. Clarke. Also, neologism was not his bag, for example, the alien communication machine is simply called "message machine", and his mention of "the thaumaturgists from Alphard XXII" made me snigger a bit (sorry Cliff). At the end of the day though you have to indulge Simak a little given that he wrote this in the 60s. If you are fans of modern sf by the likes of Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Neal Stephenson the simple fares that Simak has to offer may not be for you, but if you are in the mood for a simple, uncomplicated, pastoral science fiction reading Way Station may be just the ticket. Also highly recommended for young readers and new sf readers.

fancy line

Note: This Guardian article on Simak is excellent, it explains a little about the late lamented pastoral science fiction sub-genre.


Not sure what this illustration has to do with the book, but it's good for a giggle.

☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

Q:
He needed sun and soil and wind to remain a man. (c)
Q:
We realized that among us, among all the races, we had a staggering fund of knowledge and of techniques - that working together, by putting together all this knowledge and capability, we could arrive at something that would be far greater and more significant than any race, alone, could hope of accomplishing. (c)
Q:
A man... must belong to something, must have some loyalty and some identity. (c)
Q:
A million years ago there had been no river here and in a million years to come there might be no river – but in a million years from now there would be, if not Man, at least a caring thing. And that was the secret of the universe... a thing that went on caring. (c)

mark monday

the fool known as Man is too slow to learn, too fast on the draw, too committed to staying still. the man known as Enoch Wallace stays to watch and mind the way, to live and so learn, to dream beyond those fools known as Men. but he is a man still, and a loyal one, to Men. he'll learn and he'll fight for them, his fellows, living beside them but always aside from them, in his lonely way station, his alien friends coming and going and seldom returning. he'll mind that way and he'll chart the fall of Man, planning all the while to raise them higher. the author Clifford D. Simak, calm and careful and bursting with ideas, a heart bursting with love, makes a chart as well. a chart that tracks the eternal life of Enoch Wallace, its slow rise, its slow sloughing off of all that is brutal, weak, or indulgent. the author wonders, and perhaps despairs: can such a rise happen for brutal, weak, indulgent Man - is evolution even possible? the book Way Station is both nihilist and optimist, dire and sweet. how shall it all end - with a bang, a whimper, or a small step into the space beyond? no spoilers allowed, not for the book, nor for the fate of Man. we shall all have to wait and see what becomes of us, of our sweet dire lives, what these lives could amount to. will there be meaning? will an end become a beginning?

Manuel Antão


description

I've been reading this book on and off for several years (first time I read it in Portuguese...). Once in a while I get the urge to pick it up again. It happened again... lol

Storytelling, movie making, painting are all art forms. There is no right or wrong way to make art. There's no inherently proper or improper, no right or wrong, no appropriate or inappropriate way to craft artistic expression. Simak had his way. Heinlein had his way. Bach had his way. Eça de Queiroz had his way. Nick Ray had his way (Johnny Guitar...).

One of the things that still makes me uncomfortable is its naked appeal to raw emotion. As a culture we've become very postmodern and ironically self-aware.

This novels proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that great writing isn't just about writing tastefully and avoiding bloopers in current literary fashion. It's about striking a responsive chord in the reader and in that respect this book works perfectly.

Clifford D. Simak was a great writer, and had the awareness of nature and environment that lent a depth and reality to his settings and characters.

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