The Goblin Reservation

By Clifford D. Simak

3,314 ratings - 4* vote

First-class entertainment (The Sunday Times) from a classic SF author. En route to an interplanetary research mission, a scientist is abducted by a strange, shadowy race of aliens and taken to a previously uncharted planet, a storehouse of information that would be invaluable--even to an Earth so advanced that time travel allows goblins, dinosaurs, even Shakespeare to coex First-class entertainment (The Sunday Times) from a classic SF author. En route to an interplanetary research mission, a

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Book details

Paperback, 192 pages
February 1st 1993 by Carroll & Graf Publishers

(first published October 1968)

Original Title
The Goblin Reservation
0881848972 (ISBN13: 9780881848977)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


A college professor Peter Maxwell went upon a routine interplanetary journey only to end up on an unknown planet for the reasons equally unknown.
Unknown planet
Finally returning back to Earth he learned that not only he came back earlier, but he was already killed in an accident. This by the way is the least puzzling part. Coming back to our good old planet, it was populated by all kings of supernatural creatures with humanity providing them sanctuaries (thus the title) with Maxwell happened to be the specialist in the supernatural - of the Earth origin. So this science fiction book has goblins, trolls, banshees, fairy folks, ghosts, and other such creatures.

I had trouble deciding whether to qualify this book as science fiction or fantasy. Finally deciding that the major part of the book revolves around Maxwell's unexpected visit to nobody knows where I decided on the former genre. Also the idea that people did time traveling like there is no tomorrow helped the decision somewhat. By the way as a result of these travels a graduate Neanderthal student was one of the characters - a very colorful one I might add.
Last but not least let us not forget a bionically engineered pet saber-tooth cat; allow me remind you that allegedly these guys were responsible for a large number of our ancestors being eaten.
Siber Tooth Cat

As it should be clear from the above very diverse cast of creatures keeps the story interesting even if the characterization is not the strongest point of the book. When it tries to be lighthearted it succeeds, but I found some occasional slow parts.

If you are looking for a serious work of (hard) science fiction, keep looking. As an entertaining read it provides. I mentioned the problems just above: somewhat weak characterization and very occasional slow parts; these are the reason for 4 stars as opposed to a perfect rating.


Some days, I need silly and yesterday, The Goblin Reservation fit the bill perfectly.

Familiar with Simak through the beautifully pastoral Way Station, when I saw this for a mere dollar, I snapped it up. A madcap adventure set in a vibrant university setting, it echoed the feel of Doorways in the Sand. While it is set on a future Earth with alien races, aircars, moving sidewalks, and the like, it is also an Earth that is home to small populations of The Fae.

Peter Maxwell, a professor in the College of Supernatural Phenomena, has just returned from an interplanetary journey where he was unexpectedly diverted to a mysterious planet. Charged with brokering their knowledge banks, he returns to the Earth checkpoint only to discover he had already returned and died in an unfortunate accident. When he finally reaches his apartment, he discovers his belongings destroyed and his apartment rented by an unknown attractive woman and her pet sabertooth tiger. They head to the local watering hole for a drink and meet up with Maxwell's friends, Alley Oop (only slightly dated by his inclusion) and Ghost. It gets progressively odder from there as Bill attempts to discover why he was doubled, to find a job and to convince the University that they should buy the alien knowledge. Oh, and help out his friend Goblin O'Toole with his troll problem and some excess October ale. However, the campus is in an uproar over the upcoming time-traveling visit by William Shakespeare, so Maxwell has a challenge trying to get official attention.

Nominated for a Hugo in 1969, it is a quick, fun read that remains close to timeless. Highly recommended for fans of Pratchett, or fans of Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand. I will be re-reading this one.

mark monday

Goofiness reigns supreme in this amusing, charming lark by Simak at his most relaxed and spontaneous. Basically this book has it all: a fairly pleasant far-future that looks a lot like our own, where instantaneous space travel, poorly-funded time travel, visitors from the past, alien enigmas, a ghost, a rowdy Neanderthal, a robo-Sabretooth, a secret dragon, scifi explanations for faerie & goblins & trolls & banshees, lots of whiskey drinking (I approve), villainous wheeled buckets of insects, and more goofy shenanigans than I can even recount all cram a loose narrative that is about the stresses and appeal of life working on a busy college campus. Oh and the protagonist's duplicate has been mysteriously murdered, and he's not even sure why there was a duplicate running around in the first place. Got all that? If you did, then you have a stronger mind than me, because I often lost track of all the different things the author was throwing at the reader. Soft throws though, with soft objects; nothing about this book is hard or painful.

Best part of the book: the strange, mournful, and decidedly petty banshee. The banshee is basically a combo of a black cloud and black bag, floating around being mean-spirited and then dying with very little fuss. It is also much, much more and the key to what exactly is happening with all of these goofy mysteries.

Was the author a college professor himself? There is amused critique and a very clear love for this milieu that is the most appealing part of this book. The college: overly busy and fraught with rivalry, but within the confines of a lovely pastoral setting that makes it all rather worth it. Nature and friends to banter and drink with: those are the key ingredients that Simak puts forward as the recipe for a good life. I can't help but agree! But let's throw books in there too.


1969 Hugo nominee for best novel.

Maybe I'm a chump. I mean, I look at a title like this and I smack my lips and a slight thought drifts across my subconscious, "Satire". I remember loving Way Station, but not quite making the connection between that classic SF title and this. What was I expecting? A haunting exploration of old alien tech and a breath of injustice that makes me think of indigenous Americans and their troubles spiffed up in the mask of an alien? Well... yeah. Aren't assumptions fun and idiotic? Yeah!

Instead, we've got a light romp with fae, banshees, and goblins. What's the first important thing I've learned in the novel? That Goblins are inherently Irish and they love October Ale. I had to laugh.

I was expecting a social commentary, not a murder mystery for oneself after having been duplicated after matter transmission and showing up later only do discover that another he had kicked it. Oh yeah, and this is wide galactic society with lots of strange and familiar species, and yeah, those goblins and fae have been around a long time on earth, don't you know? Of course, they're all just people and some have extra tech and long, long lifespans, but you know how that all is. Once the cat is out of the bag and superstition gets kicked in the head, we can generally all get along, can't we?

Oops, we've got rampaging Shakespearian scholars in the pub again, still upset about learning that the good bard was actually the Earl of Oxford. And don't forget immortal ghosts who've forgotten their original life. And bug carriages. And crystal planets. And ancient genetic feuds, spanning injustice throughout multiple universes and over vast stretches of the timescape... and yeah, there is a time college. What did you expect?

This was a fun and light and wild ride of a novel, full of humor and joy and even when the topic is dark, our faithful narrator is always pretty damn level-headed and reasonable. Even when the bug cages with wheels are soooooo creepy. And pew pew. :)

I had a very good time and this is the third Simak novel that I've read. City was a deep and disturbing novel about robots and telepathic dogs discussing the eventual and complete demise of humanity. Way Station was a gorgeous exploration of ancient alien tech that allows us to explore the universe... at a price. This book also had it's dark elements, but it was easily the lightest and most adventuresome of the three, full of good friends, righteous action, and crazy cool settings, aliens, and consequence. :)

What a classic SF author! So far, he's a real rocket. :)

Caro the Helmet Lady

Some smartass said that the golden age of sci-fi is twelve. And personally I agree with such opinion. I've read this book for the first time when I was twelve years old and I simply loved it, and it made me read it again and again in years after, and look for other sf or fantasy books. I was seriously hooked on genre, obviously.

Now that I was rereading it after so many years - it still worked for me! Yes, I admit there was a lot of plain silliness and some really cardboard characters there. But such ideas as unlimited time traveling, authentic yet civilized Neanderthal, bio-mechanical saber-toothed tiger kitten, friendly ghost, goblins, banshees, Shakespeare and weird alien things, plus idyllic picture of future Earth as one global sanctuary of wisdom - how could I not love it again?? So I did. Don't judge me, join me! :D

Michael Jandrok

I’ll state right up front and for the record that Clifford D. Simak is one of my personal favorite science-fiction writers. He is often associated with the idea of “pastoral” sci-fi, and it is true that he typically brings an understated and relaxed tone to a good majority of his works. Simak often focused on the personal and psychological tribulations of his characters instead of relying strictly on the science to propel his tales along. Which is not to say that he was weak on the scientific aspects in his writing. Indeed, Simak had a vivid imagination and was always careful to keep his stories well-grounded in valid technological and theoretical concepts. Mostly, though, I love Simak because the man could flat out WRITE. He had a dedication to the ideas that plot and story and characterization were of the utmost importance to the craft of the written word, something that was a bit of a rarity among his contemporaries back in the day. I could easily go on with my fanboy rant here, but I’ll just link you to Simak’s Wiki page and you can read more on your own if you are so inclined to do so.

“The Goblin Reservation” was first published in 1968 and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1969, but was beaten out for the statue by John Brunner’s acknowledged classic, “Stand on Zanzibar.” Less pastoral and more comedic in nature, the book is a bit of an anomaly for Simak, with the focus square on breakneck pacing and adventure as opposed to one of Simak’s more subdued character studies.

The book follows the story of one Peter Maxwell, a Professor of Supernatural Studies at an unnamed Wisconsin university set several hundred years in the future, when mankind has spread to the stars and the Earth has been largely transformed into a planetary network of schools and museums dedicated to universal learning and research. Time University has mastered the art of time travel, and has used its ability to bring people and artifacts forward to display and interact with. A Neanderthal man named Alley Oop has been rescued from cannibalism in the past and transplanted to the current time and educated in the proper fashion. Oop plays a comic foil for Maxwell and has an integral part in the book. Maxwell also has a friend named Ghost, who just happens to be an actual ghost, and a love interest named Carol who has a biomechanical saber tooth tiger named Sylvester who takes an immediate liking to Maxwell.

Future Earth has also discovered that beings of mythology actually exist, such as trolls, banshees, goblins, and faeries. These creatures have shared the planet with humans since time immemorial, and they have been placed safely on reservations where they may be studied and live comfortably and free in environs that match their traditional origin territories. The Goblin Reservation is ruled by a good-natured lummox named O’Toole, who certainly does enjoy hefting a mug or three of sweet October Ale.

Peter’s adventures begin when he is transported back to Earth after a visit to another planet to look for a reported dragon. We first encounter him while he is being interrogated by a security officer. It seems that Pete Maxwell is truly himself a man out of time, as he apparently reappeared back on Earth several weeks ago and was then killed in an unfortunate “accident.” The second Maxwell thusly gets embroiled in a whirlwind caper that combines elements of mystery and comedy and intrigue, all wrapped up in a satisfying science-fiction and fantasy story that constantly threatens to careen out of control in the most enjoyable ways. Along the way there is betrayal, romance, aliens on wheels, an unfortunate bowl of gravy in the face, and a visit to the present-day future by William Shakespeare himself, even if it turns out that he DIDN’T write all those bloody plays after all. Simak manages to set an awful lot of plot devices to work in “The Goblin Reservation,” and it is a testament to his skill as a writer that he is able to wrap everything up in a tight conclusion after only 192 pages.

Simak’s big strength as a writer is his strong characterizations, and his cast here is universally believable and likeable. I particularly enjoyed Simak’s take on Alley Oop, as he manages to make his caveman foil charming and modern even as he struggles to fit into a society that is truly alien to him. I also liked how Simak handled the budding romance between Maxwell and Carol Hampton, a young and pretty new faculty member who moved into Maxwell’s old apartment after his doppelganger died prior to his second coming. Ms. Hampton is anything but a frail femme fatale, and she takes a full bodied part in the main action as it unfolds. Ghost certainly makes a perfectly good ghost, and of course there are many other characters who add spice and diversity to the proceedings as a whole. I also enjoyed Simak’s usage of popular ‘60s comic names vis a vis the aforementioned Alley Oop and the mischievous saber tooth puddy tat Sylvester. “The Goblin Reservation” literally revels in 1960s cultural references, and so much the better for it.

As with all of Simak’s work, there is a vaguely British feel to the whole thing. I know that Simak is a Wisconsin-bred American, but I have always felt as if he is frequently stylistically English in the way that he presents his stories. I found myself slipping into a faux mental British accent on more than one occasion as I was reading. This feeling was compounded by the fact that all of Simak’s creatures of myth have a Eurocentric origin…..banshees…..gnomes…..trolls….dragons…..the fey…..none of them are native to the Americas, and the one time that Amerindian spirits are mentioned is only in passing.

There is also a feeling that “The Goblin Reservation” is a spiritual sequel of sorts to “Way Station,” Simak’s 1963 science-fiction novel that won the 1964 Hugo Award. Now “Way Station” was a VERY different sort of novel, heavy on the pastoral elements that Simak specialized in, and it was just a more serious work all the way around. But it is not a stretch to think that “The Goblin Reservation” might at least be a product of the same world building that made “Way Station” so successful. The idea of using “transporter nodes” for faster than light interplanetary travel rather than spaceships is one of the central plot points of “Way Station,” as is the concept of Earth as a nascent member of the greater galactic community. It is almost as if this is indeed the world of “Way Station” taken 500 or so years into a glorious future for mankind.

I can certainly understand why “The Goblin Reservation” didn’t win the Hugo in 1969, especially in light of the heavy competition for the award. There is absolutely no shame in losing out to John Brunner and his all-time classic. The sheep were definitely looking up for Brunner at that moment in time. That said, this is still a stellar work that I would highly recommend. The humorous elements were a welcome addition to the Simak arsenal, and the good-natured rapport between the characters makes for an enjoyable and light-hearted novel that seems to go by way to fast. I’m pretty sure that “The Goblin Reservation” will hold up well on subsequent rereadings, though I have an awful lot of unread Simak that I still need to work my way through. The guy IS a Grand Master, after all, and you really can’t go wrong with picking up any of Simak’s work.


Simply a classic, and probably the best book that Clifford Simak ever wrote. It's short (particularly compared to modern novels), but fun, funny, and deeply enjoyable. The blending of fantasy and advanced science was not invented by Simak, but he handled it wonderfully well here. Not only is this a classic of fantasy and science fiction, but I consider it to be one of the funnier books in both genres as well!

I can imagine that some might find the relatively second-class status of the heroine offensive, although I would argue that Simak is not being sexist.

Charm, and ordinary human emotion; unlike many other genre writers of his day, Simak handled both well. His characters are amusing and sympathetic, but they are rarely cruel or unmotivated. I've often regretted that The Goblin Reservation wasn't longer (and that Simak never wrote a sequel - what a fascinating setting he created here! A modern publisher would have FORCED him to write sequels until he'd burned out completely). But at least we have this light but deeply enjoyable novel to read and re-read.


3.5 stars. Okay, how to describe this roller-coaster of a book.
Well, to start with, take an Earth where: (i) humans live side by side with elves, fairies, trolls, goblins, banshees and other mythological creatures; (ii) time travel is not only possible, but commonplace (to the extent that the planetary university has a Time Travel Department), permitting Neanderthals, William Shakespeare (and at least one emotionally sensitive ghost) to live in modern times with the aforementioned mythological creatures; and (iii) space travel (via matter transportation) is also commonplace, meaning that aliens live and work on Earth alongside all of the "people" identified in (i) and (ii) above.

Add to the above cast of characters a plot involving: (a) the discovery by the main character (while off in searach of a dragon) of an amazing "crystal planet" that contains a secret library of information gathered over "billions" of years; (b) an offer by the aliens that own the "library" to sell for the right price; and (c) a race between the main character and his best friends (the neanderthal, the ghost and a goblin) to acquire the library for Earth before an evil alien race beats them to it.

Oh yeah, and I didn't even mention the bio-engineered sabretooth tiger that likes to "play" a little too rough, a history of the Earth you've never heard before, the "duplication" of the main character, the "death" of the main character's duplicate (causing him a whole series of legal problems) and a mysterious "Artifact" that everyone is trying to figure out what it is.


Needless to say, I thought this book was a ton of FUN. It is a different king of Clifford Simak book, best known for his "pastoral" science fiction novels like Way Station and City, but the characters in it still had the "feel" of classic Simak characters. Recommended!!

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Novel


After having read a half dozen, mostly early Simak scifi novels and a handful of his short stories, I had the impression of an enjoyable 'laid back Bradburyesque country' style to his work. However, what I have not delved into, was his fantasy works - For unclear reasons, I tend to avoid this sub-genre... The very title of this novel, repelled me somewhat. However, I had the book and am determined to read as much of his work as I can get a hold of.

I have to admit that I found this Hugo nominated novel, a surprisingly entertaining read. The one dimensional stereotypical characters: a Neanderthal, a bio-engineered sabretooth tiger handled by a bright young woman, aliens that move about on wheels, a time-traveller, trolls, a dragon, a Celtic Goblin, some Trolls, the ghost of one who is clueless of who he once was... and even Shakespeare himself, all part of this tale, were exactly what they were meant to be: Not to be taken seriously, but simply to be fun characters in a light whimsical little story set on Earth in the far future which has become a sort of intergalactic learning institution. The whole was a sort of comedic stage play.

I really didn't think Simak had this sort of thing in him.

Jeffrey Daniels

One of the best compliments I like to give about a book is that it's an easy read. This doesn't imply that it is simple or devoid of ideas, it refers to the easy ability for anyone to pick up the book and enjoy it from beginning to end. Clifford D. Simak has a knack for writing easy reads.

The Goblin Reservation is a little divergence from some of Simak's more traditional science fiction work and it's a charming diversion.

Within this book you'll find cavemen, goblins, trolls, aliens, time travel and more. Today, some authors might feel justified making a five-book series out of the story; there is certainly enough material left unexplored. Simak makes the correct decision in simply telling the story compactly, leaving readers the opportunity to explore the world he presents with their own imagination.

The basic storyline, about a man who returns from an interstellar trip to find out he has already died, is almost secondary to the actual tale, one which explores man's pre-history and the possibility that the "little folk" actually existed throughout the millennia on Earth and that their existence is not what we commonly believed.

The tale is fast-paced, with characters thrown into the mix and then discarded, yet each playing just important enough of a role to avoid being "filler".

One important note about Simak books: he has no heroic characters. In point of fact, he rarely has protagonists. Most of the time his books are peopled by men and women of ordinary human courage who are often embroiled in situations of bewildering proportions. Events capture and drag around his characters, driving their action and forcing them to resolve the conflicts using normal wits and knowledge. It's a refreshing view that makes one realize "heroism" doesn't require special powers or trauma.

This is a friendly book, one which will be enjoyed for its ideas and imagination.