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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    July '07 SF BOTM: Way Station by Clifford D Simak

    Discussion is now open on this Hugo winner.

    Information: Way Station is a 1963 science fiction novel by Clifford D. Simak, originally published as Here Gather the Stars in two parts in Galaxy Magazine in June and August of 1963.

    Way Station won the 1964 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

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    Mark

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    I really enjoyed the last classic I read (Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow) and was hoping this one would Wow me as well. To be fair, I had a difficult time getting into The Way Station at first and it wasn't until about the 50 page mark, fully one quarter of the way through, that it really picked up for me. But when it did, it thoroughly won me over. And it had more to do with the way the book was written than the actual premise.

    While I though the idea of the unlikely caretaker of a way station on Earth was interesting, what I found truly remarkable was the way Simak conveyed a sense of the main character's isolation through his limited relationships (the government agent, the mailman, the aliens, his virtual woman). There were some things that didn't work for me [the contrivance of the mute girl he saved happening to be "the one" (that old chestnut), the goverment's surprising willingness to simply hand back the alien corpse they'd had under study), but, overall, Simak's talent for creating such a grounded, believable and sympathetic protagonist had me forgiving a lot.

  3. #3
    Registered User Raule's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordBalthazar View Post
    I really enjoyed the last classic I read (Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow) and was hoping this one would Wow me as well. To be fair, I had a difficult time getting into The Way Station at first and it wasn't until about the 50 page mark, fully one quarter of the way through, that it really picked up for me. But when it did, it thoroughly won me over. And it had more to do with the way the book was written than the actual premise.

    While I though the idea of the unlikely caretaker of a way station on Earth was interesting, what I found truly remarkable was the way Simak conveyed a sense of the main character's isolation through his limited relationships (the government agent, the mailman, the aliens, his virtual woman). There were some things that didn't work for me [the contrivance of the mute girl he saved happening to be "the one" (that old chestnut), the goverment's surprising willingness to simply hand back the alien corpse they'd had under study), but, overall, Simak's talent for creating such a grounded, believable and sympathetic protagonist had me forgiving a lot.
    Well... that pretty much sums up my reaction to the book, too. I didn't find the beginning slow to get into, though. I like the way Simak takes his time setting up his characters and sense of place, and I like the way his prose just flows along. I do think the way the book is written is stronger than its premise, as you've said above. I think Simak's novel, City, is a better work, but this one is deserving of a look, too, though I do find it to be partially a product of the sensibilities of its time (1960s). That doesn't mean it is not relevant to today's audience, but it does seem a tad naive, in a way. However, that is part of its appeal. As an example of the characterization of one man, scarred by war and living in isolation, I think it is truly a remarkable piece.

  4. #4
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    I'm really impressed with Simak's writing in TWS and I loved the way he set up the story and the 'pastural' setting. It really appeals to me and in the beginning I thought this was going to be one to make it on to my favourites list.

    Things turned a bit nasty though when the aliens started to arrive with their unconvincing speeches. At one point I was sure the next visitor was going to say, "Take me to your leader"! It's all a bit 'B-movie' and has not aged well. This is a shame because the rest of the book is really fine; it's just the characterisation of the aliens that is spoiling it for me. I agree that the character of Enoch is particularly strong though, which does help redress the balance in favour of this being a better-than-average book.

    I'll say more when I finish it.

  5. #5
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    Are any of you familiar with Simak's other works? Way Station is probably his best known, but I'm wondering whether his other novels offer equally rich characters.

  6. #6
    Not a ripsnorter by any means. But really quite a read. It exposed so many ideas, that seemed to have been later developed by other writers... virtual reality ala star trek. What if guns just turned off -- kind of like that Oregonian story read recently. How would humanity react to life in the universe? This story made it much less paranoid than many of the subsequent stories have done. War -- most effective. Framing it with a war where you could still see the white's of their eyes, and the other end where the fear was that no one needed to ever see what was on the receiving end, much less their eyes. Love? how many veils do we see it through. Religion, how does it hold us together, or divide us? It hit so many aspects of humanity.

    No, not any kind of rip-snorter. But a very rich and rewarding read nonetheless.

    Well, I wrote that without reading any past comments. So now responding...

    I found it kind of refreshing that the 'govenment' wasn't stereotypically keeping the body. Realistically, I think they would. But it would have done nothing for the story if they had.

    I didn't find the aliens to be too stereotypical either. I almost breezed past them for the most part because the meat of the story was about humanity. I found their physical descriptions -- blob, evil clown -- more intrusive.

    Lucy seemed to be set up to be different from the outset. But then she was the different being from a different part of society -- hill folks.


    Oh yeah, and here's a plug for interlibrary loan...
    Last edited by Libo; July 13th, 2007 at 10:45 PM. Reason: ILL

  7. #7
    I picked this up because it was on the list of best sci-fiction books over at Goodreads. Although I felt pretty much exactly as the above posters did from an objective point of view, I found the book had a powerful charm to it, a spell of enchantment making the whole greater than the sum of the admittedly somewhat flawed parts.

    The PDF is available for free over at Arthur's Bookshelf -- read it on my iphone using the Kindle app. http://arthursbookshelf.com/ Whether it *should* be free, we'll, I have no idea, I dont know too much about Arthur's Bookshelf and how they determine what they can and cant have.

    Interesting that the book didnt inspire much attention here, but made it to the Goodreads' list
    Last edited by ArtNJ; February 1st, 2013 at 01:43 PM.

  8. #8
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Interesting that the book didnt inspire much attention here, but made it to the Goodreads' list
    Happens sometimes, Art. I'm already on record as liking Cliff's books (see City), I do like Way Station. Like Cemetery World they're both slow, elegiac pieces that create a mood, that does what I think you're saying - create an impression that lingers. Yes, they have dated, there are parts that are clunky, rather contrived and not very 'realistic' ; but they are worlds away from a lot of the flash-bang megaspaceship operas prevalent at their time of publication, and IMO are worthy of attention.
    Mark

  9. #9
    Registered User Sh1fty's Avatar
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    I read this for the first time a few months ago and enjoyed it. Like some of the others in this thread, I wasn't exactly hooked but I enjoyed Simak's take on what alien species would look like and how they would communicate with humans.

    The idea that Enoch went largely unnoticed by the surrounding world (or the "We'll leave him alone because he leaves us alone" theory), as well as the girl being 'the one' were fairly far-fetched in my mind.

    Overall I enjoyed it though and glad it's part of my collection.

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