Way Station (novel)
First edition cover
|Author||Clifford D. Simak|
|Cover artist||Ronald Fratell|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Way Station is a 1963 science fiction novel by American writer Clifford D. Simak, originally published as Here Gather the Stars in two parts in Galaxy Magazine in June and August 1963. Way Station won the 1964 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Enoch Wallace, an American Civil War veteran, is chosen by an alien whom Wallace calls Ulysses (for the famous Union General, Ulysses S. Grant,) to administer a way station for interplanetary travel. Travelers arrive by a form of teleportation by duplication, where the original body remains at the source and a new live copy is created at the destination. Wallace's job is to monitor the machinery of the way station and make sure arrival conditions meet the biological needs of the wide variety of aliens. The work is not difficult, but requires him to adopt an extremely broad and open-minded perspective. Sometimes he is able to communicate in some fashion with them, befriending and gaining a sense of fellowship with many individuals and races.
Wallace is the only human being who knows of the existence of these aliens until almost a hundred years later, when the US government becomes aware of and suspicious about his failure to age or die. Factions in the galactic federation want to close off development of Earth's entire arm of the galaxy to concentrate resources elsewhere, and the government's stealing the body of a dead alien gives them impetus to push forward, while the loss of an artifact enhancing contact with the spirit of the universe causes galactic civilization to begin to fray.
The novel has a number of seemingly disconnected subplots that are not resolved until the conclusion of the book. One such subplot is related to the fact that the government is very interested in Wallace and spies on him for an indeterminate time. Wallace's closest neighbors are an asocial and coarse hillbilly family whose daughter is a deaf mute. She heals warts, birds and butterflies and is the total antithesis of her clan. By adopting an alien math, Wallace is able to compute that the world will go to war and eventually commit nuclear suicide. Strangely, Wallace has a gun he never uses except in an elaborate hunting simulation. Wallace's ghostly support system, which he created years ago, collapses on him during the course of the novel. Finally, Wallace is apparently left with the choice of allowing the Earth to destroy itself in war or of calling down a galaxy-sponsored "dumbing down" of the human race that would last for generations but avert the looming war. However, further events suddenly combine to help him (and his Galactic allies such as Ulysses) resolve all these problems in a satisfactory manner.
The book addresses the Cold War and basic human drives towards violence and peace from a science fiction perspective.
Awards and nominations
- Way Station won the 1964 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
- Way Station placed 27th in the 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll
- Way Station placed in a tie for 25th (with Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke) in the 1987 Locus All-Time Poll
- Way Station placed 31st in the 1998 Locus All-Time Poll
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- "Worlds Without End 1964 Hugo list". Retrieved 2011-04-28.
- "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll". Archived from the original on 2014-08-27. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1987 Locus All-Time Poll". Archived from the original on 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1998 Locus All-Time Poll". Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- Morfoot, Addie (2004-12-04). "Revelstone goes to 'Way Station'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-17.