Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Way Station

Way Station
Clifford Simak
Science fiction (reread)

I mentioned this in my last review, so of course I had to go reread it. It's an old favorite, a book I first read in high school. Examining it with a mature eye, my reaction is: if you haven't read it, go read it; if you have, go read it again. It's that good.

There are no rocket ships, no ray guns, no scientific minutiae--none of the landmarks that are often associated with genre SF. Yet genre SF it certainly is; it could hardly be anything else. It's written in a haunting, elegiac tone that powerfully reinforces the central themes of loneliness and belonging, what it means to be human and what it means to be inhuman. It's a little bit hopeful, and a little bit heartbreaking. If you imagine that science fiction means exploding spaceships and/or technobabble, this book should convince you otherwise.

Way Station won a Hugo award in 1964, the year I was born. I have a feeling that the book and its author have faded slowly away from most readers' radar. That's their loss. Don't be among them.


  1. Yes! I re-read this a decade ago. It was in my dad's basement, and I was home for the holiday's. I was frankly amazed it was written in the 60's.

  2. I know! In part it's because there's relatively little technospeak, which always goes obsolete. Simak gets away with it in part because he's making the point that aliens are different, and we might not even recognize what their tech is--even while making the counterpoint that aliens can be, in a much more important sense, "human".

    This would be a good book to recommend to someone who "doesn't like science fiction", I think.