Can the award-winning science fiction novels of the past actually still be worth reading several decades later? Do they have messages, technology, and characters that are pertinent in modern society? Have I just been reading rehashed versions of past award-winners? There's only one way to find out...
read and review the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning novels.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak

Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak, received the Hugo Award for best novel in 1964. Simak is considered by many to be the pioneer of "realistic" science fiction, and was the 3rd author named as a Grand Master of the genre. As with many of the early Hugo-winning authors, this was the first work by Simak that I'd read.

Way Station includes many standard features of science fiction--aliens, high-tech gear, interstellar travel, futuristic weaponry, and interplanetary disputes--but does so with the best tools of the storyteller's craft. It has more in common with last year's film The Visitor (a bittersweet character piece starring Richard Jenkins) than with summer sci-fi bl0ckbusters like Independence Day. Although each has its place in the genre, I'm finding that I appreciate the quieter and more thoughtful stories much more than the overblown whiz-bangers these days.

The main character, Enoch Wallace, is a man with one foot in each of two worlds. He is set apart from humanity, both by his situation and his own choices, but isn't fully a part of the world he has come to know through his role as keeper of an interstellar way station. Both of these worlds are heading toward what appears to be unavoidable war, and Enoch is forced by his circumstances to decide where his loyalties lie.

Although this book was written, and is set, in the early 1960s it has aged well. There's not much about the book, its characters, or its technologies that would be jarring or read as archaic to today's reader. It's a snapshot of a life, and a story about the effect one life can have on a race or a universe. I'm looking forward to reading Simak's other award winners as this project continues. Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to like this one more but it just seemed a bit too...passive for me. Like there was never any real danger or threat. If you pick up some other Simak I'd love to hear what you think of them.