the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Clifford Simak’ Category

way station2Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak (Hugo Best Novel, 1964)

published in 1963

where I got it: gift from a friend

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My friend Andy has been talking about Way Station for a while, but he’s always so vague. He would just tell me how good it is, and that it’s one of his favorite Simak books, and that I should read it. But he never actually told me what this book was about. Had he told me the premise of the book, I’d have read it the moment he gave me a copy.

 

It’s funny, this book is *exactly* what the title says it is about. In rural Wisconsin, Enoch Wallace runs a special kind of way station. It’s a place for the weary to rest for a bit, to have a bed for the night, and perhaps a cup of coffee in the morning before departing. The station takes up Enoch’s entire home, and he’s been running it now for, oh, about a hundred years. And when I say “weary to rest for a bit”, I mean it’s a stopping place for aliens who are jumping across the light years on their way to the frontier or back to their families. Some of them stick around for just as long as it takes to ready the machinery to send them back on their way, others have become friends with Enoch over the years, and purposely schedule their trips so they can spend as much time with their strange Terran friend as possible. He even shares his coffee with anyone who is willing to try it.

 

Way Station is a positively delightful novel. It’s easy to get into, fun to read, and joyously optimistic about life in the universes. If you’ve read The Dark Forest, this book takes practically the opposite approach towards intelligent life in the universe.

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Vintage Science Fiction months owes part of it’s existence to my friend Andy. We met a few years ago through the local bookstore, and became fast friends. Over lunch discussions and a few beers, we traded books back and forth, me trying to get Andy on the “new weird” band wagon, and him getting me into Andre Norton and making sure our local scifi book club read the classics (See Andy? This is what happens when you don’t send me a bio. I write one for you!).

Andy is also a typewriter collector, and although we live in the same city, we write letters to each other, him on his typewriter(s), and me by hand. Hand writing and typewriting a letter is a completely different experience than firing off a quick e-mail.  He even typed me this guest post. See? To keep the pages loading fast, I’ve only scanned in a few typewritten paragraphs.

AR first paragraph

Fortunately the trauma was short-lived and soon after I discovered the films of George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. Pal’s The Time Machine and Harryhausen’s First Men in the Moon are still great favorites in the DVD collection, much to my family’s despair. TV beckoned too and no science fictional kid growing up in the Sixties could miss Lost in Space or Star Trek as well as the proto-steampunkiness of The Wild, Wild West. Sad to say, all but the last haven’t aged well for me. The camp value of pasteboard sets, pedestrian scripts, a now-hilarious lack of actual science, and acting that is adequate at best only takes nostalgia so far. Many SF movies of the time suffer from the same defects yet command greater affection for reasons I can’t explain.

My introduction to written science fiction came more gradually. First there was the discovery of the paperback cache in the upper drawer of my parent’s bedroom dresser. My paternal grandfather, a diehard fan from SF’s “Golden Age” of the Thirties and Forties, sent them to his son but my father wanted nothing to do with the genre. Fortunately for me, the unwanted collection included such treasures as Mark S. Geston’s now-classic Lords of the Starship. The book isn’t really about a starship and its ideas were way beyond anything I would have understood then. No matter, I was arrested by the cover image of a golden armored vehicle with a skeleton hanging out of the turret swimming through a sandy desert toward the huge, bluish, winged vehicle of the title. Not long after, a friend turned me on to the author who really turned  me into a fan.

The Stars Are Ours-Star Born Read the rest of this entry »

Vintage SF badgeWelcome to Vintage Science Fiction Month!  my first review is for Clifford Simak’s The Goblin Reservation.  I’ve been meaning to read Simak for a while now, and this was the perfect place to start.  A lifelong newspaperman, Simak started selling short stories to the SF pulp magazines in the 1930s, and by 1940 became a regular contributor to Astounding Stories, and would continue writing science fiction and fantasy for the next 4 decades.  Enjoy!

Simak Covers

The Goblin Reservation

written in 1968

where I got it: purchased used (the copy on the left is mine, the copy on the right belongs to another friend. We were comparing cover art)

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I actually read this book about a month ago, and I’m kicking myself for not taking better notes, or not just writing the review back when I read it.

In this future, Earth has become renowned for its universities, we have interstellar travel (similar to the transporters from Star Trek), alien civilizations, and Time travel. In fact the University has an entire college devoted to Time Travel, with the specialty of sending researchers back in Time to bring back artifacts, data, even people and animals.  While civilians might enjoy having saber toothed tigers as pets, the History and English departments can’t stand those jerks over at Time, who keep proving published history to be wrong or incomplete.  The English department just about has kittens when Time brings William Shakespeare into the future, and he happily admits to having not written the plays. You can’t help but chuckle at that!

At the beginning of the story, professor Peter Maxwell is returning from a trip to another planet, and he finds to his surprise that he’d already returned a few weeks ago, and died in an accident.  Once he convinces the authorities that he truly is Peter Maxwell, and really is alive and well, he realizes that since everyone thought he was dead his apartment has been rented to someone else and his job at the University doesn’t exist anymore. It’s discovered that while Peter was being transported from Earth to the planet he was supposed to be researching, his signal was split. One Peter went where he was expected to go (and then back to Earth and killed) and the other Peter was diverted to an amazing Crystal Planet where the natives offered him their knowledge of the universe, so long as Peter was willing to negotiate the sale to Earth. Knowledge isn’t free, and the aliens want something the Time University has.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.