It’s not a proper review, From Couch to Moon has one if you’re curious, but, in honor of Open Road Media re-releasing his work, I wanted to call attention to some Clifford Simak titles.
Since who knows when I’ll get around to doing a through coverage of Simak, we’ll start with this one. Simak is one of the science fiction writers I’ve been reading longest, but I’d have to re-read several titles to say anything intelligent. For this one, though, I have some notes.
Raw Feed (1991): Way Station, Clifford D. Simak, 1963.
This, like all the Simak I’ve read, was pleasant and engaging.
It’s a relatively simple story — Enoch Wallace runs a teleportation transport station for travellers of a galactic federation and, through a modest set of events, this secret is revealed to Earth and humanity joins this co-fraternity of sentient beings. But the tone is charming. Simak does a wonderful job of conveying alienness yet still gives his aliens a commonality with man.
Enoch Wallace is an interesting man dealing with loneliness and the conflict between his home Earth and the world of wonder and friendship he has found with alien beings. Simak, as usual, describes the area around his hometown of Millville, Wisconsin wonderfully. His rural folk, like his friend the mailman, are well portrayed but not whitewashed. Hank Fisher is shown as a brutal troublemaker.
Simak’s skill as a writer shows in what he gets away with in this book. The book starts out with alternating chapters of Wallace’s life and Claude Lewis’, CIA agent, investigations of him. This scheme is dropped to show Wallace’s day to day life and surrounds, and there are lots of flashback’s to Wallace’s early life. The book really doesn’t have a compelling conflict (unless you count the mystery of whom Wallace is and what he’s doing which is certainly valid) until more than halfway through the novel when the closing of the station is threatened. Then Simak gives us a whirlwind gloss on intergalactic intrigue and philosophical conflict. He wraps up the novel (as he usually does in the ones I’ve read) with a bit of deus ex machina in having Lucy Fisher the new custodian for the Talisman. As usual, though he gets away with it.
After having found out in Ed Regis’ Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition Simak was a Catholic, certain story elements take on a new interest. Lucy Fisher with her healing powers and custodianship of the Talisman is a sort of Mary-like figure in her intercessor powers. The Talisman is much like a Catholic icon. The spiritual force mentioned as binding all sentients sounds like the Holy Spirit of the Trinity (or all living in as one in Christ to paraphrase another biblical notion).