It can be difficult reviewing a piece of classic science fiction that has been around for nearly four decades, however I picked up this book recently and was surprised that I had not read or listened to it earlier; I enjoyed it very much. “Way Station” by Clifford D. Simak and expertly narrated by Eric Michael Summerer is a diamond lost in the rough that all science fiction aficionados should read if they have not done so already. I have heard others say they read this book at least once a year because it is that good of a story. This truly is a work of science fiction art and if that is not enough for you to go and get it right now, it may help to know that it won the Hugo award for best Science Fiction. You cannot go wrong with the Audible edition either if you would rather listen than read it.
What may seem odd to those who are more familiar with modern or contemporary science fiction is that this story does not contain any large space battles, no laser shootouts (almost), no deep or complex space travel, and no grand ship attacks or reveals. It is a story about a man named Enoch Wallace who served in the Civil War and after more than a hundred years he has not aged which has raised some alarm with a few government individuals. He lives as a recluse in a small farming area in the mountains where most around him leave him alone and he often does not interact with them either. The story unfolds when his home is selected to be a Way Station to alien visitors transitioning the area of space. Here he befriends a coffee loving being he calls Ulysses. Yes, coffee is a well-loved drink not only by Earthlings, but many other species in the universe as well. The book has a few chapters devoted to the main character’s backstory which are moving and emotional covering his family and upbringing. I thought the way the author reveals aspects for the story little by little had me many times in that “Ah Ha” moment.
The writing was skillfully done and exactly what is needed to bring you in and care about not only Enoch, but many of the other characters found in the book. I found the book to be very through provoking. One should dedicate time to savor the book instead of rushing through it. The author was quite descriptive with the creatures and alien lifeforms he included in the book. It is not an overly happy story like many modern science fictions pieces, instead you can feel the weight and pressure placed on the character for the role he must perform to keep the Earth safe and secure. This story reminds me of some of the works created by both Robert Sheckley or Ray Bradbury; who are also classic science fiction writers.
Let me say that I could not get enough of Eric Michael Summerer’s narration; famed Dice Tower co-host. I felt he did this classic piece of art the respect and attention it deserved. He read it with emotion, inflection, and passion. You really could feel and understand the characters and their situations. The audio itself was flawless and overall well-paced. Volume was consistent and there were no audio artifacts I could recall from my listening. The only odd thing I will call out was that the narrated chapter numbers do not align to the chapters in the audio recording. This I’m sure was either a post-production decision or the author broke up the story differently for some reason. Not a show stopper, and unless you are one that jumps around your books via chapter markers, you may not even notice.
In summary, if you are looking for a deeply complex space opera fully of big action packed battles, this is not the book for you. Instead, if you like classic science fiction or more story based fiction with elements of science fiction, you cannot miss this book. It will have you laughing one moment and nearly in tears the next. Be prepared for an emotional ride going through this book.