This is my first post for Cannonball Read, and I’m so happy I remembered to sign up in time this year! For my first book, I wish I could say that I chose a special book, but I didn’t. I bought this a few months ago as from a recommendation from i09.
The book starts with a description of a battle, time or setting initially unclear, just a description of the ruined landscape and “the sodden bundles that cried aloud the emptiness and the waste of death.” The only clue offered is that the only man standing, Enoch Wallace, has a musket.
We then fast forward one hundred some years to learn that Enoch is still around, still living in his father’s house in rural Wisconsin. I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but the way Simak describes the land feels a lot like Appalachia to me, and some of the clannishness and other behaviors character display also feels hillbilly-esque.
We find that Enoch has been tasked with supporting an alien way station in which aliens from across the universe stop briefly to collect themselves before being beamed to their final destinations. It’s an ingenious method of travel, if grisly, and I really enjoyed the work Simak put into creating a novel way to travel through space. For one hundred years he’s done this without trouble or much notice, but the government notices something is going on with this man at the same time intergalactic intrigue is beginning to ferment.
Simak wrote it in the 60s, and he won the Hugo Award in 1964 for it. It has that Cold War sensitivity to nuclear annihilation, but there’s also a lot about how the connections with nature and other human beings make us human. I’ve been making an effort to walk and watch the geese and cranes migrate, and there are several passages in the book where Enoch marvels at nature and birds that resonated with me at a deep level. For me, it’s a deeply hopeful book, and I really enjoyed it.