This wasn’t nearly as good as Way Station, which I read back in 2020 and gave five stars, but I still had a good time with it and will continue my project of collecting all of Simak’s books in their vintage janky paperback editions.
Special Deliverance was once of the last books Simak published before his death, and it does bear the hallmarks of a later work in his career, with a revisiting of themes, and a bit of tiredness in sections of the plot (something that feels obvious to me, having read only a book published early in his career before this). But it’s also got a unique and kooky premise that made it an interesting reading experience. Here our main character, a Professor at some made up New England college, visits a strange slot machine in the Student Union after one of his students claim it gave him an extremely well written paper. The slot machine leads the professor, whose name I have forgotten I will be honest, on a strange journey that ends up with him on another planet with other strange travelers, none of whom know why they are there or who brought them.
So far in my journey to read classic sf authors, Simak remains the only one whose books I genuinely enjoy, as opposed to reading them and finding them intellectually interesting but devoid of emotional interest for me, which is what has happened so for with my forays into Heinlein, Asimov, Bester, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and Walter M. Miller, Jr; coughcough you will notice the lack of women coughcough. Of the authors listed, I liked Philip K. Dick the best but that’s because he wrote wackadoo shit, and that’s always an entertaining time.
Simak stands apart for me because he wrote about human kindness and the future of humanity in a way that had a hopeful bent rather than a cynical one. And at least so far (knock on wood) his books have had the least amount of weird sexism and gender fuckery of any of the authors I listed above. He also had an incredibly imagination, finding the incredibly in very mundane things.
Apparently this book isn’t very well beloved in his body of work, but I had a good time with it, and unless I come across a stinker that totally turns me off, I will be reading much more from him.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]