Clifford Simak was raised in Wisconsin, and his science fiction combines galactic scope with nostalgia for the old American Midwest. Way Station
(1963) is a fine example of this unlikely mix, and probably his best novel--it won him a Hugo award.
Its hero Enoch Wallace first appears as a mystery man: an impossibly young-looking Civil War veteran, 124 years old and still living in his parents' remote Winconsin farmhouse. Nowadays this building has a glittering, Tardis-like interior, ever since Wallace was recruited by aliens as stationmaster on a minor branch line--not a railway, but Galactic Central's network of matter transmitters carrying passengers between the stars. Earth isn't ready for this secret, and countryman Wallace's best friends are extraterrestrials and ghostly simulations.
When the CIA investigates his reclusive lifestyle, it accidentally stirs up an interstellar diplomatic crisis. Wallace's job, and his place in the countryside he loves, are suddenly threatened. So are his hopes for persuading Galactic Central to step in and halt our accelerating slide towards nuclear war. (The Cuban missile crisis was then recent history.)
All the story threads converge neatly: the rustic lynch mob, the galactics, the CIA, the unhappy ghosts, the local deaf-and-dumb girl who can charm warts and heal butterflies, and the bizarre virtual-reality rifle range built for Wallace by an alien construction team. There are painful losses, victories, and a final note of lonely hope. It's a book of great charm--old-fashioned SF, but timeless rather than dated. --David Langford
Archetypal Simak...a book about substantial ghosts, about loneliness and about the sense of wonder itself...Simak at his very best Brian W. Aldiss
Enoch Wallace survived the carnage of Gettysburg and lived through the rest of the Civil War to make it home to his parents' farm in south-west Wisconsin. But his mother was already dead and his father soon joined her in the tiny family cemetery. It was then that Enoch met the being he called Ulysses and the farm became a way station for space travellers. Now, nearly a hundred years later, the US government is taking an interest in the seemingly immortal Enoch, and the Galactic Council, which set up the way station is threatening to tear itself apart.
About the Author
Clifford D. Simak (1904 -1988) Clifford Donald Simak was born in Wisconsin, in 1904. He attended the University of Wisconsin and spent his working life in the newspaper business. He flirted briefly with science fiction in the early '30s but did not start to write seriously until John W. Campbell's Astounding Stories began to rejuvenate the field in 1937. Simak was a regular contributor to Astounding throughout the Godlen Age, producing a body of well regarded work. He won the Nebula and multiple Hugo Awards, and in 1977 was the third writer to be named a Grand Master by SFWA. He died in 1925.