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on 7 October 2002
In a future where humans have been forced by their own physical frailty to give up space exploration by the ordinary means of rockets and spaceships, a secretive institution called Fishhook has found a way to do it by extraordinary means, using a select band of men and women with paranormal mental abilities who can send their minds, instead of their bodies, across the lightyears.
One such adept, Shepard Blaine, returns from his last journey with an unwanted gift, part of the mind of an ageless alien, and must flee Fishhook for his life, knowing what has happened to others like him--or more precisely not knowing, for they all have vanished.
Blaine's flight leads him into an outside world that has fallen into a kind of modern Dark Ages, dominated by irrational fear and hatred for Fishhook and it's "parrie" witches, a hatred all the more fierce for its total dependence on the knowledge from the stars that Fishhook distributes to them, in dribbles and drabs. Blaine is drawn inexorably into plots by both Fishhook and those that hate it to keep this balance of terror intact. In his struggle first to survive and then to save all the other parries outside of Fishhook, Blaine discovers incredible new knowledge and abilities in himself, an unexpected gift from an alien 5000 lightyears away, including a new road to the stars and to humanity's ultimate destiny.
This is one of Simak's best works, full of insights well ahead of its time. Like most of Simak's best works, its theme is growth, evolution, and to some degree redemption, of mankind overcoming its shortcomings and becoming something more than it is now. As a result, in many ways Simak's body of work presages that of the mature Robert Silverberg and deserves a proper revival. This is a good place to start.
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2010
Although the title suggests a time-travel tale, this is actually a story about persecuted paranormals, standing in a tradition with Stapledon's "Odd John" (1935) at one end and "X-Men", "The 4400" and "Heroes" at the other. Simak's 1961 novel has more in common with the former, in that it shares Stapledon's pessimism about the possibility of reconciliation between exceptional and ordinary people.

Our hero is the slyly-named telepath Shepherd Blaine. He works for Fishhook, a corporation that employs paranormals ("parries") to visit the stars remotely. The rigours of solar radiation have rendered it impossible for mankind to travel there physically:

"And all the years were dead and all the dreams were futile and Man had finally ended up in a little planetary dead-end. For then the gods had toppled, and Man, in his secret mind, had known that after all the years of yearnings, he had achieved nothing more than gadgets."

Blaine encounters an alien who takes up squatting room in Blaine's mind. Former colleagues to whom this has happened have been abducted by Fishhook, so Blaine goes on the run. He travels through a little-changed small-town America (Simak's habitual terrain), looking for purpose, dodging not only his employer's pursuit but the blind prejudice and mob violence of ordinary people.

It's in this persecution that Simak's characteristic sadness about the human condition comes through. The attempts of Blaine and others to create understanding between the inevitably factionalised populations, parries and normals, are seen to come to naught: small-minded prejudice, ignorance and fear, Simak seems to suggest, are beyond the ability of reason and goodwill to defeat. Using the skills he inherits from the alien, Blaine has to make his own 'happy ending': it cannot encompass everyone.

Simak was a great SF writer, sadly neglected now, and unusual among the old US crop in infusing his folksy books not with indomitable optimism, but with a humane, clear-sighted melancholy. This is no classic of the genre, but it's intelligent, thoughtful and well-written.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2012
In my view Clifford Simak is one of SF's greatest writers, although unfortunately many of his novels never really received the acclaim they deserve.
'Time is the simplest thing' is one of these. It was first published in 1961 and was nominated for the Hugo Best Novel Award, which was won by Heinlein's 'Stranger in a stranger land'.
The novel centres around the character of Shepherd Blaine who works for Fishhook, a commercial organisation which explores alien world by using the abilities of telepaths to project their consciousness across the galaxy. The novel has aspects of a SF thriller, written in Simak's characteristic style, and set largely in Mid-West USA, the setting for many of his novels. Simak's prose is a cut above many SF writers which adds to the power of his writing, and also characteristically contains philosphical aspects of his future world picture. The Fishhook telepaths are regarded with fear and suspicion by those people who have not developed such latent skills, and when Blaine fuses his consciousness with a strange alien intelligence he is forced to run from Fishhook. The novel explores themes of human evolution, and cultural and social prejudices towards those who display differences.
The story is certainly exciting with some twists and turns, although for me there were some issues with the plot. The result is a good novel from the Clifford Simak collection, although probably not his best.
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on 30 May 2014
This is certainly one of Clifford Simak's better novels - I remember reading it in Astounding Science Fiction (A magazine later retitled in embarrassment to Analog Science Fiction). Instead of having Buzz Lightyear heroes warping at light speed around the universe we have mutant humans flicking themselves hither and yon at the speed of thought. There is a downside in that the rural population of small town America [which is all there is left] wants to lynch mutants.

If you take it for granted, as many sci-fi fans do, that these novels are written about today not tomorrow, you can hear in this novel the rumbles of racial prejudice, narrow-mindedness and bigotry that bedevilled the USA years ago to an extent we would scarcely believe these days.
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on 22 December 2015
Like Way Station it has a comforting optimism of people confronting both their own preconceptions and external prejudice and winning.
As a hopelessly optimistice Sci-Fi fan the second law of thermodynamics a real John Selwyn.
Simak illuminates a third way.
We had Poul Andersons Tau Zero a sort of Zen like recycle theorem and Heinlein's Starship Troopers (We come in peace, shoot to kill) Hope is valuable commodity traded in the Sci-Fi world like Jack Vances 'To Live Forever' or pesimistically
Sorry I am rambling. Read Kingley Amis's The Golden Age Of Science Fiction and The Streets of Ashkelon

I have found like Amis much disappintment in current Sci-Fi

But this is a book that will not disappoint
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on 9 January 2011
If you like thoughtful science fiction - as opposed to space fiction - then this book should be near the top of your "must read" list.

Not lacking in adventure, the imagination that spawned the basic premise of the book (that travel over long distances can be achieved purely by psychic means) is incredible. I loved it so much that I remembered the title and author for several decades, and finally found it. I'm pleased I did.

Just one thing: this is the exact same edition I remember from all those years ago, and the cover is every bit as irrelevant to the story as it was then.
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on 11 January 2013
The pages have fallen out of my original cop y. So I purchased this one. There are a few scanning errors but it did not spoil the read. Simak is one of those authors whose output is consistently good; if you like this book, or any of his other works then you will probably enjoy everything in his catalogue.
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on 16 January 2013
One of my favourite authors,all of his books are worth reading, I read them first about 40 years ago,and am now rereading some of my favourites. Way station is still myfirst choice
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on 30 April 2014
This is an old science fiction book and therefore it is a bit dated in places. However this is a good story and Simak's had a style all his own.
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on 7 February 2015
A great story, but lots of spelling errors... With today's technology - a shame!
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