Review: Way Station

Way Station
Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is classic science fiction from a true master of the craft. Way Station is the story of Enoch, a veteran of the Civil War who is still alive, young and vital in the 20th century. At well over a hundred years old he appears as a young man. His secret is that he is the custodian of an alien station which connect Earth to the rest of the galaxy.
Enoch has spent long years expanding his mind by his interactions with aliens while remaining apart from his own race. Everything begins to change rapidly for him as the Earth races toward a new world war, a government agent begins investigating the immortal man in the woods and even his alien friends hint that the station itself may be shut down. Everything in his universe is rapidly disintegrating around him and he doesn’t know how a humble man of the prior century can fix any of it. This is a wonderful story about what it means to be human, what it means to be civilized.
The story is an older one and the style may not suit some readers only used to modern fiction but it is beautifully told and gives one the feel of a vast universe existing just beyond the page. We come to know Enoch and his inner struggle with his place in the universe and among humanity.
This is how science fiction was meant to be. If by the end of the tale you haven’t felt a sense of wonder and hope, you might be one of those who would run screaming from the Talisman. (You’ll have to read it to get the reference, sorry)

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I’m not reviewing a book today, or talking about my favorite monster (although the Grim Reaper kind of counts as a monster) or even providing fiction. Today I’m feeling a bit introspective and want to speak to the universe regarding mortality.

I lost an old friend this week, someone I’ve known for 30 years. He’s the second friend I’ve lost in the past year and like the last one to pass, this friend was just slightly younger than I. I share traits with both of my friends: a bit overweight, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and more happy to be lounging with friends than doing something active with them.

I’m a statistic waiting to happen is what I’ve had driven home by both these deaths. It doesn’t have anything to do with your age if you’re just plowing ahead in your life and damn the consequences of your actions.  If you’re living a destructive lifestyle you can exit this mortal coil at 20 as easily as at 90. I’m somewhere in the middle, my 50s. I have lost friends and family before but I think the rapidity of these two men, both so full of life and embracing the pleasures of their existence has hit me a bit harder than I realized. I find myself dwelling on my own mortality.

True, I’m prepared. When my father died a number of years ago I learned from his mistakes and prepared things so that my family would not be left in a lurch should I suddenly die. But, preparing for death, while a good choice, is not the best option for me. I’m far from ready to see what comes next. I’ve had my close calls in my youth and have believed I was on borrowed time since a couple incidents in my 20s that really should have ended in my death but that doesn’t mean that I should embrace my inevitable end. I want to be here for a long time to come. My family might need me and even if they can get along without me, why should I put them through suffering of a loss before the time when they can say, “He had a long life, it was a good time to pass.”

I find myself examining my priorities. There always seems to be something more important than my health getting in my way. What kind of stupid attitude is that? Without health, we have nothing.  I know my late friends were warned many times by their doctors and friends about their health and they blithely soldiered on with their devil may care lifestyles and now they are gone.

I don’t want to be ‘too little, too late’ in this department. I think part of being a proper human is to not only enjoy your life but to ensure that your life is sufficiently long and healthy to obtain as much enjoyment as possible. I want to do art, I want to write, I want to sit and watch sunsets with my wife.  Hell, I’d be excited to argue the merits of Picard vs Kirk with fellow geeks for many years to come.

Life is a precious thing. There’s no real evidence that we move onward after it ends and I don’t want to miss out on anything before that happens. I think any right thinking person would want to embrace as much of life as they could, for as long as possible. Even if you believe in an afterlife with some divine creator, wouldn’t your creator want you to enjoy his creation for as long as possible? Anything less would be an insult to his work in my opinion.

So, am I going to run out and become some fanatic vegan gym rat  now?  I don’t think so. Moderation in all things is the perfect option as I’ve always believed.  I’ll take better care of myself, I’ll get more exercise (gods knows I need it – it stinks when I run out of wind after doing things that would have barely made me break a sweat 15 years ago) I’ll watch what I eat and drink a bit less.  On the flip side, I want to make more time for the things that matter. I want to enjoy the universe that I inhabit. I want to explore the possibilities that are before me in art.  I want to pay more attention to those around me. Hell, I want to live, and live well; and I want to do it for many many years to come. I would like to be the strange old man that the government comes to investigate some day wondering how I’ve lived for hundreds of years seemingly immune to age (OK, that probably won’t happen but I can dream).

What’s the point of this rambling missive?  Take care of yourself. Enjoy your friends while you have them. Love your family. Appreciate the world around you. No matter how horrible things look, it’s all temporary. Something always changes if you give it time and if you’re taking care of yourself, the amount of time you have to wait it out is longer.  Besides, for every bad day, you can always find SOMETHING to distract you until it’s over.

And to quote Baz Luhrmann:  don’t forget to wear sunscreen:


Review: Storm Front

Storm Front
Storm Front by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit now that the Dresden Files is my secret shameful joy. I love good light action adventure reading. I’ve read a bunch of them before and only partly read #1. So when I saw this on my kindle reading list I bought it …. and devoured it.
This story introduces you to Harry Dresden, professional wizard. It’s a fun book that reminds you of where Harry came from if you’ve read later ones. I love re-examining older entries in series I enjoy.
I also was reading for purely professional reasons as I like Jim’s first person style and wanted to immerse myself in it before embarking on a first person horror narrative of my own. I don’t want to emulate his style but the feel of it puts my brain close to where I want the voice in my novel to be.
Anyway, its a fun tale of mystery, danger, murder and magic – read it if you already haven’t.

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