aka Here Gather the Stars
Novel, first published: Galaxy Science Fiction, June + August 1963
as Here Gather the Stars
Enoch Wallace, born in 1840 and a veteran of the Civil War, must be 120 years old - yet to all outside appearances, he looks only thirty years old. He lives in the old family farmhouse, only venturing outside an hour a day and communicating with no one but the mailman and a sensitive deaf-mute, Lucy Fisher. The country folk have long accepted him as a local oddity, but recently Enoch has attracted the attention of U.S. Intelligence.
Enoch is actually the keeper of a Way Station for beings from all over the galaxy to travel from one place to another (the image of a stagecoach way station comes to mind). Because Earth is considered too backward to join the galactic community, the station must operate in secret. As long as Enoch remains within the house where time stands still, he never ages. The gift of immortality is his compensation for isolating himself from the rest of his world. In addition, Enoch has the unique opportunity to converse with exotic beings from all over the galaxy. Enoch nurtures the hope that someday Earth will be admitted to the galactic brotherhood.
Despite the excitement of his job, Enoch is very unhappy. Long ago in desperation, he used some alien magic to "create" some shadow people of his own (Simak introduced this ability in his 1953 novella "Shadow Show"), and one of these shadow people is the beautiful Mary, with whom he has gradually fallen in love. In a way, Mary symbolizes his greater plight, for his whole existence is a shadow; Enoch dares not touch the real world for fear of finding that he has become unreal.
But like it or not, the real world encroaches on Enoch's privacy. Intelligence agent Claude Lewis is intent on discovering Enoch's secret, Lucy Fisher has taken refuge in the Way Station from her brutal father, and Earth is headed toward nuclear holocaust, the customary Simakian destiny for the human race. Enoch would like to use knowledge from his alien contacts to relieve the situation, but to do so would betray Galactic Central and his boss and closest friend, Ulysses.
All is not well in the Galaxy, either. A basic Force (oh, the debt George Lucas owes to the science-fiction community!), focused through a mechanism called the Talisman, once moderated conflict in galactic society, but now the Talisman has been gone for many years. Factionalism has crept into the galactic brotherhood, and agent Lewis, by his tampering in the station, has turned the galaxy against Earth.
Enoch is caught in a conflict of loyalties, and his tortured soul becomes the cauldron in which this crisis in galactic relations is bubbling. Even his ghost friends desert him and flee back into the shadows. Enoch has many hard choices, not the least of which is Ulysses's method to stop the impending holocaust - Earth's people can be made to forget all they know about technology for several generations (we know from previous works that Simak thought this was not such a bad idea). Conditions reach a stalemate a frequent crisis point in Simak's novels.
If there is any fault in Way Station, it is the deus ex machina Simak cranked down to resolve Enoch's dilemma. The being who stole the Talisman tries to hide out on Earth by traveling through the Way Station. Enoch kills him, and Lucy Fisher becomes the new custodian of the Talisman. All the loose ends are then tied up: the planet that sired the new custodian could scarcely be denied admittance to the galactic fraternity; Enoch's secret can be revealed; contact with other races will defuse the political powder keg on Earth; and the galaxy has its Talisman back. All the races of the galaxy can now live in brotherhood happily ever after.
Ewald, Robert J.: When the Fires Burn High and the Wind is from the North, p.80-82