Way Station Analysis

The Plot (Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although Way Station is the story of an Earth man’s contact with alien civilization through a dimensional bridge in rural Wisconsin, its focus tends to be philosophical and psychological, exploring the personality of Enoch Wallace, the Station Master of this bridge to the stars. The necessity of keeping the Way Station a secret isolates him from human society but at the same time opens him to a wider society—the universe—and larger modes of thought. The necessity of thinking of himself in terms of a larger community introduces the conflict that generates the plot: When Earth is threatened by a renegade alien, Enoch must choose between thinking and acting like a citizen of the universe or like a member of the human race.

The first chapter is a glimpse of the Battle of Gettysburg, in which Enoch fought in 1863. The second chapter jumps ahead one century, to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Claude Lewis discussing the peculiar longevity of this mysterious man in rural Wisconsin. Lewis is sent to Wisconsin, disguised as a ginseng forager, to investigate. Lewis discovers the buried body of an alien, which he sends away to be analyzed. The rest of the novel alternates the forward progression of Lewis’ discoveries with flashbacks to Wallace’s first contacts with the aliens, particularly one Enoch calls “Ulysses” in honor of his Civil War hero, General Ulysses S. Grant.

From an alien race called the Mizar, Enoch learns a...

(The entire section is 406 words.)