I read this book about 22-Mar-2005. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1963. This note was last modified Thursday, 24-Mar-2005 23:30:00 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
One of the two really famous Simak books, I think (the other being City). Haven't reread Simak much, and I keep suspecting I've undervalued him.
This one was a lot of fun to reread. It's about a Civil War veteran who's still a young man (despite the cover illustration) and who works running a transfer station for the aliens. They need periodic transfer stations to let people travel throughout the galaxy, and as they expanded into this arm they needed one about here. No real reason why they set it up on Earth instead of somewhere safe, or why they chose and Earthman to run it; there almost has to have been an intention to leak information to Earth and move us towards inclusion in their society, I'd think, or else it's just stupid.
It's well over half-way through the book before the real conflict turns up (though the CIA guy watching the station is introduced at the ver beginning). The aliens have noticed that the CIA took the body of one who was buried in the Way Station's family plot. A formal protest is lodged, and this relates to Galactic politics too.
One aspect of Galactic politics is that the Talisman, an ancient artifact they don't know how to duplicate which when used by a "sensitive" helps put people in touch with the scientifically-verified soul force, has been missing for some time. And it turns out that the people wielding it have been sub-standard for even longer.
Eventually the thief turns up at the Way Station, and there's a fight, and it turns out the deaf-mute girl is a sensitive, and she takes over as the new bearer of the Talisman, and the process of admitting Earth to their society is begun.
This is one of those stories that sounds fairly stupid if described baldly, as I have here, but is actually very nice. This one conforms to Simak's reputation for being quiet and thoughtful. Definitely worth having reread.