Way Station – Clifford D. Simak, Doubleday, 1963 (Originally published in Galaxy Magazine as “Here Gather the Stars” in a two-part serial. Hugo Award, best novel, 1964. (Amazon).
The premise of Way Station is about as simple as it gets—alien races in our galaxy have long since solved the interstellar travel problem by means of a device that transports individuals instantly from one planet to another, and it doesn’t matter if that planet is in the same solar system or halfway across the galaxy. The trick is that the transportation signal degrades under certain conditions and so some jumps require a temporary stopping point where the transport signal can be renewed and the traveler sent on their way, thus the Way Stations of the title. Every Way Station requires a station keeper, someone who can run the machines and greet the travelers and make sure they are sent on their way properly. When the aliens expand into our spiral arm of the galaxy, Earth is the perfect place for such a station, but it needs a keeper. Galactic Central chooses a local, Enoch Wallace, a recent Civil War veteran. His home is converted into one such station, which provides for all his physical needs and is a safe haven from the outside world. As long as he remains inside the station, he does not age at all, and brief errands outside only take a few minutes or hours off of his lifespan. Over one hundred years later, Enoch is still on duty. Continue reading