Simak put everything but the kitchen sink in this book
The Goblin Reservation takes place on Earth at an unspecified time in the future. By this time, mankind has explored other planets and become acquainted with their various life forms, some of whom have immigrated to Earth. Scientists have also achieved time travel. A Time College, devoted to the firsthand study of the past, has been established in Madison, Wisconsin. (Readers familiar with Simak’s writing will not be surprised at that location, since he frequently sets his stories near his hometown of Millville, WI.) Over the centuries, humans have also discovered that many of the creatures we thought were mythical or supernatural—fairies, goblins, banshees, trolls, ghosts, etc.—are actually real, natural beings that have managed to mostly live in hiding since ancient times. Many of these beings now reside on a Goblin Reservation near Madison; hence the book’s title, although the reservation itself occupies but a small part of the story.
Peter Maxwell, a professor at Time College, returns to Earth after an interplanetary research trip. The method of travel is matter transferral—essentially teleportation. Something went wrong with Maxwell’s trip. Instead of going to his intended destination, he was transported to an unknown crystal planet where mysterious beings gave him a glimpse of their staggering wealth of knowledge of the universe. Upon returning to Earth, Maxwell discovers that during his teleportation his matter was not only misplaced but also duplicated, resulting in two Peter Maxwells, one of whom returned to Earth prior to him and subsequently died. Now officially a dead man, Maxwell sets out to investigate what exactly happened. Aiding him in this endeavour are some of his friends from the university, including a Neanderthal brought forward in time, a ghost with no memory of his prior life, a woman with a saber-toothed tiger for a pet, and visiting lecturer William Shakespeare. Together this motley crew uncovers an alien conspiracy.
Of course, none of this is played dead serious; there is certainly an element of humor to much of the novel. That’s not to say, however, that anything goes, and whimsical events can just take place willy nilly. Despite the fact that the story involves space travel, time travel, and folkloric fantasy, Simak manages to weave everything together into a plot that makes sense, and it is a joy to follow along as he does so. This is not one of his more profound works, however, and at times the reader might wish it would be less comical. The ending feels a little weak as well, given all the bizarre and incredible events that lead up to it. Hard sci-fi purists will probably think The Goblin Reservation is just a load of nonsense, but readers with a tolerance for weirdness and whimsy, particularly habitual Simak fans, should not have much trouble enjoying the fun.
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