Monday, July 19, 2010

The Goblin Reservation By Clifford D. Simak

'Himself again- Having just returned to Earth from an inter-galactic research mission, Professor Peter Maxwell, specialist in Supernatural Phenomena, finds himself in dire straits.

Earth, as he is aware, is well-advanced in many areas; perfected time travel, for instance, enables all creatures (goblins, dinosaurs and Shakespeare!) to coexist. But Maxwell has accidentally discovered a mysterious crystal planet containing a storehouse of secret information not yet known on Earth.

Knowing the value of the planet for the future of Earth, he attempts to convince those in power that they must, at any cost, get control of it. But his efforts are thwarted by a startling fact: Maxwell was ingeniously duplicated on his return trip. The "other" him came back before he did, and was soon after "accidentally" killed. Now no one will believe the original Maxwell really exists...' The back cover of the 1969 edition

'Professor Peter Maxwell is in desperate straits. En route to an interplanetary research mission, he was snatched by a strange, shadowy race to a previously uncharted planet. Ancient beyond comprehension, this planet is a storehouse of information that would be invaluable to the people of Earth- even an Earth so far advanced that perfected time travel allows goblins, dinosaurs, ghosts, even Shakespeare to coexist. His attempts to interest the rulers of Earth are thwarted, however, by a startling discovery- Maxwell was ingeniously duplicated. The "other" him came back before he did, and soon after was "accidentally" killed. Now no one will believe the original Maxwell really exists...' -The back cover of the 1993 edition

First copyright 1968, cover price of the 1969 version 75c and the 1993 version $3.95. Both are 192 pages.

They tweaked the cover description a bit in the 24 years in between these editions, and they still managed to make it deceptively sound like an action packed story of intrigue, which it is not. Not much happens in The Goblin Reservation other than dialogue, which is often on the whimsical side and rarely as clever as Simak is going for. First off- the 'rulers of Earth' Maxwell is attempting to speak to are the head faculty of Oxford college, where this story takes place. Last time I checked academia wasn't exactly the United Nations, but this is 'the far future', so who knows? Oh yeah, Oxford moved to Wisconsin, which is a stab at humor and an example of how earnest and unfunny The Goblin Reservation ended up. The jokes and slapstick involved in this short little novel will make you cringe over and over again.

By now you have figured out that I didn't care for this novel much, but the poor comedic delivery is only one of my gripes. The Goblin Reservation makes an attempt at bridging the often mutually exclusive worlds of fantasy and sci-fi, and fails miserably by trying too much. In 192 pages this novel has aliens, goblins, teleportation, warlocks, trolls, time travel, fairies, space ghosts, a dragon, an educated neanderthal and a 'bio-mech' saber tooth tiger named Sylvester (ha?). I can imagine Simak sitting in front of a dry erase board, writing out the formula for 'coolest shit ever', and trying to jam it into the plot line of The Goblin Reservation. All this book needed was a passive aggressive unicorn that communicates solely through rainbows and it would have run through the gauntlet of stupid sci-fi and fantasy tropes. Fuck this fucking book.

Watch out! Sylvester the bio-mech is stealing the steak off your plate! Oh no, Oop the educated neanderthal is drinking moonshine again! 

I wish there was more of a plot to save this novel, but it was completely secondary to the existence of gnomes and witty banter in restaurants. I know that someone is going to tell me that fantasy and sci-fi is about making the reader 'marvel at possibilities' or some shit, but they probably haven't read this terrible book. The Goblin Reservation is honestly one of the worst novels I have read, but sadly not the worst since I started this little project. That illustrious award is still owned by Golem 100 by Alfred Bester, who was at least in his decline and not the middle of his career when he wrote that piece of garbage. 


  1. I think I have a worse Simak novel. Special Deliverance. A college professor and a few other people find themselves in a world where they don't know where they are, and there's a giant cube.

    Nothing happens until the very end of the book, and in the meantime the characters just wander around aimlessly and just speculate on what's happening.

    Some good advice for reading Simak. Anything past the late 70s, leave it alone. Anything he wrote in the 50s to early 70s is usually good though.

    ~Filling the Void Revues

  2. Just to address a minor point: Why do you think it's supposed to be Oxford College? It's the Galactic University, which has Earth as its main campus, and which has become the principal industry on Earth. So effectively, the president of the University is the ruler of Earth. I must admit that as an academic the portrait of the planet as a campus appealed to me.