I’ve become a big fan of Clifford Simak’s small town mundania – big stories that happen in litle places, without much drama. However, it’s books like Enchanted Pilgrimage that explain why, when I knew only his mid-period novels, I was less impressed.
Here, while the setting is interesting, and the conclusion intriguing, the characters never really get off the ground. There’s a dry, clinical tone to the dialogue, and a sense that Simak is going through the motions of epic fantasy, but doesn’t care for it. He can never quite get the wry, sardonic tone out of his voice, and while in some places that works, in others it feels as if we share his desire to go off and write something else that’s a better fit.
There’s something of a pro-Christian bias to the book that feels both unnecessary and out of place, and some unpleasant sexism (‘a buried slut in every woman’).
There’s a lot going on at the end of the book, but Simak does little more than tell us what the pieces are, and doesn’t manage to close things off before losing interest entirely. It’s a book that might have been good, with a little of the flavor of A Canticle for Leibowitz, but in fact never decides what it wants to be. As a result, the book ends up not being very much of anything at all.