I'd give this 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4. I used to love golden age sci-fi, but for me, most of it just doesn't hold up today. This was my first Simak novel. I enjoyed the writing and the story, and I can understand why it was a Hugo winner -- in 1964. I wonder how much this novel influenced the writers of Star Trek
. Today, of course, four decades later, the interstellar federation which Earth is just on the verge of being ready to join has been done and done and done in every possible variation, so Simak's vision seems a little quaint. Apparently he was known as one of the more optimistic sci-fi writers, and that's apparent here; most of the conflicts are intellectual rather than violent, and the ETs are more alien in form than in manner. It all takes place in a homey backwoods setting and the resolution involves all the species of the galaxy recognizing their spiritual oneness so... yes, a pleasant story, but not a particularly challenging or mindbending one.