The Visitors starts off with a diatribe by a blatantly racist barber who also hates the environment. I'm sure there are people who share this guy's opinions, but it's painfully obvious that he's written as such an indefensible stereotype so that the readers won't feel too sorry when he tries to take a shot at the first alien visitor a few pages later and is promptly blasted into a smoldering corpse in retaliation. Most of the other characters in this book come off as a little more believable, though with many of them, particularly the politicians, they were so unremarkable and irrelevant to the plot that I didn't bother even learning their names.
In this day and age, it's kind of quaint how relatively slowly information about our first contact with an alien race is disseminated. The visitors themselves turn out to be reasonably benign, though they're so far removed from our ken that communication with them on almost any level seems like an impossible feat. They don't exactly seem interested in making friends, but nor have them come to deliberately harm us. They also bear an uncanny resemblance to the monoliths from 2001. I'm not sure Simak realized this when he described them, but it's hard not to notice when viewing the couple different examples of cover artwork I've seen for this book.
Simak does a decent enough job holding my interest, but the most intriguing section of the book occupies only the final 50 pages, which is somewhat frustrating, as it's not enough time to explore the ramifications that result from the visitors' attempts at repaying the human race for its hospitality in a manner that is charmingly offbeat, but also threatens to destroy the United States' economy. As one character briefly speculates, however, perhaps the visitors are unwittingly forcing humanity, or at least America, to reexamine its values. Certainly, the visitors are causing disaster in the short run, but in the end, they could potentially force us kicking and screaming towards a better way of life. Whatever the potential repercussions, Simak leaves it up the reader to imagine what might happen next.