Veteran of the US civil war is approached by extraterrestrials to run station for interstellar transit line on Earth.
At times this reads like the inversion of Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, as the protagonist never leaves earth to explore, but rather explores the weird alien stuff installed on earth.
Very effective & affective at times, especially when protagonist reflects on his military service, which by the time of the narrative is 100 years in the past.
As always, I'm on the lookout for sources of R. Scott Bakker's work, and I note here that the alien who'd scouted out protagonist for work on behalf of the galactic government has a face that "split and began to fall away" (24), which should sound familiar enough to RSB's readers. Likewise, it's revealed early that protagonist has an ongoing relationship with "shadow people," which are likely hallucinations, figments of his imagination that arose through the course of his durance--in the station, time is stilled: reminiscent, then, of certain RSB creatures driven insane by immortality.
Protagonist ends up causing both local and off-planet diplomatic snafus, which are resolved a bit too quickly by the unlikely appearance of a lost numinous object as well as by the identification of a special snowflake who can use it. That said, an interesting moment prior to the resolution wherein protagonist is placed in the position of attorney for all humanity. After noting the appearance of this configuration in Have Space Suit-Will Travel, I'm thinking that Attorney for All Humanity might be an obscure speculative fiction subgenre. Will accordingly be on the alert for it in the future.
Overall, the novel's Hugo is plausible.
Recommended for curious races of social vegetables, those who submerge the sense of pure visual horror as portrayed in alien bodies, and victims of museum fatigue.