Jason K. Chapman. The Architect of Heaven. (Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #56, May 2011)

The best SF explores the human condition, and one of the trickiest elements of the human condition to successfully explore is love. Chapman does this in a great story.

Listening to it came as an unexpected pleasure, as it popped up just after The Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus in Furs’ on the iPod plugged into the car, playing on random. Fortunately the road was quiet enough for me not to skip to the next track – weaving your way around the M25 is often way too tricky a task without trying to give close attention to a podcast.

Clearly at this point you should read the story or listen to the lovely tones of Kate Baker as she reads it.

The story starts with an awakening from hyper-sleep, a well-established opening for an SF story, but Chapman handles this well, describing it quite beautifully

He adjusts more slowly than the other times. It’s his age. Though hiber-sleep provides the chapter breaks in the story of his life, that story still covers eighty-three waking years. He suspects that this chapter, the one he’s just beginning, is likely to conclude with “the end.”

The story is set up well, a final awakening at the destination, TerraNova, with another spaceship full of frozen passengers arriving. The story pops back in time, reviewing the story of Trent Bishop, who lost his love on the moon, when she decided to take a place on the first colony ship, and he did not. The story handles this parting of the ways delicately, and similarly with the challenges Trent faces to recover that lost love. But where the story scores is in the relationship between Trent and his colleagues, in looking at the deep, strong bonds between them – another form of love.

And the ending is a doozy!

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