SCI FICTION, Sept 28, 2005

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

"The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars" by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold

"The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars" by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold mixes together an intriguing cocktail of complex relationships, starship travel, and North American politics.  Served with ice, the concoction results in an absorbing and thoughtful tale.

Bruce Diedrich is an NSA operative, assigned to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of Nick MacInnes who assembled a homemade spaceship and set off for the stars, leaving behind his beautiful wife, Kelly.  Presumed dead, Nick calls home years later, and his wife goes to await his return in isolated Yoho National Park, British Columbia.  There, the portent of his homecoming is a mysterious "dimple" in the nearby lake, a forty-foot depression in the water which defies understanding.  In the course of his investigation, Bruce becomes smitten by Kelly, who has her own agenda with regard to her husband’s research: "I know why you’re here. You hate it, the whole world hates it, but especially you Yanks. You hate that a Canadian went to the stars first, without you." The relationship triangle (with one corner of the threesome, Mr. MacInnes, in absentia) is shaded with a rich understanding of marriage and long-time relationships, both in the time that Bruce spends with Mrs. MacInnes, and with her never-wavering faith in her departed husband. 

Lake and Nestvold also do an excellent job bringing into sharp focus the Canadian wilderness.  It is chilly, and big, and lonely—mostly lonely.  It is a place for introspection and soul-searching, for coming to grips with being on your own, even in the presence of another.  And, of course, tying everything together as mystery and central plot pivot, is the space travel mystery. 

The best science fiction stories are a blend of both fascinating concepts and interesting characters and their interactions.  "The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars" is one of the better such offerings this reader has come across in a while.  While the ending lacked the same punch as the beginning and middle, the story remains an involving read.  Quite recommended.