Cover Image: Walking to Aldebaran

Walking to Aldebaran

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WOooh-hoooo! What a ride ... walk!! Creepy & intriguing with self-mockery I appreciate.

This has been my first book by author Adrian Tchaikovsky, and certainly not my last!

Sci-Fi is not really the cup of tea that I usually take, but I am really glad I drank this ... or rather gobbled it up pretty quickly despite its being hot and spicy and very unusual. There are also some slight effects of disorientation and dizzyness... also, bewilderment, but in rather a good way.

This book is gripping, atmospheric, stratospheric and rather breathtaking, especially the end that kind of sucker-punches you.

And then I went and read it again.
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Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a little gem of a book. It's actually a novella, but it's worth the price of entry.

Gary Rendell is an astronaut, but he is lost and at least slightly crazed. We alternate between his present, wandering through a bizarre alien maze, encountering others, but not finding the other members of his mission, and the past, giving the lead up to the current mission.

In short, a probe to the outer reaches of the solar system found a giant and bizarre... structure (Gary calls it the face of a frog god) that seems to be fractal in layout. It swallows the probe, but the probe eventually reappears, sending readings that indicate that the structure may actually be a portal to other worlds. After much political fighting, an international mission is sent out to explore the structure. Gary is a member of the mission.

Once there, they find a half-built rocket that looks like something out of a pulp magazine, but is unimaginably ancient. a 'landing' party, including our protagonist, is sent down to establish a base and start exploring, which is of course when things go horribly wrong.

I will admit, I spent most of my book thinking of this book as a modern equivalent to Lovecraft. As a result, it wasn't until the last few pages that I finally figured what classic piece this book was also a retelling of. It was that realization that bumped up my appreciation of the story. I won't say what it was a retelling of, since I don't want to spoil it for other people.

But I will say that if you are a fan of the cosmic horror that Lovecraft praised, you will like this book.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read this
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"Walking to Aldebaran" novella was published in 2019 and was written by Adrian Tchiakovsky. He has published nearly two dozen novels or novellas. 

I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in the near future. An object has been detected at the far reaches of our solar system and an international group of astronauts is sent out to investigate. 

The primary character, Gary Rendell, is part of the group to land on the object and begin its exploration. When the team is attacked Rendell flees and is lost in the labyrinth tunnel system. He must find a means of survival as he wonders the tunnels. The tunnels hold what he thinks are other explorers trapped on the object. The object seems to have many entrances and exits at many different points in space. 

The time wondering alone begins to affect Rendell, then he finds the heart of the object and goes through a transformation, or at least he thinks that he does. By the time he finds his fellow humans, he has changed. 

I thought that the 3 hours I spent reading this 105-page science fiction novella were interesting. I found this to be a very strange read. Had it been longer, I would probably have called a Rule of 50 and just dropped it. It mostly deals with Rendell slowly going insane. This is not one that I would recommend.The cover art is OK. I give this novella a 3.4 (rounded down to a 3) out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at 

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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2020 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at 
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DNF  @~40%

I adore Tchaikovsky's attention to detail when it comes to worldbuilding, and his fascinating premises--both of which were present in this novella--but I ended up bouncing off the narration pretty hard. I think the humour in this would be a hit or miss for some people. And unfortunately it was mostly the latter for me.
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The premise of Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Walking to Aldebaran" is fascinating: an astronaut trapped in a dark, cold, mysterious, and violent thing (and more on that label momentarily), tries to reunite with his fellow astronauts and escape. The "thing," which protagonist and narrator Gary Rendell calls "The Crypts" or "The Frog God" appeared on the edges of our solar system and is clearly created by some sort of alien. It is hostile, ever-changing, and deadly. The gravity shifts as Rendell moves through the crypts, and Rendell himself changes, adapting to the new threats he faces. The plot is the great strength of the novella. However, the narrator was, for me, the book's Achilles Heel. This is the first work by Tchaikovsky that I have read, and I approached it knowing nothing of his style. I don't know if the sarcastic, British wit is characteristic of his work, but his Gary Rendell turned me off. Some reviewers have compared Rendell to Mark Watney of "The Astronaut," and I can only chalk it up to personal preference that I found Watney delightful and Rendell annoying. I can overlook the occasional anachronism, but Rendell's language was so full of the slang of 2019 (such as using the modifier "AF" as shorthand for "as fuck") that it was hard to believe the character was an astronaut of the future. I expect the book will seem quite dated to readers in a few years, like reading a 1980s work where the characters say "Barf out! Gag me with a spoon!" If you can tolerate that and appreciate a wisecracking British narrator, this might be the work for you. I can't and it wasn't for me, despite its imaginative setting and premise.
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It’s worth saying that this is a novella. A short read that packs a punch. Light humour and some rough language. I didn’t think I would like it but was surprised that I did. I will definitely check out more by this author who I have skipped over in the past. I only read it because it was a free pre publication copy from Head of Zeus . I’ll look more closely next time I see. Adrian Tchaikovsky on a book cover.
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Normally a book by Adrian Tchaikovsky is something I will reliably enjoy.  So I was excited to get a review copy of his latest novella Walking To Aldebaran from Solaris.  But this one was a rare miss for me. 

The premise is intriguing - a first person narrative from Gary Rendell, one of the team sent to explore a mysterious structure found in space.  That structure turns out to be a gateway to the universe.  A hub that provides gate access to worlds across the universe.  But a hub that is inhabited by strange alien creatures and full of peril.  As Gary explores this strange environment he tells the story of the expedition, how he became separated from his team-mates, and the journey he is on.  It is full of encounters with aliens, miscommunication and a building sense of mystery about what it exactly has happened to Gary.  He has clearly undergone metamorphosis of some sort in this environment. 

But I struggled to engage with it.  I suspect a lot of that is down to the first person narration.  I struggled to connect with the blokish Gary and the strong voice he has telling his story.  And for all that there is a twist in the tale, I was left a bit underwhelmed. 

Goodreads rating: 2*
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*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am so glad I got to this early in 2020. This is a children's wacky science-fiction but written for adults, with gore and swearing, in the best possible way. A space exploration gone wrong, our protagonist finds himself in a mysterious cave network where gravity and even air cannot be taken for granted, and where strange creatures roam.

I listened to this book which was narrated by the author himself which is my favourite kind of audiobook. He had the same qualities that I love in Neil Gaiman's audiobooks; it's difficult to pin point but I think it's the strange story along with a certain type of humour. Overall I absolutely loved the audiobook.

The only thing that let this down to me was that it was slightly confusing, particularly towards the end. Maybe I missed something but I found that I got a bit lost in the last couple of chapters.

Overall I would highly recommend this book. It is witty and sarcastic, scary and full of strange things that kept me intrigued throughout.

4 out of 5 stars!
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This was well-written, the narrative drenched with sarcastic, dark British humor down to its very surprising end.
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Adrian Tchaikovsky is a chameleon when it comes to writing. I read three books of his already: Children of Time, Guns of the Dawn and now this one. All of which have completely different tone.I guess that's a laudable trait for a writer.

This was recommended to me by a friend in Goodreads after our disastrous buddy read on another book which was kind of similar, a solo journey into the unknown. I enjoyed the comedic tone of the main character, a less-sciency British Mark Watney, when he described his experiences which convinced me that I will never be a trailblazer who's willing to take the risk jumping into the unknown, alien territory in which the locales are not thoroughly mapped, researched, and came with instruction for contacts and possible ramifications and exit strategy.

But I digress. The novella might serve better as a novelette, since I was kind of bored near the middle (maybe the author's ploy to lull me into a cozy space?), though it does pick up its pace near the last third. It has a good finale. Is it a happy one? I guess you'll have to find out by yourself.

Thanks for the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read it. Will definitely read more SF from the author.
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You know how some books get less impressive as you get some distance from finishing them and think about them some more? You realize the plot had serious holes, or the characters were flat, or whatever. But a few books take a while to seep into your brain, and gradually get more impressive. Walking to Aldebaran is one of those, and I'm bumping it to all 5 well-deserved stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

I never know what to expect from Adrian Tchaikovsky, but he’s always entertaining. Walking to Aldebaran is unlike anything I’ve read from Tchaikovsky to date, a powerful, literary SF novella with an edgy, dark sense of humor and a strain of horror that gradually intensifies until its shocking ending.

British astronaut Gary Rendell is part of an international space team sent from Earth to explore a moon-sized, alien-made object ― officially called the Artefact, unofficially called the Frog God because of its appearance in photos ― that a space probe has found lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. Through a series of events that are gradually unfolded to the reader, Rendell is now wandering alone inside the cold, endless, crypt-like tunnels inside of the rocky Artefact, where highly peculiar physics hold sway.

"The Crypts are an artificial phenomenon which let matter, energy and information thumb their collective nose at relativity, and do it unchanged, without all that infinite-mass nonsense that approaching light speed entails."

Rendell is separated from his crewmates and desperately trying to find his way back to his ship or even just our solar system (the few exits that he has found seem to lead to other planets).

The chapters of Walking to Aldebaran alternate between the backstory of how Rendell got to be where he is now, and his exploration of the Artefact in current time, coming into contact with the Artefact’s other inhabitants and commenting on his experiences to the reader. The inside of the Artefact is a nightmarish place, dark and dangerous, with countless alien creatures, most of whom want to eat you. About one particularly horrific monster, Rendell observes:

"It looks as though it got into God’s desk after school and nicked off with every single nasty toy confiscated from the fallen angels. It writhes towards me along the ceiling, various spiked parts of it clicking and clattering against the stone. It’s in no hurry. It’s probably waited a thousand years for some dumbass Earthman to come along and wake it up.

"… Human ingenuity is drawing a blank. Captain Kirk would have thought of something by now, I’m sure, but I have no red-shirted confederates to feed to it."

Meanwhile, there’s also a mysterious scraping, scritching noise constantly echoing inside of Rendell’s skull, something that feels almost understandable to him, driving him to distraction. He develops an obsession with hunting down the source of the mental scratching and stomping it out.

My first reaction on finishing Walking to Aldebaran was, “Well played, Tchaikovsky!” This novella both surprised me and exceeded my expectations. Rendell’s situation and narrative voice at the beginning are similar to Mark Watney’s from The Martian: he’s lost and alone, and has a sarcastic sense of humor, though Gary Rendell’s narration is darker and more erudite. In fact, it’s reminiscent of John Gardner’s Grendel: Gary frequently uses literary allusions, ranging from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to T.S. Eliot, and tosses out vocabulary-challenging words like pareidolia, quotidian, oubliettes, and anagnorisis.

The story gradually evolves into something far more strange and horrifying than The Martian. There’s one final literary reference that was the icing on the cake, but it’s a major spoiler(view spoiler)

I’m not normally much of a fan of the horror genre, either in SF or fantasy, but I highly recommend Walking to Aldebaran for readers who enjoy science fiction that has unusual literary depth.
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This dark sci-fi novella left me thinking. I always think the best stories are the ones that stay with you for awhile. 

This story alternates between the past- the road that led British astronaut Gary Rendell to the international space team to study an alien object called the artefact, and the current, where Gary is wandering through a tunnel system found inside the artefact alone. What unfolds is an eerie exploration of the nightmare inside the artefact. 

I loved this story. I would love to read more by this author.

**I received a copy of this novella, from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review***
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I really enjoyed the concept of this book. I love reading space stories and this was very different. The storytelling was incredibly good and usually I don’t like the lack of dialogue, but in this case it worked perfectly well.  I drew similarities between Gary and Mark Watney from “The Martian”. The way they both end up talking to themselves, taking the mick and being sarcastic, while still trundling along. 

The downside to the novella was the lack of exploration for me. It brought so much potential to create a wonderful story. Just personally, I think this would’ve been better written as a one-off book, rather than a novella. It was just too short for what it wanted to do.
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Insightful writer,  and captivating voice, recounting past and present descent into a kind of madness .. imagined so vividly it all makes sense when Rendell, an adventuring astronaut on a weird quasi- planet transforms into something I won't spell out here .. brilliant tour de force. Pretty horrific by ending but seeds are there throughout.
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A bit odd,  a spacefaring novelette and starting it by stumbling through a cave system.

The backstory is well told and the slow reveal of how Gary got to the present point is well done. Fun scenes, interesting aliens, growing creepiness factor... loved the aliens! So imaginative! Loved the humour, the general screwiness, the Britishness. Devious. I would like to spend more time on... never mind. Anything else I want to mention here would be a spoiler. I think the less you know, the more fun this will be. 

I got strong vibes of a famous poem. And I have proof in the text that it was on purpose.

Be prepared to be screwed with. I sat up and scratched my head once or twice. I am contemplating to read this again soon. What little clues would I pick up, knowing the ending?

Not what I expected. 

I might have said this before—I will have to really work on Tchaikovsky‘s back catalogue. Oh, and I just added him to my list of famous people I want to go to the pub with. Sorry, Adrian, but Quentin is still in the top spot, followed by Ethan and Joel.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!
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An alien artifact is discovered within reasonable space travel distance from Earth.  Our first person narrator Gary is the only survivor of an investigating crew whose mission has identifies the apparent planetoid is some kind of space wormhole gateway accessible by many other alien civilizations.  He and diverse alien species, so imaginatively rendered by the author, must leave their spaceships behind to explore labyrinthine pathways (often in the dark) in the hope of gaining access to new worlds.  In the many weeks it takes, deadly competition for food and resources emerges among the many wandering species.  Gary reminds me of Mark Watney in his sardonic monologue on strategies for survival, the difference being that Gary undergoes a bit of metamorphosis in this dog-eat-dog environment, bring the reader over the line a bit into psychological horror.  Compared to my 4-star rating of Tchaikovsky’s book "Ironclads" (a window on cybernetics in future warfare), my pleasure meter renders a bit lower, so 3.5 rounded down.  This guy is very prolific, and my experience with these two leads me to expect to find some fine reads (recommendations welcome).

This book was provided for review by the publisher through the Netgalley program.
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A futuristic Frankenstein narrative that will have you gasping in shock and realisation as it draws to a close. Brilliant, trippy and dowsed in darkness, this is an excellent sci fi horror short.
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Dark, quirky, and entirely unexpected.  A perfect mix of sci-fi and horror, with just the right smattering of humour, make this novella a wonderful read.  I was captivated.  Definitely will be recommending this for short story fans.
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I could not finish this as it began with too much familiarity of the same style that was used in Dogs of War, e.g. Today was a good day / I'm Rex, I'm a good dog.

Maybe had I have continued it could've/would've delivered something of brilliance but I didn't want to destroy the image of a very good thing in my mind that I had dedicated away in the memory bank for Dogs of War.

Maybe another time.
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