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Walking to Aldebaran

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This fast-read book is a good science-fiction book that I had a great pleasure exploring. The only thing that messed up a little bit my reading is the end of the book that I did not expected to be this way. Still, a good book from Tchaikovsky!
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Astronaut Gary Rendell has hit the jackpot: he’s one of the select few chosen to explore the most incredible discovery in human history. Near Pluto’s orbit, a massive object has suddenly appeared and it’s clearly been created by an intelligent life form. Probes are sent out to investigate but they send back bizarre results so its decided that a manned expedition needs to be sent out.

Yeah… things do not go well.

Despite being about a pretty bleak situation, the subject matter was approached in a light and easy to read way. It was seriously funny. It was also quite harrowing and gruesome, but I was still chuckling aloud through most of it. Adrian Tchaikovsky is an author I have been meaning to read for awhile so this standalone novella seemed like a great introduction to his works. If Walking to Aldebaran is anything to go by, Tchaikovsky is not only a talented writer but he’s a humourous one to boot. Even when horrendous things were happening, the author could find a way to thoroughly describe it all whilst still being amusing. Take this for example:

“I remember us turning to each other, clumsy in our suits like a pair of comedy puppets waving our arms and panicking at each other. We had not been trained for this, nobody had.”

Or this:

“And sometimes an outlet for your frustration comes along and sometimes that outlet is a gigantic worm monster, and you just go for it.”

Whilst reading, I was reminded of one of my favorite books of all time, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Soon though, this turned into At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft with a dose of The Martian thrown in. Gary Rendell made me laugh almost as much as Mark Watney did. Other comparisons can be made, but to do so would give away the twist at the end and it’s one killer of a twist.

Speaking of the end, I would have liked to find out what was going on with the rest of the crew back on the spaceship from their point of view. Or to know more about the mysteries of the mysterious artifact that were left unexplained. However, this was a short book and what it did have was done well. Plus, much like Gary pointed out, to really think about everything he was doing and experiencing would probably break even the strongest of minds: “But that way madness lies.”

^ btw that quote is definitely going on my tombstone.

I’m so glad I was given a chance to read this. The world building and humor in this novella are what really set it apart. Considering its length, it’s actually really impressive how fully fleshed out the book was. You could read it in a day but still feel like you read a full length novel. I suppose sometimes less really is more.

Side note: Aldebaran is a red giant star in the constellation Taurus. From the other reviews I’ve seen, I’m not the only nerd who kept reading it as Alderaan (as in the home planet of Princess Leia). Just to clarify- Gary Rendell did not cross over into the Star Wars universe. I think.
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This was a very original novella with a fantastic narrator. The twist was great and overall enjoyed it a lot!

This is my third book by Tachikovky and I'm going to be reading much more for sure!
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Walking to Aldebaran is a sci-fi novella from Adrian Tchaikovsky, whose other sci-fi works, including the seminal Children of Time have a very strong reputation. This one is an intriguing blend of stone cold horror, a well-voiced, convincingly characterised protagonist, and some Big Ideas which I’d like to see looked into a little more.

So, lets talk about the world. It’s a rock. An inhospitable rock, floating in a less-than salubrious neighbourhood of the solar system. A rock without much going for it at all. Except that once you’ve walked into the hoes in this rock, once you’ve left behind the world you know – there are rooms. Some of them are lethal. Some of them are decrepit. Some are filled with treasures. It’s like a lucky dip, where half the prizes are bear traps. And why would you want to go in there? Because some of these chambers empty out into somewhere else. You can walk a day or two through a rock that wasn’t two days across when you entered it, dodging horrifying creatures and environmental hazards – and come out in Alpha Centauri. Or…somewhere else, anyway. But the place is a maze, and a puzzle, and it’s not at all unlikely to stick something sharp in your ribcage. It also has a penchant for darkness, for tunnels you want to creep along very carefully, in case you run into something with more teeth and tentacles than thumbs. And for darkness, because if what you’re likely to see is teeth and tentacles, why would you want to.

All of this is realised in the protagonist’s monologue, a person who’s been trapped in this somewhat-deadly environment for a while. Their chatty, colloquial style overlays the bedrock tunnels, the sinuous tentacles, the bloodied claws, the necessary blood and murder and isolation and death with a folksy charm that manages to both lighten and accentuate the mood of creeping horror.

This is not a place for people. It’s a wilderness, with a razor under every rock, and a rattlesnake under every razor. The quiet, uncaring lethality is evoked with precision, and you can’t deny the emotional impact – the creeping horror, the disgust and terror that moves inexorably from the page to the reader.
Speaking of disgust and terror – the protagonist is our voice, our eyes in an absolute darkness. He is Gary, a human astronaut, from a mission dragged halfway across the solar system to investigate this rock that leads to elsewhere. And he is alone. As the text progresses, we discover more of the context around his isolation, about how Gary ended up wandering the halls. In the meantime, his voice is relentlessly, worryingly calm. It digs at the past with forensic razors, and it approaches the present with concern and a blend of enthusiasm and fatigue which is worryingly familiar. Gary is tired. Gary has been walking for a long time. Gary wants to see other people again, to see something other than the rock again. And we see some of the past with Gary, in his memory – in the mission to the rock, in the way that people interact with him then, in the stories he tells of friends and antagonists. At the same time, there’s a slow, crawling sense that Gary is telling a story, in a place where any mis-step can be monstrous, in order to stay sane. There are changes, movements in the dark. The reader is following their narrator down a rabbit-hole of terror and transition. Gary in the world is a person, a person you’d be more than happy to take out to dinner -a hero. Gary in the rock is, perhaps, something else. There’s a sublime artistry to the prose, making Gary at once sympathetic and troubling; the reader can feel his pain and loneliness and despair, and the madness creeping along at the edge of vision. We can see the golden idol, and we can see the feet of clay. This is Gary’s story, and we’re along for the ride – and for that, it feels real – often horrifyingly so.

The plot? Well, it’s the story of Gary trying to find his way home. Of walking through fire and water to find his people. Of defeating death-traps, and making friends (or making enemies). It’s the tory of how the walk changes Gary, how it takes what he wants and what he expects, and who he is, and gets inside him, changes his perspective. It’s a story of change, of the horrors and wonders of exploration and the horrors and wonders of humanity. There’s a lot there – the normal, the cold coffee and banter between astronauts on a mission, the strange - the crushing rocks and strange entities beneath the earth – and the liminal barrier between the two, as Gary tries to find his way home.

Is it any good? Oh my yes. It’s sharp, thoughtful and tightly plotted. The dialogue is pitch-perfect and the story will have you hanging on every word. It’s a clever story, too, with some high-concept ideas to play with which will reward curiosity. And it’s a multi-layered character-piece, in a story which demands character from both those in the story and those reading it. It’s a great story, and one I thoroughly recommend picking up.
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Maybe this book was lost in translation for me personally. I was really looking forward to it, and I was really disappointed. It just felt disjointed, confusing, all a bit random, and then it just ended.

I didn't get it. Sorry, my thanks for the copy though.
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Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is SF horror of a very popular kind. You know all the movies about someone who goes very far out into the solar system and finds something horrible and in fact partly it’s them that’s horrible? And there are incomprehensible alien things and lots of blood and sometimes blood spraying out into vacuum? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made a movie of this novella, because it is exactly like that, and it is a quite well-done and nasty thing in that direction and they tend to want to look for things like that.

Me personally? I hated it. It is not at all the sort of thing I like, and if it had been longer than a novella I would have stopped reading because my sense of the sunk cost fallacy usually kicks in past novella length. But there’s a difference between hating something and thinking it’s badly done. This is not badly done. Nobody does multilimbed critters like Adrian Tchaikovsky. It’s just…someone else’s cup of tea, I feel quite sure. It’s definitely tea and not sludge! It’s just not for me.
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A claustrophobic, spine tingling, little novella of science fiction horror, Walking to Aldebaran was a delightful slice of fiction to pick up and read in an evening. It follows the merging narratives of our lonely protagonist Gary Randall as he wanders lost through a crypt-labyrinth hanging in space out past Pluto and connecting our galaxy to numberless others, showing us the steps that brought him to the present and where they carried him after. For my complete thoughts, check out my video review!

ARC received in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed this book.

It took a while to figure out what was going on and as soon as the penny dropped I enjoyed watching the story unfold. 

This was quite a blokey book and the main character was a lovely time capsule of a 40 year old British man. The funny parts balanced the icky bits.

Don't read if you like happy endings - do read if you love an inevitable slide into chaos and madness.
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Adrian Tchaikovsky – Walking to Aldebaran
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Parent Category: Reviews
Published: 28 May 2019
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Adrian Tchaikovsky – Walking to AldebaranAdrian Tchaikovsky (or, as his mother knows him Adrian Czajkovski – apparently that's not a name to expose UK and US audiences to) is a BFA and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author, with the science/magic Shadows of the Apt series to his name (with action and battles scenes LARP tested apparently!) as well as a number of stand-alone novels and shorts, tackling SF with the same gusto as fantasy/entomology. Apparently all this does not make a living, though, and so he's a Legal Executive during the day.

Walking to Aldebaran is a Novella, and the length feels about right for the content and treatment. It follows Gary Rendell, an Astronaut (from Stevenage, he keeps reminding us. Or maybe himself...) lost in 'The Crypts', aka the thing we found out past Neptune. But it's not just there, but a bit everywhere – it seems to connect loads of solar systems, including a substantial number (all?) of inhabited ones. A nice little shortcut, or a trap? Or a bit of both? Either way, he's got separated from his crew mates (we know that some/most of his expedition are dead), and is roaming an endless labyrinth of tunnels, occasionally coming across live or dead aliens, monsters inhabiting these tunnels, and the odd entrance/exit to other worlds. And, of course, the thing at the centre of it all.

Gary tells us that he always wanted to be an Astronaut, but “I just didn't think there would be so much getting lost and eating corpses” he muses, whilst being “huddled in front of a fire that's dying for lack of O2, gnawing on the dessicated chunks of long-dead alien explorer”. Nice. And he indicates that he might have had second thoughts concerning his calling should they have told him what it entails...
Now, if the above sounds rather horrific and dark then this is of course on the one hand correct, given the setting of the story. But there's also a lot of lighter, entertaining bits when he encounters aliens or has his own funny turns, and its all told in a sarcastic tone with Mark Watney-level snarkyness.

This doubly is the case when he weaves in contemporary references including Brexit, contemporary US politics and a short run-down of the history of where these things lead. Not edifying, to no-one's surprise I reckon.
Still, the expedition he came here with was a multinational one, and we get to appreciate the realpolitik of such an endeavour – it's on the one hand realistically complex and beset by politics and continuous change; but on the other it's also hopelessly (I think) overdrawn in the speed of resolution, creation of hardware etc, and entirely under-drawn in term of complexity of such a task. Hard SF it ain't, as you might have figured by now.
But we get a good amount of realistic-sounding astronomy with the background info dumps, explaining Pluto, planet 9, or 10 etc, and of what humanity found out there and how. And of course what it did to the probe we sent, which in turn ensured the international cooperation to send a crewed expedition there – there's nothing like glimpses of non-human-origin space-ships, or random shots of other planets to galvanise at least some political will (and a fair amount of money, I daresay).

The story is told by Gary, as a rambling first-person confessional to an imaginary companion. He calls us Toto. It comes in two distinct threads: present, and history. In the present one we walk with him through the Crypts (remember – dark, monsters, other races, remains of other lost souls/expeditions), in the history part he considers how he, sorry, we! came to be there, why he is alone, and what he encountered in the crypts which changed him and allows him to survive his ordeal.
Adrian's style is a strange and quite fascinating mix of foreshadowing and spilling the beans early, mixed with hedging his bets to have his readers hang on, never mind to occasionally misdirect them – the entire story could be one of Fredric Brown's little tricks.
Also – it's all very Rama, of course, with race-collecting artefact making itself known to developed races with the means to get to it. Except there's more to it, and the unnaturally quick adaptation which Gary undergoes would not gel well with race collection. Nor would the wandering, mixing, dying. And, to spoil that part (hah!) – we never find out what the artefact is for. Because – where's the fun in that?
But if you look past the current/near-future political references and the Martian-grade sarcasm and snark you find yourself looking at a piece of cracking writing which could just as well be a Golden-Era SF story. Or a mirror-image of one, Peter-Watts-does-The-Thing style?

Either way, great stuff, and well worth your time and money!


More Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Walking to Aldebaran
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Solaris
Publisher URL: http://www.solarisbooks.com
Publication Date: May 2019
Review Date: 190520
ISBN: 9781786181961 
Pages: 104
Format: ePub
Topic: Exploration Adventure
Topic: Modification

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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Walking to Aldebaran is a short, snappy novella of barely 100 pages which manages to really pack a punch and be all-powerful in such a small space of time. Once again Tchaikovsky shows his masterful storytelling prowess and of course writing an engaging short story is very different from penning full-length speculative fiction. Frequently shorts are severely lacking in characterisation but not here; Tchaikovsky knows exactly how to construct and craft a cast of three-dimensional, interesting characters, an exciting plot with lots of danger and high octane thrills and spills, and a detailed story which travels at a rapid-fire pace. Everything just works so well together.

As always the author knows how to produce epic hard science fiction with lots of intriguing science and technological talk throughout but still remains accessible to those with no knowledge of those topics. Main character, Gary Rendell, provides some sardonic humour which at times is much-needed light relief, especially when towards the end of the book it takes a turn into the horror genre rather unexpectedly and very cleverly. The worldbuilding, suspense and characterisation are incredible for a tiny novella and it's clear Tchaikovsky is one of the best science fiction writers of all time. Many thanks to Solaris for an ARC.
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My thanks to Solaris/Rebellion Publishing for an eARC via NetGalley of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s stand-alone SF novella, ‘Walking to Aldebaran’, in exchange for an honest review.

This is a gem of a story that packs so much into its modest length that I was left stunned by Tchaikovsky’s storytelling skills and craftsmanship. 

Gary Rendell tells us that he had always dreamt of becoming an astronaut and that dream had come true after what appears to be an alien artefact is discovered beyond Pluto. Gary is part of an international team sent to investigate. Shades of 2001: a Space Odyssey’!

The tale opens with Gary wandering around the tunnels of the artefact dubbed as the Crypts. He is lost, alone and something horrible is in the tunnels with him. Gary engages in an ongoing inner dialogue with himself (he dubs his inner audience Toto). While having various adventures he reveals the details of the mission and how he came to be separated from his crew mates. 

This is only the second book that I have read by Tchaikovsky and I find myself deeply impressed by his ability to create a sense of real alienness as well as to write hard science fiction that emphasises the science and yet remains accessible.

There was some quite visceral horror and yet also a great deal of humour in Gary’s quips and snarky comments. He even gives us spoiler alerts. 

I laughed out loud so many times including when he advises that he and his fellow astronauts were prepared and not stupid: “We weren’t like those dumbass astronauts you see in films, who take their helmets off or bend obligingly low to investigate the killer monster alien eggs.”

I loved it! Very highly recommended.
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4.5 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews

Summary:
One member of an team assigned to explore an anomalous portal on the fringes of the solar system finds himself walking an endless labyrinth. He’s surviving, but changed in ways he didn’t anticipate or welcome.

Review:
I miss the days of ubiquitous bookstores – where you could walk the aisles and spot good books by author, publisher, and cover, and the only filter was the bookstore’s purchasing manager, who decided what to buy. (Some such stores do still exist, of course, largely deserted by patrons like me who want e-books, but that’s a different story.) The point is that, for those of us who distrust popularity and 5 star reviews, browsing is difficult these days. NetGalley, surprisingly, helps me fill the gap. That’s where I picked up Walking to Aldebaran.

I’d heard Adrian Tchaikovsky’s name, but had disregarded it as the latest fan favorite. That may be true, but I was pleased to find there’s a good reason behind it. The piece had a bit of a rough start – the idea (alien labyrinth) is a familiar one; the tone (slightly sardonic, with asides) didn’t really work for me – and a couple of chapters in, I found myself pessimistic about enjoying the book. By chapter three, however, that had already started to turn around.

The book is intelligently written – the character (as he himself notes) doesn’t do the stupid things we all hate – and the humor (once you get past the asides) is sardonic and nicely balanced. The book overall is carefully constructed, though Tchaikovsky could have found a better balance of hints, foreshadowing, etc. Still, at the end, he doesn’t take the easy way out, and while the resolution doesn’t feel quite complete, it’s intriguing and fair. Plus, he introduced me to a word (anagnorisis) that I really should have known, but didn’t.

Overall, after a somewhat rocky start, this was a pleasant surprise – not just for the book itself, but because Tchaikovsky is clearly an author I’ll need to investigate more.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Gary Rendell,astronaut,stuck in a strange object with a vast network of tunnels in space, trying to find his other crew members after being separated. This book flips back and forth to Gary exploring these tunnels to Gary pre-tunnel experience. The humor in this book is excellent! Gary’s experiences eating the local “cuisine” is not to be missed. As he’s going along in the cold, dark tunnels, he becomes lonely and starts talking to an imaginary friend “Toto” or as I felt, he was talking directly to me-the reader. Along his journeys he meets several different type of alien species, some of them are nice and some not. This is my first book by Tchaikovsky and won’t be the last. Excellent writing that kept you interested in what was around the next corner for Gary. And oh, that twisty ending-loved it!
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I had read a couple of this author's books already so I was expecting good things when I took up this one and I was not disappointed. Not by a long shot! It was exceptionally good.

I loved the main character, Gary Rendell from Stevenage, with his snarky, sarcastic comments, his self deprecation and his spoiler alerts. The concept of the tunnels leading to other universes was just brilliant and I enjoyed all the aliens including the Egg people and the Pyramid people. (Gary failed to attend the lecture on the naming of newly discovered aliens)

The sudden twist into horror towards the end of the story is masterful. Then I realised (hindsight is a wonderful thing) what Gary had been telling me from the beginning. So very clever.

A short book but a very, very smart one. Very well done Mr. Tchaikovsky.
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This was a bizarre little novella but highly, highly captivating. Tchaikovsky pulls you right into the Crypts and you feel like you're walking right along side Gary. It's the type of story that I feel like I need to read more then once to pick up all of the things that I missed the first time around. I never expected this to be my first Tchaikovsky piece, but it was a nice introduction and definitely won't be my last.
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Brief disclaimer: I received a copy of this on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Well back reading something else by Adrian so given my love of everything else I have read by him it did seem quite likely that I would enjoy this too and I was certainly not disappointed.

It’s a novella but what it lacks in length it easily makes up in tone and character. Not only does it manage strong worldbuilding for the situation that you find yourself reading about, but the voice of the character is incredible and you cannot help but be gripped by his circumstances and what is going on around him.

The story follows Gary Rendell, an astronaut sent on a mission to investigate a strange alien artefact discovered out on the edges of our solar system. He is separated from the rest of his group and must try and survive on his own as he tries to find them in an environment which changes quite often.

It’s a thrilling read and you get caught up in his trials and tribulations as you slowly work out more about what is going on and how he got to this point. With an unreliable narrator whose mental health has likely taken a beating due to what is happening it means that the story twists and turns, leaving you with a lot of build up and suspense before a wonderfully done ending.

Honestly this was refreshingly original science-fiction, not that I generally expect much less from Adrian and well worth a read. I hope to see it up for some award nominations in the future.Brief disclaimer: I received a copy of this on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Well back reading something else by Adrian so given my love of everything else I have read by him it did seem quite likely that I would enjoy this too and I was certainly not disappointed.

It’s a novella but what it lacks in length it easily makes up in tone and character. Not only does it manage strong worldbuilding for the situation that you find yourself reading about, but the voice of the character is incredible and you cannot help but be gripped by his circumstances and what is going on around him.

The story follows Gary Rendell, an astronaut sent on a mission to investigate a strange alien artefact discovered out on the edges of our solar system. He is separated from the rest of his group and must try and survive on his own as he tries to find them in an environment which changes quite often.

It’s a thrilling read and you get caught up in his trials and tribulations as you slowly work out more about what is going on and how he got to this point. With an unreliable narrator whose mental health has likely taken a beating due to what is happening it means that the story twists and turns, leaving you with a lot of build up and suspense before a wonderfully done ending.

Honestly this was refreshingly original science-fiction, not that I generally expect much less from Adrian and well worth a read. I hope to see it up for some award nominations in the future.

There is some additional material on my blog which does involve spoilers so I have not included it here.
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Great writing in this story of a marooned astronaut (Gary) who may or may not be walking to his death inside an 'artifact' at the edge of space. Gary's self-deprecating tone coupled with his sense of humor made this one very different from any other sci-fi book I've read. It's bleak, cringe-worthy, and puzzling yet it held my interest throughout - mainly due to the personality that comes through in the stream of consciousness narration. Referring to the reader as Toto, Gary, makes the reader feel as if he's part of the story. The past and present timelines flow together smoothly until we eventually come to the ending - which I'd hoped would be different but fits the mood of the book perfectly.
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'Walking to Aldebaran' is a truly dark and creepy tale. A great mash up of science fiction and horror with a lot of humour. I needed a stomach as strong as Gary the astronaut, but it was well worth it to read such an interesting and usual story.
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This novella is my first exposure to Adrian Tchaikovsky's writing, despite another of his books crying on my shelf- begging me to read it. But I actually really enjoyed this story. Science fiction is the love of my life and I can't wait to read everything else this man has ever published!
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I'm not sure I can add anything more to the many reviews, so I'll just say it was very good. The author is a great talent and it's unlikely you'll go wrong with his books. Recommended.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!
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