Cover Image: Walking to Aldebaran

Walking to Aldebaran

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How is it possible to not finish a short story/novella? The first person narrative format was just too boring. The lost astronaut's contemplative meandering just could not hold my interest.
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I'm not often a sci-fi guy and haven't read any for a while but I'm really glad I ended my 'sci-fast' with this delicious, darkly-fun novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

The story concerns a mission to a mysterious planet-sized artefact, called The Crypts, that has been discovered near Pluto. Of course, said mission turns out to be a bad idea...leaving us following the experiences of a sole English astronaut, Gary Rendell, who is lost in the mind-bending, physics-devouring. alien-inhabited world of The Crypts.

Saying much more on the plot would spoil things but Gary has all manner of strange experiences on his journey, and narrates it all in a wonderfully sarcastic manner.

This is sci-fi with humour, mystery, tension, horror and big ideas. I enjoyed it a lot!
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I really enjoyed most of this book.

Adrian Tchaikovsky has told a fascinating tale of space exploration, which, for the most part, left me compelled and frequently claustrophobic. The intertwined narratives of the lead up to the mission and astronaut, Gary's, current predicament dove-tailed nicely. 

But then, the ending. I couldn't spoil this if I tried, because honestly, I have no idea what happened. I was probably a bit too sleepy when I finished this book off, so I do acknowledge that my total lack of understanding is likely to be at least partially my fault. Don't read tired kids. Despite this, I don't think the conclusion greatly impacted on my enjoyment of the rest of the book. The mood which the text created didn't really need a massive climax (or, whatever happened) and I could have just continue reading happily about Gary's exploration of the unknown.
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A light humored story about an adventure of first contact. Kind of messed up in places and gets creepier as the story goes on. I loved it.
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I was not sure what to expect of this, but found it remarkably engaging. The protagonist being from the UK definitely helped, as the character's dark humour emerged. The ending, and indeed the latter part of the book did become bleaker and darker, but I still found this an enjoyable book. And a fellow Leodensian too !

If you fancy something quite dark, a bit quirky and different, give this a go.
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I had to think about this one for a while to be sure of what I wanted to say about it. Even to be sure what I think about it. It hit me with quite a punch, so it was effective in provoking a reaction, but did I like it? And more importantly, do I recommend it?
The short answer is yes, although this novella wasn’t at all what I was expecting from Tchaikovsky this time around. Here’s the long answer.

This is the story, told in the first person, of astronaut Gary Rendell, a member of an international expedition sent to explore a giant, possibly alien artefact that has been discovered out beyond Pluto. And then something happens. Gary is left trapped and alone inside the artefact, walking through endless tunnels, trying to survive and maybe, just possibly, find his way back home. 

One of Tchaikovsky’s strengths is his ability to get inside the head of a character and show you things from their point of view. He’s done this incredibly successfully with protagonists as diverse as sentient spiders (Children of Time) and a genetically engineered bio form that thinks of itself as a Good Dog (Dogs of War). In each case, the “voice” was distinctive and different. He’s done it again with human astronaut Gary. From the first line of the story, I felt I knew this character:

"Today I found something I could eat and something I could burn to keep back the darkness. That makes today a good day."

The voice is reminiscent of Andy Weir’s The Martian, colloquial and wisecracking but with a darker edge.
The narrative swings between the present (walking through the tunnels) and the past (the expedition and what happened when they arrived) but unlike many dual narratives, it is perfectly balanced between the two, present action alternating with exposition in a way that is never boring but gradually ratchets up the tension. 
It’s a fast read and a compelling one, with little stops along the way for a bit of reflection and philosophy, a bit of deeper meaning:

"I feel like, in coming out here, we’re bleeding our culture, the humanness of us, out into the void."

But they don’t last long, and within a few lines, the light, humorous tone is back:

"I’d eat humble pie with every conspiracy theorist in the world if they’d only lend me one of their tinfoil hats right now."

Gary meets all kinds of creatures in the tunnels and there is plenty of danger, gore and even horror, but it’s all kind of playful, darkly funny, not too serious. And then, suddenly, the whole tone changes and real horror descends. I won’t say any more, but I actually had to stop reading for a moment because it was such a shock. Tchaikovsky knows how to pack a wallop, as Gary himself might say.

This novella is beautifully judged in length, tone and pacing, with a superb ending. A worthy addition to Tchaikovsky’s body of science fiction. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.


A digital A.R.C. of this novel was supplied to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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A novella by award winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky, Walking to Aldebaran is the journey of Gary Rendell, astronaut, through the depths and horrors of the Crypts.

The Crypts are aeromes that lie within the entrances to the Artefact (or ‘Frog God’), a black-hole type planetary object beyond Pluto, to which Gary and a party of fellow astronauts have travelled.

Needless to say things aren’t all plain sailing, and a number of encounters with both amiable and disturbing creatures occur, separating the crew.

I enjoyed this quick read – a rare foray into mainstream sci-fi for me.
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I've heard nothing but good things about Tchaikovsky. It was a good book, couldn't really put it down after the first third of it. It's really easy to read, the pace is great, it's also funny and chilling. I had a really good time reading it so I ended up rounding to 4 stars.

An astronaut, Gary Rendell, is part of the team in charge of exploring the Crypts, a.k.a the Artefact, a.k.a. the Frog God, an alien structure found past Pluto. The story is told from Gary's point of view using two different timelines which loosely converge at some point. It's a story about hope and human nature, but it's also a story about losing what makes us human.
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Out at the edge of our galaxy, a Big Dumb Object appears. Astronaut Gary Rendell joins a team tasked with going out and attempting to make contact. Things go sideways, and we're left with Gary's first-person account of what he's experiencing in the Crypt, as it comes to be known. The combination of being cut off from his fellow crew members, wandering around this artifact, and having a lack of food, means Gary's not the most reliable of narrators. We're just Toto, along for this wild ride. 

I won't spoil any of it, because in this novella, the joy is in the journey--and this journey kept me riveted. In fact, I had to portion out my reading because I oddly felt that I was plowing through it too quickly. Tchaikovsky continues his streak of impressing the heck out of me. Every science fiction and fantasy fan should be reading his stuff.
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Enjoyed trying this book. I am not a usual SciFi fan so this was somewhat a departure for me.

Took awhile in getting into the book with some backwards and forwards which modern writers like to do these days. Has wry humour sometimes black but it did break up the strange content.

The story concerns an English Astronaut, who pilots a ship from a mother ship, on a expedition to investigate a far flung anomaly . They encounter a strange made huge rock device of which no one knew of its purpose. They enter the rock through an entrance which leads into a "Crypt". 

The story is about this Astronaut and his journey in which he encounters different aliens .

A fairly short book which keeps you engrossed in the tale. The outcome becomes clear fairly early on but doesn't spoil the end.
Enjoyed the change for me but not sure I would want to read any more too much like this.
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Gary Rendell, an astronaut, and his team explore the Crypts, a nickname for an unknown alien structure floating past Pluto. 

Initially the novella was super hard to get into as I was thoroughly confused. The novella starts to make more sense, even with the flashbacks. The plot was good with the description of the Crypts and other alien lifeforms being my favorite. I loved being able to picture the new and strange aliens. 

Gary was alright as a character. I liked reading about his descend into loneliness and lunacy. His inner monologues were interesting as it helped explained his thought process and the rational behind each decision. 

The writing style was unique and entertaining once you got used to it. I'm not used to words randomly repeating to make a bigger emphasis on a point. 

The ending wasn't great as I was initially confused about what happened and why. Once I pondered it I started to understand it but that also means I didn't like it. Although I wasn't expecting a happy ending for Gary I was hoping for more. 

In summary it was a good sci-fi novella and I would strongly suggest it to Tchaikovsky fans or fans of alien first contact novels. My favorite novel by Tchaikovsky is [book:Ironclads|34466691] (I loved it). 

Thank you to Netgalley for this ARC.
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A short, sharp hit of mindbending sci-fi of the best strain. Redolent of 2001, this book is a straightforward take on the 'artefact found in space' subgenre which is made all the more compelling by the dry humour of the narrator.

Although heady metaphysics are discussed the writing reminded me of 'The Martian' in that its written in a chummy, familiar way which draws the reader into the world.

A quick but brilliant read and a definite primer for Tchaikovsky's writing.

Thoroughly recommended.
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Adrian Tchaikovsky is not a stranger to science fiction, or SFF in general. His Shadows of Apt series left quite the impression on the fantasy scene, and his Children of Time is a modern classic of the space opera. A sequel, named Children of Ruin is coming out later this year.

Which brings us to Walking to Aldebaran. This is a stand-alone novella with a very interesting structure, following a first-person narration of an astronaut named Gary Rendell. He is a member of an expedition that was sent to investigate The Crypts, an inter-dimensional gateway, and Artifact with capital “A” where our protagonist roams and encounters other lifeforms and bizarre architecture. The narrative shifts between his time there, and flashbacks about his crew and the world at large.

"We all live in the corpses of each others’ expeditions here."

A line that resonated with me heavily, and stayed with me through the entire book. The Crypts are as much as a never ending, ever-hungry maw that swallows every explorer, just like Gary who feeds on the carcasses of dead alien explorers who perished inside them. His psyche becomes fractured, but oddly lucid at the same time, with introspective observations about the nature of solitude and isolation. 

Verdict

This is a very contemplative work of fiction, and to go into details would serve no purpose. Let me quote a passage which contains a wonderful example of author’s prose instead:

"The patterns flowed irresistibly downwards, having a definite direction, for all that they had no beginning or end. They rolled in from every wall in that octagonal room and converged in the centre of the floor, where rested a flower. Well, not a flower, not really. A rosette of stone, a design of radial symmetry like petals folded in upon themselves over and over at every scale from larger than me to smaller than I could see, fractalling into infinity."

I loved every minute of it, and if you, dear reader, find yourself searching for a very deliberate and tense work of fiction, I very much recommend it.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this from Rebellion Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Big thanks to them!
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I read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2019 stand-alone novella “Walking to Aldebaran” in kindle ebook, which I received from Solaris Books through netgalley.com, in exchange for publishing an honest review on social media platforms and on my book review blog. The novella's publication date is expected to be 28 May 2019.  Adrian Tchaikovsky is the pen-name of British writer Adrian Czajkowski, previously known for his Shadows of the Apt series (which I have not read), and his award-winning Children of Time (which I have read and rated highly).  Note that the work is in British English, and I may change a spelling here and there in my American English comments.

The story is told in first-person by astronaut Gary Rendell, lost and endlessly wandering the passages of a big alien artifact in the Oort Cloud beyond Pluto.  Chapters alternate between two plot lines.  The first concerns his exploration of and survival in “the Crypts.”  There are the occasional truly alien Aliens with whom he struggles to understand and communicate, or at least co-exist.  He forms some theories about the trans-dimensional nature of the artifact, that point towards its purpose.  As the only character, the reader has no real choice but to identify with Gary, in a situation that initially draws a comparison to Mark Watney of The Martian.  The second plot is the backstory of the international mission of which he is a part.  His mysterious current situation can be understood only through his recollection of events from the backstory.  One of the strengths of the story unfortunately cannot be told without spoiler. That twist reminded of the great science fiction writer Gene Wolfe.

In my mind, novella was the perfect length for this, and it is getting my top recommendation.
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I haven't read anything by the author before, but after this book he will be the author to follow. I really liked the book starting with the language. It was sometimes difficult because of unknown words, but after looking them up they are so precise and rich in meaning that I appreciate them even more. The author's imagination is so great, mostly concerning the different creatures. I also liked the main character, was struggling and suffering with him and wished him luck. The ending was suprising, but because of it I appreciate and like the book even more.
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I have no idea how to review this without spoilers.

I was riveted.

I'll re-read it.

Any comparisons may well turn out to be spoilers, so I hesitate to say what this book reminds me of. For those that want an atmospheric idea from other books: (view spoiler: I'd say "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Plath crossed with "The Martian" crossed with "Leviathan." It also reminded me of "The Luminous Dead." ). But I will note that while Tchaikovsky might have been inspired by Mark Watney from "The Martian," he went in entirely different directions.


'Aldebaran' is a red star. The name is Arabic and means 'follower,'because it seems to follow the Pleides. Interesting choice, although like others, my reading eye slurred it to 'Alderaan' of Princess Leia's time.

For those that read it, I'd be interested to discuss (view spoiler)

Four and a half aliens, strictly because it doesn't quite suit my must-own requirements.
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I absolutely loved this novella from the moment I picked it up to the moment I put it down.  It starts out very light.  The protagonist is a funny guy.  He's lost on an alien artifact humans have been calling "the Crypts."

The story is told in two timelines, present and past.  The past timeline outlines how he came to be lost in the Crypts and tells us a little about the state of the world before he left earth.  In the present, he's wandering the Crypts encountering all manner of alien life.

The writing was very good.  I enjoyed the stream of consciousness style here, and that isn't always my thing.  Tchaikovsky employed it very well.  This was a context in which it made sense, and it was easy to follow. Another note about the writing, the present timeline is written in present tense.  I know for some readers that can be an issue, but I enjoyed it and thought it brought an added level of excitement to the story.

The pace, initially, is ambling.  There are a few exciting things happening, but what drew me in was the humor.  Gary Rendell is just a guy you want to hang out with.  There are some definite elements of horror, but they were balanced well with the humor.   As we near the end the tone becomes darker and darker.  Nothing is what it seems.

I have a feeling some of the science in this science fiction has no foundation in reality (disclaimer, I know nothing about physics), but there were several fun little nods to biology.  Rendell comments on the way the various aliens are formed and how and why they might have developed that way and I thought it was a nice way to flesh out the MC.  There were also a few nods to human psychology, and those passages were some of my favorites.

Overall I thought it was inventive and creative.   I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy elements of horror with their science fiction or fans of Tchaikovsky's other work.

Thank you to Netgalley and Solaris for providing me with an eARC to review.
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After having read, and loved, Children of Time by the author, I was quite interested by reading more of him, and this novella was nicely timely!

The story, the tone, the context were quite different from the big and serious "Children of Time", which didn't surprised me: a novella is a very interesting format to show an author personality and range of writing capacities. "Walking to Aldebaran", a short story, a creepy tale, with a mystery hidden in plain sight, is one perfect example. It's main characteristic and appeal is its tone, a dry desperate one, as the hero progress in the nightmarish maze name the crypts and speaks to an imaginary friend, Toto (like the dog in "The magician of Oz"). If the story isn't funny at all, the way it's told is absolutely delicious!

The narrative is cleverly woven, going back and forth from the present to the past in a very comfortable fashion - no effort and no frustration either for the reader. There are some references, apt to speak to the modern reader; even if there aren't quite credible for the narrator, living in a distant futur, this kind of bending is quite acceptable for our reading pleasure!

The atmosphere is downright horrific. It reminded me, for its mix of dread, disgusting-revolting-but-rather-fun facts, its practical and bizarre atmosphere, the Peggy Sue's books by Serge Brussolo that I used to read when my oldest daughter was a child and a fan (yes, there are children books, the kind of weird and horrific stories some children crave!).

The end was good, and quite unpredictable until the last pages - even if, retrospectively, many hints were given. Still, I was a bit dissatisfied, as I'd have liked some points cleared up. An epilogue, from the other humans point of view for instance, would have been nice.

To conclude a very good story, funny and horrifying in the same time, riveting from the very beginning till the end!
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A humorous first person narrative from an astronaut struggling to survive off world? So far, so "Martian". Unfortunately this odd little book isn't in the same league. We're not on any recognizable planet but an alien gateway artefact. The jokey tone grates as the story grows darker and the book ends so abruptly I had to check I hadn't missed another chapter.

I'm grateful to Netgalley for the free advance ebook and note this was produced by Rebellion publishing who do such great work with "2000AD", the terrific British sci fi comic. I'm sorry I can't be more positive as I enjoyed this author's novel "Children of Time". This just felt like a story that ran out of steam/ideas and I'm glad I didn't spend any of my Earth money on it - sorry!
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Walking to Aldebaran is a stand-alone novella starring astronaut Gary Rendell, a member of an international expedition team sent to explore an alien artifact that suddenly appeared out beyond Pluto. We follow Gary as he wanders the halls and corridors of the artifact (which he calls the Crypts), intermixed with flashbacks to the strange events that led him there. To say any more about the plot . . . well, that'd be a pretty honking big spoiler.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of those incredibly prolific writers who somehow manages to be incapable of writing a bad book. I've long thought of him as the male Seanan McGuire, and this installment just reinforces that impression. His prose sucks you in, and when you're finished, you flip around to find the next installment (and get kind of cranky when there isn't one!) I really loved the overall aura of the setting: it comes across as this sort of bizarre hiking story---like being on some Lovecraftian version of the Appalachian Trail, with fellow hikers you do and definitely *don't* want to meet. 

And let's just say, it's definitely the sort of book you'll want to re-read.

Highly recommended.

A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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