An intriguing, weird sci-fi story
My name is Gary Rendell. I’m an astronaut. When they asked me as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “astronaut, please!” I dreamed astronaut, I worked astronaut, I studied astronaut.
I got lucky; when a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud found a strange alien rock and an international team of scientists was put together to go and look at it, I made the draw.
I got even luckier. When disaster hit and our team was split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, I somehow survived.
Now I’m lost, and alone, and scared, and there’s something horrible in here.
Lucky, lucky, lucky.
Walking to Aldebaran is the story of an astronaut lost and alone on an alien artefact. The story is filled with strange goings-on, weird environments and features an engaging, yet unreliable narrator. It’s weird, interesting and amusing. I enjoyed it.
Presented as if Gary is telling his story to the reader (referred to as Toto, for reasons), we slowly learn what has happened and how Gary came to be wandering a bit aimlessly in this alien environment. Far from home, hungry, desperate, and just a little bit mad. You see, Gary appears to have been stuck on this planet (or whatever it is) for quite some time — it’s never entirely clear just how much time. But, being an astronaut has not been quite the experience he expected. “I wanted to go into space. I wanted to set foot on alien worlds. And I have. I’ve done all that. I’ve met aliens, sentient aliens. I’ve seen spaceships. I’ve breathed the venomous air of a planet on the other side of the universe…”
Gary just wasn’t prepared for all the… other stuff he’s gone through. The bad stuff. If he’d known about that, he might have just settled on something far more mundane and less exciting as a career. As a result of all this, “I passed madness some while ago and don’t want to have to retrace my steps.” Gary’s recollections, therefore, are a little fractured, unreliable, and at times not-so-easy to interpret. It all adds up to an intriguing trip through a landscape and situation that would likely make most people a little nuts.
Overall, Walking to Aldebaran is an interesting, amusing and rather peculiar short novel. At times, it is a little unsettling and creepy. I’m still not entirely sure I know what happened, but I think that’s partly the point. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and Tchaikovsky shows us yet again how versatile are his writing and storytelling. His prose is engaging and his imagination produces some fascinating inventions and situations.
If you’re a fan of Tchaikovsky’s work, then I think you will welcome having more of his fiction to read. Recommended.
Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing: Writing Guns of the Dawn”, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places: Fantasy and Religion”, and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire of Black and Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight and Ironclads