Monday, September 23, 2019

Review: Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Walking to Aldebaran
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 140
ISBN: 9781781087060
Publisher: Solaris
Published: 28 May 2019
Genre: Science Fiction / Novella
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Rebellion Store


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 exploring 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 me.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Walking to Aldebaran is a dark, twisting novella which manages to take unreliable narration to the next level. The narrative voice of the protagonist, Gary Rendell, is distinctive and compelling as he alternates between recounting the history of his expedition and his current, seemingly unending journey, lost and alone inside the maze of the alien artifact he came to study. He starts out as having a sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humour, but as the story progresses it deteriorates into something much darker.
“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.”

“And I still have the food bar. I eat the rest of it, enjoying nutrition that my microbiome doesn’t have to dismantle with the care of a bomb disposal technician.”

“I awoke, no less lost or alone, and knew the choice wasn’t move or die at all. It was move or stay still, and either menu option came with a side order of die.”
Walking to Aldebaran takes some very unexpected twists and turns. You never quite know what to expect and it’s only in later contemplation that you manage to glimpse everything that’s really in play - a decline into madness, something truly alien, a deftly executed literary allusion or all of the above? Wonderfully weird, this story will have you puzzling over it long after the last page has been turned.

The Rating: 7.5 (Very Good)

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