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To Fall Down At Your Door

Walking to Aldebaran

By Adrian Tchaikovsky 

3 Jun, 2019

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck


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Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Walking to Aldebaran is a standalone science fiction novella. 

Lucky Gary Rendell has realized his childhood dream of being an astronaut! Even better, what was thought to be Planet Nine has turned out to be an enigmatic alien artifact and Gary has been assigned to the joint mission dispatched to examine the massive structure. 

Marvels wait inside. 

The artifact, which Gary has nicknamed the Crypt, offers access to distant stars — but not quite the way any SF fan would expect. There are tunnels; one must walk through the tunnels. Powered transportation doesn’t work. It’s not as if explorers have to slog the full distance; the tunnels are shorter than realspace. But it still takes a fair bit of time to walk to Aldebaran. Even though time is an odd thing within the Crypt. 

The builders of the enigmatic Crypt have provided life support: there is air and water. Often the air is breathable by humans. But there’s a catch. The Crypt has been in existence long enough that complex ecosystems have evolved. A significant fraction of such systems host apex predators eager to snack on the unwary explorers making their first foray into the Crypt. 

Gary survives the first contact with the Crypt’s inhabitants but is cut off from the sole other survivor. His flight from danger has led him deeper into the uncharted labyrinth. Hopelessly lost, Gary has no choice but march through endless stygian corridors in the hope that if he lasts long enough, he might be lucky enough to find his way home. 


It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out which famous Anglo-Saxon epic inspired this novella. Having thrown out that teaser, I will refrain from further spoilers. 

Poor Gary spends a lot of time alone in the tunnels. He grows increasingly unstable and even delusional. He might have held onto some tenuous sanity if he had been able to talk to someone, anyone. He has encountered some intelligent aliens, but inter-species communication has proved difficult or impossible. 

Tchaikovsky could have told his story from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. Instead, the entire tale is told from Gary’s cheerfully deranged perspective: how he ended wandering a lightless alien realm and how his encounters with other tunnel inhabitants have unfolded (often but not always violently). 

You’d think that this would be bound to end as unhappily as Tiptree’s The Man Who Walked Home.” But Gary’s a lucky fellow whose life has been straight out of his wildest dreams, so perhaps he will be fortunate. 

Walking to Aldebaran is available here (Amazon), here (Amazon.ca) and here (Chapters-Indigo). Just out! Enjoy!