WALKING TO ALDEBARAN: portrait of the SF reader as astro-ambulist

The universe is a machine to make gods“. Henri Bergson, The two sources of morality and religion.

WALKING TO ALDEBARAN by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a short “trans-genre” novel: the narrative framework is science fiction, but the novella contains many elements of fantasy and horror. It’s an enjoyable and interesting read, and the Audible audiobook narration, by Adrian Tchaikovsky himself, is a very good.

At the level of the enunciated content the events told are serious, mysterious, and tragic – but the enunciation (which takes the point of view of the narrator Gary Rendell), in spite of its pathos, is often affected with a comic tone.

There are so many explicit and implicit allusions to other stories of SF / Fantasy / Horror that one could almost call the book “fan fiction”. But all SF is fan fiction, a vast “mega-text” or meta-conversation, where authors are influenced by, borrow, steal, respond to, critique, and transform elements of previous texts.

The Earth sends astronauts on a spacecraft called the Quixote to board and explore a vast object with paradoxical properties, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune, in the Kuiper Belt of our solar system. The normal laws of physics do not seem to be respected outside this object, and even less inside.

We can think of Tarkovsky’s science fiction masterpiece STALKER as an initial reference, especially since the interior of the object turns out to be a labyrinth with at the “center” a room where there is a Machine that can grant you your deepest wish. Of course, we can not control the way the wishes are granted, and the result can be unexpected, a mixed blessing.

The combining of genres attempted by Tchaikovsky is very successful. Far from creating a disparate mixture, it shows the underlying unity of the encompassing mega-text of SFF, for example the cosmic inspiration common to both H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke.

The god-making machine can produce a messiah or a monster, or something in between. At the end of Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey we do not know what the stellar child will do with the humans who inhabit the Earth. Messiah or Monster?

The reader walks through the labyrinth of texts of SFF at their own risk. They can just as easily be transformed into a friendly telepath (“Fans are slans”) as into a sociopathic geek (Beowulfian monster). Or into both: an astro-ambulist.

To go further in the labyrinth of the blogosphere (in French):

Walking to Aldebaran – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran – Adrian Tchaikovsky

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