(A much shorter review than usual, since I have broken my left elbow and am typing with one hand in a cast.)
Not a particularly original story or even mash-up of tropes. Walking to Aldebaran piggy-backs on that time-honoured sub-genre of Big Dumb Object stories. Lots of cool ideas and set pieces from Adrian Tchaikovsky, but very little that is surprising or truly interesting above and beyond the skill of the writing style itself. Thanks to NetGalley and Rebellion for the eARC.
Gary Rendell is your average everyman sci-fi protagonist: British, presumably white, with just the required amount of snark for a stranded astronaut. (Comparisons to The Martian are inevitable, I suppose; I see the similarities, especially in the characterization of the protagonists, but the stories themselves diverge markedly in plot.) This is one of my major points of criticism: I’m just bored of stories about smart, snarky white guys abandoned on alien worlds/alien devices/whatever. I liked it in Farscape (and at least he had companions). But we’ve seen this story so many times before. What, exactly, is new here?
The setting is … fine. Arguably this is a science-fiction horror novella, because the setting and plot are both creepy and existentially threatening. I do enjoy mind-twisty reminders that aliens and their designs would probably be so different from ours—so alien—as to be unfathomable. This is where I point out that I’m not criticizing Tchaikovsky’s skill as a writer or even his imagination.
Similarly, the twist is executed fine but not all that surprising and, again, not all that original. Seen it before.
It just seems like Walking to Aldebaran is one of those stories that got written because the author had the story in his head. That’s fine. Just because a story is worth writing, however, doesn’t automatically imply that it’s worth reading though. You can enjoy this story for its execution, but overall I just didn’t find it very stimulating.