I read it recently, maybe 2021 or later. It had been written recently.

The astronaut landed on the structure in our solar system. He landed with a team but for most of the novel he is exploring alone.

The struture is vast and contains a huge network of caves and tunnels. Near where he first enters it, there is a partly constructed red alien spaceship. No aliens are in it. Inside the network of caves and tunnels he encounters very many different alien species.Some sentient, some not. Often he is unsure. Most seem to have been living there for generations.

At one point he teams up with a group of obviously intelligent creatures much smaller than him. He cannot understand their language. He protects them when they are attacked. He joins in a ceremony when they mourn one of their number who has died. They start to enter a place he cannot follow. When they realise he cannot come with them there is a sad farewell ritual.

He eats some of the alien animals. He has to eat and at first hopes he isn't eating any intelligent people. Later he eats obviously intelligent dwarves that attacked him and had language. He thinks he might as well eat them now they are dead. The meat is much easier for him to digest than most aliens, close to his own biochemistry. Amongst the dwarves' posessions he finds supplies from his expedition with labels in English. He wonders if they killed humans for them or traded for them.

The environment seems to be artificial and every so often there will be changes in the size and the direction of the gravitational field and the composition of the atmosphere. Sometimes be temporarily enters an environment in which he cannot breathe and has to quickly go back through to where he can live. Many of the environments are unpleasant for him but not deadly.

The tunnels sometimes exit onto obviously alien planets in far solar systems. He explores one for a while. He is lost and does not think he will ever get home.

The dwarves who attacked him, because he had been killing members of their species, were humans from his expedition! Some transformation made him grow to twice his size and hear human speech as incomprehensible squeaking.

1 Answer 1


This is the novella Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

You have described the story so well there is little to add. The alien structure that the team are exploring has changed the protagonist's physiology to allow him to survive, but in the process it turned him into a monster who attacks his team mates.

The changes have made the protagonist slightly telepathic and he experiences the thoughts of his team as a painful noise. He attacks them out of fury and to stop the noise.

In the end he is wounded while attempting to kill a group of humans and he slinks off into the tunnels to die.

If I am allowed an editorial comment it would be that I think Adrian Tchaikovsky is a master of the novella form, and I strongly recommend this and all his other novellas (novellae?) to all SFF fans.

  • 1
    One wonders if Adrian is a descendant of Pyotr Ilyich. For many of us in the West, he's the only Tchaikovsky we've heard of...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 15 at 12:50
  • 4
    @FreeMan As far as I know there is no relation. The composer was Russian. Adrian is British from Polish descend. Tchaikovsky (in various variants of spelling) is a fairly common surname in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
    – Tonny
    Apr 15 at 14:21
  • Regarding the plural form, while "novellae" would be the correct Latin form, it seems to be only accepted in English in regards to novel commentaries. The simpler "novellas" is considered proper English for the plural of "novella", but if you want to use more flowery language, you can also use "novelle". - merriam-webster.com/dictionary/novella
    – yoniLavi
    Apr 15 at 23:56
  • 1
    @JudithJones Apparently formulas may have overtaken formulae at the start of the 20th century.
    – Henry
    Apr 16 at 7:47
  • 1
    Another physicist! There are a lot of us hanging around here :-) Apr 16 at 12:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.