If I were a teacher, I’d say, “I expected better.” Comparisons are insidious, no doubt, but his book Children of Time was one of my ‘Best Reads’ of 2017, and ‘Walking to Aldebran‘ was quite the little twist of of novella. So rated against himself, he has a lot to live up to, including incredible world-building, interesting characters, and fascinating biology, and this piece just doesn’t get there. Nonetheless, it remains a well-written piece on a youth confronting the harsh realities of his village, and eventually discovering larger truths on the way.
When I first started reading, I had hopes that Tchaikovsky’s fascination with insects was going to play a big role again:
“Over the next few days the hive swelled noticeably, its outsides crawling with the humble wasps we saw every day, that were the tree’s means of sampling and testing its dependents”
but he never really delved into the mechanics of that, except for a couple of throw-away, hand-wavy lines in the end. Too bad! I mean, I wasn’t really hoping for wasps, but I was would have been on board for it.
The writing is solid, and his main character, Handry, believable. He provided an interesting contrast to Koli in The Book of Koli, also a recent buddy read, and who was similarly brought up in a small, isolated village and forced out. The emotional contrast between the two was obvious. Handry was definitely preferable and showed a far more natural emotional progression through the story.
“And yet, if I never asked, I could believe in some notional future cure that would come as soon as I did ask. It was fear of certainty that held me back.”
It’s a quick read, decently done, but with metatext that’s too simplistic for my taste. But by no means am I giving up on Tchaikovsky–this just won’t be the series to continue.
Many thanks to Nataliya for the buddy read and discussion!