This title is not available in your country

We’re working with the publisher to make it available as soon as possible.

Request Title

Editor’s Note

“Stalker's Inspiration…”

Strange & haunting, this Soviet Sci-Fi classic about the aftermath of an alien visit presents a smart & cynical view of the limits of human understanding.
Scribd Editor

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a “full empty,” something goes wrong. And the news he gets from his girlfriend upon his return makes it inevitable that he’ll keep going back to the Zone, again and again, until he finds the answer to all his problems.

 

First published in 1972, Roadside Picnic is still widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years. This authoritative new translation corrects many errors and omissions and has been supplemented with a foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin and a new afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the strange history of the novel’s publication in Russia.

Topics: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction, Ominous, Tense, Philosophical, Made into a Movie, 20th Century, and Russian Author

Published: Chicago Review Press an imprint of Independent Publishers Group on
ISBN: 9781613743447
List price: $12.99
Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
Availability for Roadside Picnic
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
BrilliantI’ve been aware of this book for a long time, it spawned both a celebrated film (Stalker) and computer game (Stalker) and is a classic of soviet era SF. The world has a number of sites that are part of “The Visit” where aliens have been to Earth and have left behind mysterious artefacts in “The Zone”. The book opens with a scientific explanation of the distribution of these Znes and then follows Red who is a “Stalker”, a treasure hunter who goes into the Zone to retrieve artefacts. This is a first contact story but one that is utterly strange and wonderful. There are lots of theories, expounded by various characters in the novel, but no hard telling of “this is what’s happening” and the mystery and utter alien-ness of the Visit is what is brilliantly portrayed here as well as following some of the characters over more than 10 years as the Zone is explored. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is also very memorable and stunning. This edition has an introduction by Ursula Le Guin (don’t read this before reading the book!! – why can’t people write introductions with the assumption that you’ve not read the book and don’t want spoilers, luckily once it started talking about the plot I skipped and came back after I read the book) and a brilliant afterword by Boris Strugatsky about the difficulties they had getting it published and Soviet censorship.Overall – Highly recommended for lovers of SF and the weirdmore
For me, this book is not about who the visitors where, what they wanted and what they left behind. It is about human nature as seen by the response of people to this unique event and its consequences. It is about a small city where everyone is trying to get at everyone. Stealing, lying, double-crossing, killing for money and for survival. Even the most honest or innocent end up entangled in this mess.

I read Stanislav Lem's review about the book and I frankly believe his criticisms were unfair. I don't see a problem with the possibility that the visitors were benevolent and the whole thing was an accident. The point is that we, just like the people in the book, don't know, can't know and in the end it doesn't matter. The possibility that they didn't even notice us is enough. I also don't see the turn to fairy tale towards the end of the book. The Golden Globe had become a legend for the people in the book, but there is no reason to think that there is something special about it. In fact, the person that first found it doesn't seem to have any of his wishes fulfilled and when Red finally sees it he notices that it looks quite ordinary, another piece of visitor junk.more
A classic with a new translation, forward and afterword, easily accessible after many years. Roadside Picnic may have difficulty living up to its reputation, however the book remains compelling, and it's not a demanding read. Aliens stopped over on Earth and left just as suddenly. They left "zones" behind, filled with odd technology humans are trying to puzzle out. Red is a "stalker", someone who illegally sneaks into the zone and smuggles tech out - if they don't die in the process. Roadside Picnic is not a big book, and - though a lot are retrofitted onto it - it's not a novel of big ideas and themes. Compared to other authors writing at the same time, it's more minor Philip K. Dick than Ursula K. LeGuin, but this is not to say it's a bad book. Much like Dick's work, un-knowing forms a large part of the book. Not only the alien tech, but what the other humans are feeling, thinking, why they act the way they do. Red's quest is a quest for meaning, really, and the book traces his - and humanity's - progress over more than a decade. Knowing its fraught publication history in the Soviet Union, it's tempting - and easy - to see cold war metaphors, totalitarian metaphors, capitalism/communism metaphors, and more on every page. And perhaps they were put there subliminally - though the remaining living Strugatsky denies it in the afterword. This gave me a somewhat weird feeling reading it - it's a rich text, but I was aware that I was projecting a lot onto it, and just try to appreciate it for what it is. The translation certainly felt unobtrusive to me - I cannot comment on its accuracy, but the prose was utilitarian and seemed surprisingly similar to other, Western scifi from the age to me. This review may sound a bit deflated. I suppose it is, in that the book has the reputation of a titan, and simply: it is not a titan. But what it actually is, is a fine enough book with a great setting that's rendered creatively, moves along quickly, and is not overlong. That was enough for me in the end.more
Russian literature is an interesting thing for an American like me to read. There are some things that are universal no matter where you live, but at the same time, there are certain things you take for granted which are fundamentally different in other countries, including Russia. It’s not to say that we as Americans are greater or more privileged or anything, but rather that people from different countries can see things is a completely different way than in America (or between any two countries or cultures, for that matter). This is why I find it particularly interesting to read Russian literature. I get a view of a world that is the same, but totally different than my own.It is with great curiosity that I started reading Roadside Picnic, a classic Russian sci-fi book I had never even heard of until it was sitting in my inbox. Within this brand new English translation, the Brothers Strugatsky have concocted an unusual not-too-distant future. Aliens visited Earth some time ago, and the places where they had their eponymous diversions exhibit all manner of unusual properties, most of which are completely fatal to the humans who are brave, or stupid, enough to venture in to collect some highly demanded alien artifacts.This world is my world, but fundamentally different than any world I’ve ever know. And while the prose is sparse, providing more action than description, this kinetic painting makes a particularly vivid visual image.After having read this book, I still am not sure what had fully happened, and what’s going to happen next, but what did happen within the book was a story worth reading.To risk generalization, Russian literature, especially the kind from the same era as this book, has struck me as bleak, almost without hope, but not quite fully. Stoic and straight-faced, but with the tiniest hint of a smirk when nobody’s looking. It’s prose like this that both render the story completely familiar and simultaneously completely alien to a reader like me, a mixture that is ideal for any science fiction story.I recommend this book for all fans of Soviet science fiction, as well as fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi.more
Sometime in the future, aliens have left scattered artifacts around. The Zones, or alien areas, are full of strange phenomena and mysterious objects. Stalkers illegally venture into the zone area and collect, and sell, these mysterious artifacts.This is a republication of a science fiction novel published in 1972. I am not a huge sci-fi fan, but I found this book hard to put down. It has an interesting plot line, moves swiftly and the characters are fascinating. Overall, I highly recommend this classic.more
It was 1981 or 82 when I read a review in the New York Times movie section about this Russian film that was made a couple of years before and was then showing in Manhattan (probably the Carnigie Cinema). It was made by Tarkovsky and the film critic almost panned the film, "Stalker". She described it as an overly long 'walking' movie whereby the characters do little else but walk from one place and one scene to the next.The reviewer did present some of the story-line and it sounded pretty interesting to me. I had already seen Solaris and Andrei Rubelev and found both films to be quite memorable.If STALKER was made by Tarkovsky how bad could it possibly be. I never got to see the film until years later but that review stuck inside my head. Then, a couple of years later I was in a bookstore and happened upon Roadside Picnic. After reading the description on the back cover and then about twenty or so pages in I realized this was the movie I had read about. I really love this book; such a subtle "first contact" tale that retains its mystery. I eventually saw the film as well and include it in my favorites of all time. Then again, if a really good filmmaker wanted to make a closer rendition of the book I'd be all for that as well.more
Aliens have come and gone. They landed, ignored us humans, and soon left. But where they landed, these Zones, they left artifacts behind, dangerous artifacts. Dangerous, because humans really have no idea what they actually do. But the humans, always curious, need these artifacts, to study and use. In the beginning of this book, Red is trying to work honestly, with the government, collecting these items. He has his past as a stalker, a person who illegally enters the Zone in search of artifacts to sell on the black market. He's trying honest work. But after a tragic run into the Zone and a family to feed, Red returns to his old ways. I thought the majority of this book would take place within the Zone - Red making his way, avoiding danger, and picking up left over alien artifacts. But the majority of this book takes place outside of the Zone between Red's ventures into the Zone. We get to see how the Zone affects Red, his family, and those in town around him. It's amazing and depressing to see how much this zone affects the environment and people around it - mentally and physically. We mostly see this world by way of Red, though we get another character's point of view half way through for a bit before going back to Red. Red's a hard man, which is understandable. Stalkers have to have a certain mind set. Red has what seems like a magical ability to know exactly how to navigate within the Zone. He has this fabulous Zone intuition - step there, crawl here, don't, for the love of god, touch that. It's how he survives.The ending is abrupt and may be unsatisfying for some. I have mixed feelings. There's a build up that really pulled me in, so for it to suddenly end, it was a bit unsettling. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the perfect place for the story to end. What Red is about to do, it fits that we would not get to see that.ARC provided through NetGalley.more
I was thinking about watching Tarkovsky's "Stalker", a movie take-off of "Roadside Picnic". However, I didn't much care for his version of Lem's great book "Solaris" and thought the Strugatskys' story might be a bit less turgid. It was surprisingly down to earth, at least as much as a story about discarded extraterrestrial artifacts can be. It's similar to Solaris in that the alien aspect provides a window on humanity. The translation from the Russian is very idiomatic. Well done.more
Out of print in the US, I waited for two months for this book to come in from GB. Gripping novel but it ultimately falls apart at the end. Authors had a point, but I have no idea what it was. I will watch the Tarkovsky version now.more
What a wonderful little book this is, one of the few written in the 70s that has not aged a bit. Here aliens visited the earth for a mere moment at some point, leaving behind a contaminated no-go area, full of mysterious artefacts and technological rubbish. "Stalkers" venture illegally into the "Zone" to gather as many of those objects as possible without becoming contaminated and die and of course sell them to the highest bidder. Red is one of those and for some years of his life we accompany him as he tries to make money for himself and his family. The story is sparse and slowly told but the rest, the time, landscape, social situation, environment, emotions are all told fascinatingly detailed. We will never find out what it is exactly the alien visitors left behind, but that is not what the book is about anyway. Red lives in this world and in his own way tries to work against the Dystopian society with a strong wish to make this world a better one, which, in the end, he just might.A fascinating story, written beautifully, at the same time sparse, controlled and rich in detail and full of emotions. Wonderful book.more
what an astonishingly strange, beautiful and powerful little book this is. i've seen "stalker" many times, but hadn't prepared myself for quite how different - and diifferently good - the book would be. whereas the film is almost obsessivey about space and time stillness, the book almost has a discernibe plot, whilst also having the same sort of haunting "absence" that the film does at it's best. like the film i know it won't be to everyone's taste, but if you're willing to venture carefully the rewards are many and varied. very good indeedmore
A thoughtful examination of what human beings really know about the world that surrounds us. Russian "stalker" enters the Zone to retrieve objects left there by the aliens, selling them on the black market. Subtle and mesmerizing writing. And although Tarkowsky's movie, "The Stalker," based on the book, does not resemble the original that much, together they provide a fascinating look into the problem of reality vs. fiction and how stories are created and told. Both, of course, provide an insight into the Soviet reality in the late '70s.more
In the pantheon of Soviet era science fiction writers, the Strugatsky brothers are widely acknowledged to be at the top, and Roadside Picnic is one of their best works. The concept is simple. Aliens briefly visit the earth and leave again with no interest in meeting or interacting with the human race. Earth was simply a brief stopover in a journey who's purpose and destination is unknowable. The landing site is now an abandoned section of a town in Canada uninhabitable due to the contamination and dangerous debris left behind by the aliens. Space still bears the scars of whatever means of transportation they used to reach Earth. Scattered throughout the area are regions of super strong gravitational fields and regions of fierce electromagnetic discharges. The site is polluted with dangerous (to humans) contaminants and littered with technological marvels that defy understanding but were discarded with no more concern than an empty oil can or a soda bottle.The site of the Visitation has become an internationally controlled research institute, but the locals enter the site illegally to collect the alien artifacts for a thriving black market. Everyone, every company, every nation wants access to the discarded technology and are willing to pay dearly for what the stalkers (those who risk their lives to enter The Zone and retrieve artifacts) can provide. Redrick Schuhart is such a stalker. A mere boy at the time of the Visitation, he has grown up to become one of the best stalkers working the area. He is skilled and cautious, able to infer the nearby presence of a region of enhanced gravity by its effects on the air currents. Suspicious of everything, his sharp eyes can detect the subtle dangers in a cob web.In a western science fiction novel, we would be treated to a panoply of technological marvels and adventures explained in detail and carefully defined. The Strugatskys don't work that way. The mystery always remains. Terminology flashes by and the reader is left to work out the meaning for themselves. The technique can be disconcerting and frustrating, but it is effective at maintaining the sense of ever present danger. Everything can be deadly no matter how innocuous it may appear.Another hallmark of the Strugatskys' work is the bureaucracy of the research institute. Red Schuhart struggles not just with the dangers of The Zone, but with the corrupt and petty bureaucrats and soldiers who administer the area. The novel is a thinly veiled commentary on the corruption of power in the Soviet Union and the struggle of a common man against that bureaucracy. The government and the institute supposedly exists to exploit The Zone for the betterment of all. Instead it creates a gritty, cruel world of criminals within the populace as well as the government where everyone is competing for the lucrative benefits to be had from The Zone. It's Red's desire to wipe away this dystopic society which results in his final act of the novel. His final wish is to create the better world that was promised, but never created, by the government.more
Very good, thought it might have lost something in the translation. It hasn't.more
A fascinating examination of the idea that if Earth were to host an alien culture for a while we may be no more to them than the animals and the birds that run and hide when we stop our cars for a roadside picnic. The translation is good, and there are some moments of hilarity as well as a nice line in realistic dialogue.Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read, a novel of ideas with a genuine heart. The ending is a little weak and lets down the everyday grimness of the rest of the work, but that's a minor failing, and perhaps more to do with the requirements of fiction than any failing on the part of the authors.Something here for those who like their science-fiction to be a little less anthropomorphic than the run-of-the-mill space operas and the like. There were echoes of Philip K Dick throughout, particularly in the focus on ordinary, everyday working people stuck in impossible situations. All in all a book that anyone who claims to love science-fiction should really add to their list of things to read.more
Read all 17 reviews

Reviews

BrilliantI’ve been aware of this book for a long time, it spawned both a celebrated film (Stalker) and computer game (Stalker) and is a classic of soviet era SF. The world has a number of sites that are part of “The Visit” where aliens have been to Earth and have left behind mysterious artefacts in “The Zone”. The book opens with a scientific explanation of the distribution of these Znes and then follows Red who is a “Stalker”, a treasure hunter who goes into the Zone to retrieve artefacts. This is a first contact story but one that is utterly strange and wonderful. There are lots of theories, expounded by various characters in the novel, but no hard telling of “this is what’s happening” and the mystery and utter alien-ness of the Visit is what is brilliantly portrayed here as well as following some of the characters over more than 10 years as the Zone is explored. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is also very memorable and stunning. This edition has an introduction by Ursula Le Guin (don’t read this before reading the book!! – why can’t people write introductions with the assumption that you’ve not read the book and don’t want spoilers, luckily once it started talking about the plot I skipped and came back after I read the book) and a brilliant afterword by Boris Strugatsky about the difficulties they had getting it published and Soviet censorship.Overall – Highly recommended for lovers of SF and the weirdmore
For me, this book is not about who the visitors where, what they wanted and what they left behind. It is about human nature as seen by the response of people to this unique event and its consequences. It is about a small city where everyone is trying to get at everyone. Stealing, lying, double-crossing, killing for money and for survival. Even the most honest or innocent end up entangled in this mess.

I read Stanislav Lem's review about the book and I frankly believe his criticisms were unfair. I don't see a problem with the possibility that the visitors were benevolent and the whole thing was an accident. The point is that we, just like the people in the book, don't know, can't know and in the end it doesn't matter. The possibility that they didn't even notice us is enough. I also don't see the turn to fairy tale towards the end of the book. The Golden Globe had become a legend for the people in the book, but there is no reason to think that there is something special about it. In fact, the person that first found it doesn't seem to have any of his wishes fulfilled and when Red finally sees it he notices that it looks quite ordinary, another piece of visitor junk.more
A classic with a new translation, forward and afterword, easily accessible after many years. Roadside Picnic may have difficulty living up to its reputation, however the book remains compelling, and it's not a demanding read. Aliens stopped over on Earth and left just as suddenly. They left "zones" behind, filled with odd technology humans are trying to puzzle out. Red is a "stalker", someone who illegally sneaks into the zone and smuggles tech out - if they don't die in the process. Roadside Picnic is not a big book, and - though a lot are retrofitted onto it - it's not a novel of big ideas and themes. Compared to other authors writing at the same time, it's more minor Philip K. Dick than Ursula K. LeGuin, but this is not to say it's a bad book. Much like Dick's work, un-knowing forms a large part of the book. Not only the alien tech, but what the other humans are feeling, thinking, why they act the way they do. Red's quest is a quest for meaning, really, and the book traces his - and humanity's - progress over more than a decade. Knowing its fraught publication history in the Soviet Union, it's tempting - and easy - to see cold war metaphors, totalitarian metaphors, capitalism/communism metaphors, and more on every page. And perhaps they were put there subliminally - though the remaining living Strugatsky denies it in the afterword. This gave me a somewhat weird feeling reading it - it's a rich text, but I was aware that I was projecting a lot onto it, and just try to appreciate it for what it is. The translation certainly felt unobtrusive to me - I cannot comment on its accuracy, but the prose was utilitarian and seemed surprisingly similar to other, Western scifi from the age to me. This review may sound a bit deflated. I suppose it is, in that the book has the reputation of a titan, and simply: it is not a titan. But what it actually is, is a fine enough book with a great setting that's rendered creatively, moves along quickly, and is not overlong. That was enough for me in the end.more
Russian literature is an interesting thing for an American like me to read. There are some things that are universal no matter where you live, but at the same time, there are certain things you take for granted which are fundamentally different in other countries, including Russia. It’s not to say that we as Americans are greater or more privileged or anything, but rather that people from different countries can see things is a completely different way than in America (or between any two countries or cultures, for that matter). This is why I find it particularly interesting to read Russian literature. I get a view of a world that is the same, but totally different than my own.It is with great curiosity that I started reading Roadside Picnic, a classic Russian sci-fi book I had never even heard of until it was sitting in my inbox. Within this brand new English translation, the Brothers Strugatsky have concocted an unusual not-too-distant future. Aliens visited Earth some time ago, and the places where they had their eponymous diversions exhibit all manner of unusual properties, most of which are completely fatal to the humans who are brave, or stupid, enough to venture in to collect some highly demanded alien artifacts.This world is my world, but fundamentally different than any world I’ve ever know. And while the prose is sparse, providing more action than description, this kinetic painting makes a particularly vivid visual image.After having read this book, I still am not sure what had fully happened, and what’s going to happen next, but what did happen within the book was a story worth reading.To risk generalization, Russian literature, especially the kind from the same era as this book, has struck me as bleak, almost without hope, but not quite fully. Stoic and straight-faced, but with the tiniest hint of a smirk when nobody’s looking. It’s prose like this that both render the story completely familiar and simultaneously completely alien to a reader like me, a mixture that is ideal for any science fiction story.I recommend this book for all fans of Soviet science fiction, as well as fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi.more
Sometime in the future, aliens have left scattered artifacts around. The Zones, or alien areas, are full of strange phenomena and mysterious objects. Stalkers illegally venture into the zone area and collect, and sell, these mysterious artifacts.This is a republication of a science fiction novel published in 1972. I am not a huge sci-fi fan, but I found this book hard to put down. It has an interesting plot line, moves swiftly and the characters are fascinating. Overall, I highly recommend this classic.more
It was 1981 or 82 when I read a review in the New York Times movie section about this Russian film that was made a couple of years before and was then showing in Manhattan (probably the Carnigie Cinema). It was made by Tarkovsky and the film critic almost panned the film, "Stalker". She described it as an overly long 'walking' movie whereby the characters do little else but walk from one place and one scene to the next.The reviewer did present some of the story-line and it sounded pretty interesting to me. I had already seen Solaris and Andrei Rubelev and found both films to be quite memorable.If STALKER was made by Tarkovsky how bad could it possibly be. I never got to see the film until years later but that review stuck inside my head. Then, a couple of years later I was in a bookstore and happened upon Roadside Picnic. After reading the description on the back cover and then about twenty or so pages in I realized this was the movie I had read about. I really love this book; such a subtle "first contact" tale that retains its mystery. I eventually saw the film as well and include it in my favorites of all time. Then again, if a really good filmmaker wanted to make a closer rendition of the book I'd be all for that as well.more
Aliens have come and gone. They landed, ignored us humans, and soon left. But where they landed, these Zones, they left artifacts behind, dangerous artifacts. Dangerous, because humans really have no idea what they actually do. But the humans, always curious, need these artifacts, to study and use. In the beginning of this book, Red is trying to work honestly, with the government, collecting these items. He has his past as a stalker, a person who illegally enters the Zone in search of artifacts to sell on the black market. He's trying honest work. But after a tragic run into the Zone and a family to feed, Red returns to his old ways. I thought the majority of this book would take place within the Zone - Red making his way, avoiding danger, and picking up left over alien artifacts. But the majority of this book takes place outside of the Zone between Red's ventures into the Zone. We get to see how the Zone affects Red, his family, and those in town around him. It's amazing and depressing to see how much this zone affects the environment and people around it - mentally and physically. We mostly see this world by way of Red, though we get another character's point of view half way through for a bit before going back to Red. Red's a hard man, which is understandable. Stalkers have to have a certain mind set. Red has what seems like a magical ability to know exactly how to navigate within the Zone. He has this fabulous Zone intuition - step there, crawl here, don't, for the love of god, touch that. It's how he survives.The ending is abrupt and may be unsatisfying for some. I have mixed feelings. There's a build up that really pulled me in, so for it to suddenly end, it was a bit unsettling. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the perfect place for the story to end. What Red is about to do, it fits that we would not get to see that.ARC provided through NetGalley.more
I was thinking about watching Tarkovsky's "Stalker", a movie take-off of "Roadside Picnic". However, I didn't much care for his version of Lem's great book "Solaris" and thought the Strugatskys' story might be a bit less turgid. It was surprisingly down to earth, at least as much as a story about discarded extraterrestrial artifacts can be. It's similar to Solaris in that the alien aspect provides a window on humanity. The translation from the Russian is very idiomatic. Well done.more
Out of print in the US, I waited for two months for this book to come in from GB. Gripping novel but it ultimately falls apart at the end. Authors had a point, but I have no idea what it was. I will watch the Tarkovsky version now.more
What a wonderful little book this is, one of the few written in the 70s that has not aged a bit. Here aliens visited the earth for a mere moment at some point, leaving behind a contaminated no-go area, full of mysterious artefacts and technological rubbish. "Stalkers" venture illegally into the "Zone" to gather as many of those objects as possible without becoming contaminated and die and of course sell them to the highest bidder. Red is one of those and for some years of his life we accompany him as he tries to make money for himself and his family. The story is sparse and slowly told but the rest, the time, landscape, social situation, environment, emotions are all told fascinatingly detailed. We will never find out what it is exactly the alien visitors left behind, but that is not what the book is about anyway. Red lives in this world and in his own way tries to work against the Dystopian society with a strong wish to make this world a better one, which, in the end, he just might.A fascinating story, written beautifully, at the same time sparse, controlled and rich in detail and full of emotions. Wonderful book.more
what an astonishingly strange, beautiful and powerful little book this is. i've seen "stalker" many times, but hadn't prepared myself for quite how different - and diifferently good - the book would be. whereas the film is almost obsessivey about space and time stillness, the book almost has a discernibe plot, whilst also having the same sort of haunting "absence" that the film does at it's best. like the film i know it won't be to everyone's taste, but if you're willing to venture carefully the rewards are many and varied. very good indeedmore
A thoughtful examination of what human beings really know about the world that surrounds us. Russian "stalker" enters the Zone to retrieve objects left there by the aliens, selling them on the black market. Subtle and mesmerizing writing. And although Tarkowsky's movie, "The Stalker," based on the book, does not resemble the original that much, together they provide a fascinating look into the problem of reality vs. fiction and how stories are created and told. Both, of course, provide an insight into the Soviet reality in the late '70s.more
In the pantheon of Soviet era science fiction writers, the Strugatsky brothers are widely acknowledged to be at the top, and Roadside Picnic is one of their best works. The concept is simple. Aliens briefly visit the earth and leave again with no interest in meeting or interacting with the human race. Earth was simply a brief stopover in a journey who's purpose and destination is unknowable. The landing site is now an abandoned section of a town in Canada uninhabitable due to the contamination and dangerous debris left behind by the aliens. Space still bears the scars of whatever means of transportation they used to reach Earth. Scattered throughout the area are regions of super strong gravitational fields and regions of fierce electromagnetic discharges. The site is polluted with dangerous (to humans) contaminants and littered with technological marvels that defy understanding but were discarded with no more concern than an empty oil can or a soda bottle.The site of the Visitation has become an internationally controlled research institute, but the locals enter the site illegally to collect the alien artifacts for a thriving black market. Everyone, every company, every nation wants access to the discarded technology and are willing to pay dearly for what the stalkers (those who risk their lives to enter The Zone and retrieve artifacts) can provide. Redrick Schuhart is such a stalker. A mere boy at the time of the Visitation, he has grown up to become one of the best stalkers working the area. He is skilled and cautious, able to infer the nearby presence of a region of enhanced gravity by its effects on the air currents. Suspicious of everything, his sharp eyes can detect the subtle dangers in a cob web.In a western science fiction novel, we would be treated to a panoply of technological marvels and adventures explained in detail and carefully defined. The Strugatskys don't work that way. The mystery always remains. Terminology flashes by and the reader is left to work out the meaning for themselves. The technique can be disconcerting and frustrating, but it is effective at maintaining the sense of ever present danger. Everything can be deadly no matter how innocuous it may appear.Another hallmark of the Strugatskys' work is the bureaucracy of the research institute. Red Schuhart struggles not just with the dangers of The Zone, but with the corrupt and petty bureaucrats and soldiers who administer the area. The novel is a thinly veiled commentary on the corruption of power in the Soviet Union and the struggle of a common man against that bureaucracy. The government and the institute supposedly exists to exploit The Zone for the betterment of all. Instead it creates a gritty, cruel world of criminals within the populace as well as the government where everyone is competing for the lucrative benefits to be had from The Zone. It's Red's desire to wipe away this dystopic society which results in his final act of the novel. His final wish is to create the better world that was promised, but never created, by the government.more
Very good, thought it might have lost something in the translation. It hasn't.more
A fascinating examination of the idea that if Earth were to host an alien culture for a while we may be no more to them than the animals and the birds that run and hide when we stop our cars for a roadside picnic. The translation is good, and there are some moments of hilarity as well as a nice line in realistic dialogue.Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read, a novel of ideas with a genuine heart. The ending is a little weak and lets down the everyday grimness of the rest of the work, but that's a minor failing, and perhaps more to do with the requirements of fiction than any failing on the part of the authors.Something here for those who like their science-fiction to be a little less anthropomorphic than the run-of-the-mill space operas and the like. There were echoes of Philip K Dick throughout, particularly in the focus on ordinary, everyday working people stuck in impossible situations. All in all a book that anyone who claims to love science-fiction should really add to their list of things to read.more
Load more
scribd