Read Stalker by Arkady Strugatsky Boris Strugatsky Guido Zurlino Online


Sono arrivati una notte, senza che nessuno se ne accorgesse, e sono ripartiti poco dopo, con le loro grandi astronavi che nessuno ha visto. Ma hanno lascito tracce, oggetti sconosciuti, e l'umanità è avida di queste meraviglie pur senza conoscerne neppure lontanamente l'uso. In Europa, in America, in Russia, esistono le Zone, luoghi ricchi di orribili pericoli e di incrediSono arrivati una notte, senza che nessuno se ne accorgesse, e sono ripartiti poco dopo, con le loro grandi astronavi che nessuno ha visto. Ma hanno lascito tracce, oggetti sconosciuti, e l'umanità è avida di queste meraviglie pur senza conoscerne neppure lontanamente l'uso. In Europa, in America, in Russia, esistono le Zone, luoghi ricchi di orribili pericoli e di incredibili tesori, di Batterie Eterne e di magici Vuoti, dove solo uomini particolari, quelli che il resto del mondo chiama Stalker, possono sperare di sopravvivere per più di un viaggio. In Canada, nei dintorni della Zona di Harmont, Redrick Schuhart è lo Stalker migliore, e non sempre le sue incursioni sono autorizzate dai servizi di sicurezza. Perchè già circola la leggenda che in ogni Zona sia nascosta una splendente Sfera d'Oro, capace di donare al suo scopritore poteri sovrumani. Finalmente in Italia il grande romanzo che ha ispirato il film omonimo diretto nel 1979 da Andrei Tarkovski....

Title : Stalker
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 23607452
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 222 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Stalker Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2019-02-18 21:14

    SF writers typically approach alien contact in grandiose terms, but the Strugatsky brothers wonder instead, "What if it is more like a 'Roadside Picnic?'" Aliens trekking through space find they have to rest a spell and land on Terra, for lunch, a little r & r, perhaps a smoke. After an interval--however long it takes for an alien to enjoy a meal al fresco--they lift off from our uninteresting planet, probably never to return, leaving behind the star voyager equivalent of empty beer cans, plastic forks, paper napkins, cigarette butts, and perhaps a noxious spill or two. This book is the story of the "stalkers," the smugglers who venture into The Zone to bring back some of these dangerous and ultimately baffling artifacts for sale on the black market.The book begins as a rather straightforward adventure made superior by the imaginative creation of the Zone and its artifacts (the Strugatsky's add just the right details to delineate a place and evoke a mood, never more) but it deepens and enriches further as we learn more about Red and the stalkers, what they have risked and how very much they have lost. The climax is satisfying, for we follow our hero on his last mission, watch him face a grave moral choice, commit a great crime, and yet still reveal himself to us as completely human, and--at bottom--essentially good.

  • Nataliya
    2019-01-29 21:52

    When people talk about the "special" feel of Russian literature, I tend to shrug it away as yet another point of confusion "Westerners" have with anything Slavic. But when I tried to explain the feeling this book evoked in me to a few "Westerners" I startlingly realized that "it just *feels* so essentially Russian" may indeed be a valid description that encompasses the soul-searching ambiguity, the pursuit of deeper truths shrouded in light sadness, the frustrating but yet revealing lack of answers to the clear divide between right and wrong, and the heart shattering "scream of soul".This is a story of the aftermath of the aliens' visit to our planet. Well, a visit may be too grand of a word. It seems dishearteningly likely that the space visitors made little notice of us; that their visit here was little but a "roadside picnic" - a quick stop in the middle of nowhere, a break after which they left to never be seen again, leaving only a bit of waste behind them - the relics worth quite a bit of money, and a toxic area - the Zone¹ - where humans cannot survive, where the invisible effects of something inside it inflict permanent scars (mental and physical) on those brave (or foolish) enough to venture inside it.¹It was hard for me to believe that this book was written years before the catastrophic explosion at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station - an explosion that left a "Zone" full of deadly invisible poison affecting those in it or near it, with ghost city that once was full of people and now is just a shell of a disaster.No wonder that in popular culture Chernobyl and Strugatsky's "stalker" became intertwined.The disheartening insignificance of the contact goes well against the well-established rules of science fiction. There was no communication, no contact, nothing. It appears that despite the hopes of all the sci-fi writers over decades, we were not that interesting to the other intelligence - actually, we probably weren't even worth noticing. Just a matter-of-fact quick purposeless roadstop and a bunch of refuse - which still proceeds to affect the lives of people around the mysterious Zones. “A picnic. Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow. Cars drive off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras. They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music. In the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places. And what do they see? Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around... Rags, burnt-out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind... And of course, the usual mess—apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire, cans, bottles, somebody’s handkerchief, somebody’s penknife, torn newspapers, coins, faded flowers picked in another meadow.”Echoing the insignificance of humanity is the insignificance of the main character. Red Schuhart is a "stalker" - a "riffraff" taking frequent quick forays into the Zone to smuggle out the alien artifacts that are valued on the black market, undeterred by having to live on the outside of the law, always at risk of horrific side effects or death inside and imprisonment outside. He does what he does not for any noble purpose but simply because there's little else to do. He is a common guy, ordinary, inconsequential, average, hard-hit by life. His goals are not noble - just survival. In life, he is a bottomfeeder. It's underscored many times how inconsequential Red is - and maybe it's precisely why his plight has such an appeal to us. After all, despite the bravado, most of us carry no illusions of our own significance in the grand scheme of things.The visits to the Zone that we undertake with Red and his less cynical, more wide-eyed companions - first ill-fated Kirill, then just as ill-fated Arthur - are harrowing in a peculiarly surreal fashion. It's not about what's happening - it's about the possibility of something unknown yet dreadful happening, the nerves set completely on the edge, the uneasiness of tense anticipation. You can feel the characters on the verge of snapping, and the uneasy feeling is omnipresent.And yes, in the true Russian and Soviet fashion, the politics are very much in the background of this story even if it's written as though it's seemingly apolitical. The idea of little people affected by the "bigger things" that are out of their reach. The caution of us unable to understand and come to grasp with even the refuse of the outside civilization. The endless corruption that always seen to almost spontaneously spring into being. The mundane drone hopelessness of being just cogs in the machine. The hollowness of the society. The bitterness of a small person when faced with something larger - be it other worlds, or the government, or the powers that we do not understand, or humanity itself.And yet there is something akin to hope in the end - or, on the other thought, maybe there is not. Redrick's semi-delusional soliloquy at the end of the book, in the sight of the mysterious Golden Sphere - the feverish, desperate, pleading semi-rational painful revelation as he with horror realizes that "My whole life I haven't had a single thought!", that "... they've cheated me, left me voiceless..." in the semi-delirious haze -- is his final scream-of-soul speech a fierce ray of hope for us or is it another lost, desperate, delusional scream into the void? Maybe there's no answer, after all.And he was no longer trying to think. He just kept repeating to himself in despair, like a prayer, "I'm an animal, you can see that I'm an animal. I have no words, they haven't taught me the words; I don't know how to think, those bastards didn't let me learn how to think. But if you really are -- all powerful, all knowing, all understanding -- figure it out! Look into my soul, I know -- everything you need is in there. It has to be. Because I've never sold my soul to anyone! It's mine, it's human! Figure out yourself what I want -- because I know it can't be bad! The hell with it all, I just can't think of a thing other than those words of his -- HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!"

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-02-02 23:53

    ”Intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It’s a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from the dog, who seems to understand everything but can’t speak. However, this trivial definition does lead to wittier ones. They are based on depressing observations of the aforementioned human activity. For example: intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural act.”“Yes, that’s us!”There is a 1979 film by Andrei Tarkovsky loosely based on The Roadside Picnic. The screenplay is by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I’m, of course, going to have to watch it.Redrick “Red” Schuhart is a stalker. He is one of the few people crazy enough to go into “The Zone”. Thirty years ago Aliens visited the Earth. They landed at six different locations. Hung out for a while and took off. They ignored us.What The Frill?Here we are the most intelligent species to ever evolve on this planet (debatable) and the big moment occurs when another, obviously intelligent species comes to visit, and they act like the snooty prom queen and king at the big dance. You’d think we were mere bugs. Not even worthy of a good probing or dissection. In these zones they left behind trash, as if, as one scientist put it, they had just stopped off for a roadside picnic. They also left behind traps. Things unexplainable. Things that science even has trouble labeling. One example is what Red calls a bug trap, but the “eggheads” call it something else. ”His face has become completely calm, you can see he’s figured everything out. They are all like that, the eggheads. The most important thing for them is to come up with a name. Until he comes up with one, you feel really sorry for him, he looks so lost. But when he find a label like ‘graviconcentrate,’ he thinks he’s figured it all out and perks right up.”Stalkers are people who go into The Zone and retrieve objects. They then sell them on the black market for cash. They need a big payoff because every time they go into The Zone they are risking life or limb (there is this slime that melts the bones and eventually turns everything it touches into more slime). Most of the original stalkers are dead. Their corpses litter the landscape of The Zone providing guideposts for…don’t go there. The Zone does something to them. Their kids are mutants. Red’s child becomes less and less human as she grows and becomes something unknown, unknowable. People from this area can’t emigrate because odd disasters start happening in the places they move to. The Zone owns them. Still, Red should just settle down and get a real job, a safe job. ”But how do I stop being a stalker when I have a family to feed? Get a job? And I don’t want to work for you, your work makes me want to puke, you understand? If a man has a job, then he’s always working for someone else, he’s a slave, nothing more--and I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, my own man, so that I don’t have to give a damn about anyone else, about their gloom and their boredom…”Besides being dangerous, working as a stalker is also illegal. He soon finds himself on one last mission for a golden sphere that he has to find before The State robots get there first. It is about more than just the money. It is about outwitting everyone maybe even himself. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were Russian science-fiction writers who managed to publish most of what they wrote even under the heavy censoring hand of the Soviet Union. Ursula K. Le Guin in the forward explains it well. ”What they did, which I found most admirable then and still do now, was to write as if they were indifferent to ideology--something many of us writers in the Western democracies had a hard time doing. There wrote as free men write.” They did struggle to get Roadside Picnic published. In the afterword Arkady has a list of all the letters and petitions that were exchanged between various Russian committees trying to get approval. ”Eight years. Fourteen letters to the ‘big’ and ‘little’ Central Committees. Two hundred degrading corrections of the text. An incalculable amount of nervous energy wasted on trivialities...Yes, the authors prevailed; there’s no arguing with that. But it was a Pyrrhic Victory.”Arkady and Boris StrugatskyThe book was published in Russian in 1972 and translated into English in 1977. This edition, that I read, is a new translation with all the original text, as the authors intended, reinstated. There is a 1979 movie as I mentioned above. The book also inspired a video game called. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.I absolutely love this concept. Hollywood has spent so much time making us worry about Aliens coming to Earth to enslave us, to steal our natural resources, to take over the planet, to use us as incubators for their spawn etc. We are completely unprepared to be ignored. We really don’t like being ignored. The book can be read on many levels. It is an enjoyable fast paced read on the most basic level. For those that like to apply philosophy, politics, and psychology to their reading there is plenty of hooks to keep you pondering the true meaning of different situations. It is a book, that without a doubt, will give the reader more with each new read. This is one of those terrific finds that I may have never read without the guidance of friends on GR. Our compiled reading knowledge is oh so much greater than when we read alone. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-01-31 19:52

    I play video games, now and again, but I don't care about being 'good' at them. I'm not competitive about my skills. I'm interested in the story, the characters, and the world. After a particularly irritating series of losing battles, I frustratedly told a friend "I don't want to have to spend a bunch of time practicing and becoming an expert just to get on with the story. It would be like having to read the same page of the book over and over until I 'got it right' and could proceed to the end!""Isn't that exactly what you do spend your time doing with books?" He replied, "Haven't you just described literary analysis?"Hmm.A while ago, as most of you probably know, Roger Ebert wrote an article declaring that 'Video Games Can Never Be Art'. Predictably, this caused a huge backlash, opening up a large and messy debate. Ebert, tired of being the center of this discussion, made a follow-up response where he declared that he had no definition for 'Art' which would exclude video games, that he had not played them, and hence, was in no position to judge, but that he was not going to take back his statement. I read the articles, and I agree with Tycho from Penny Arcade that Ebert never made any arguments which require refutation. Since Ebert does not know video games, he never says anything which would disqualify them as art. Just because they started as simple little machines you pumped coins into doesn't mean they can't be art, that's how films started, after all.Unfortunately, I don't feel that the defenders of Video Games as Art have done a great job of making their points, either, and I found Kellee Santiago's much-lauded TED presentation simplistic and full of errors in reasoning, never really touching on what makes art, or why games should be included. But I have personally had many experiences with video games that were as touching, thought-provoking, entertaining, and beautiful as works in any other medium. In fact, the plot, characters, romances, and moral quandaries of the Baldur's Gate series are not just better than the game's novelization, but are a more heartfelt and thorough exploration of epic fantasy than most modern authors I could name.Planescape: Torment, by the same publishers, is a wildly surreal existential exploration, touching on many philosophies and calling into question the very nature of reality and of identity. It is a revolutionary exploration of the genre that is often more thoughtful and subtle than Mieville's Perdido Street Station.These games (and others) combine complex, thoughtful plots, psychologically deep characters who change throughout the story, beautiful graphic art, music, cinematography, philosophical explorations, and humor to create unique visions of human experience. Ebert asks whether we can point to games that are as good as the greatest works of art. Perhaps not--but then, videogames have only been around for thirty years, and I'd be hard-pressed to name a novel of the last thirty years that is as good as the greatest literary works. Certainly, there are videogames which are superior to many works of art from other media.And one such game is S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is loosely-based on the Strugatsys' book (at last, we're getting somewhere). I came across the game, played and enjoyed it, all without knowing anything about the book that inspired it. The game is one of the most disturbing and horrifying stories I have ever been through, in any medium. The subtly unsettling build of the game affected me more than any horror movie or book. As a bleak, lonely, post-apocalyptic world, I found it far more touching than The Road (which Ebert holds up as an example of modern art).But for me, video games have never been about the puzzles, the fights, the winning or losing; it's about the story, the experience, the quiet moments which define a world:You come to a campfire in the grey light of the early morning, tired, your mind numb from a firefight in the dark, having stumbled into the midst of a group of nervous men who fired at the half-seen movement. A twig snaps and bodies lie still. There is a misting rain. You sit quietly for a moment, watching the grass waving, just letting everything fall away. You approach the fire. There, on the ground beside you, half buried in the dirt is a skull, a pelvis. "Yeah. Me, too." you think.So, as I do with any story I like, I sought out the game's roots and inspirations, hoping it would lead me to something equally enjoyable. Which is how I found Tarkovsky's film, which has become one of my favorites, and which I prefer to the better-known Solaris.And that lead me to Roadside Picnic; a backwards trip through time from furthest inspiration back to the source. It's such an intriguing setting for me, such an unusual take on alien interaction. It is so dehumanized, so remote, that to me, it feels much more realistic, much more comprehensible than men in rubber suits making 'space war'. Which is to say, it isn't comprehensible, it's one more thing we cannot understand, no matter how hard we try, but which we must live with, every day, muddling through.The central concept of Roadside Picnic is one that has shown up elsewhere, from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (explored here) to the more explicit homage in H. John Harrison's Nova Swing. But it's really not surprising, as there is a kind of universal Jungian appeal to the concept of the "Wish Granter hidden in the Land of Death".But for me, the exploration in Roadside Picnic never went deep enough, so that I constantly wished for more. Not for more understanding or exposition--quite the opposite--I wanted more of those silent moments, more time to stare into the abyss, to be confronted with the nameless, the unnameable, and the smallness of man. I wanted more of what the Tarkovsky film gave me: the silent ponderousness with which man meets the Great Mystery.The book had too many explanations and digressions about itself, things I wished I could have seen, could have passed by, uncomprehending, instead of being told about them later as a mass of theories and explanations. The film was full of digressions, as well, but these were always about man, about the eternal questions which alienation brought to the forefront. These only served to deepen the mystery, since they danced always around it, avoiding it (though I will say not all of these digressions were necessary or welcome, especially when it turned characters into mouthpieces).Similarly, what I missed from the game was the isolation, the way the blackness was always there, patiently waiting, just beyond the lamplight of your false security, and also the moments of unexpected surreality which inspired such gripping terror. There is a definite Lovecraftian element, and if we have learned anything from Lovecraft's followers, it's that long explanations are the best way to kill a monster.I enjoyed the book's slow burn, the gradual psychological progression--that these men, who had looked into the darkness and come away harrowed, in time they turned on one another in their fear and isolation, counterfeiting an enemy of flesh to represent the insensible, incomprehensible enemy which they faced each day. The degradation of family, community, and identity in the face of encroaching darkness lent the characters an introverted desperation which was very engaging--and very Russian.It was also an effective and subtle satire of the impersonal brutality of government, which was why this book went unpublished so long in Russia. In the end, it only reached publication in censored form. There is an author-approved version from the past decade, but it's too grand a hope to think we might see an English translation of it. There is simply not enough demand for a small cult sci fi book, which is a shame.The translation I read was a bit stilted, and there were many opportunities for subtlety which I could feel, but not quite comprehend. I wish it had been more personal, less built on dialogues after-the-fact, that it had more closely approached the horrific implications of the world, and that it had given us more time to come to terms.But I don't get a say. Well, not yet. Though with all authors, writing becomes the act of telling those stories you were always looking for, but never found; you must create them, for yourself. And that's part of the final barrier between video games and art. Can the audience participate in art? Does that destroy its vision? Does the undecided ending of Inception make it less art because it invites the audience to participate in that ending?Moreover, is art not art to the people who create it, because they decide its outcome? That is a part of Ebert's argument. I, for one, look forward to a future where I can have more participation in the art I consume, and it's a desire creators recognize: I get 'alternate endings', re-imagined remakes, adaptations which take liberties from their inspiration.Perhaps some day soon, we will live in a world where we do not define the quality of stories by what device they are played on.

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-02-19 18:51

    Being below the concern of alien beings is not a new science fiction theme (although it is a relatively rare one), but I've never read a book that examined the idea quite like this. Ursula K. Le Guin's foreword is right - most of the time, the people who interact with alien technology are highly skilled and educated, even if, as in Rendezvous With Rama, the aliens couldn't care less about us.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Forrest
    2019-01-21 21:00

    Another gem introduced to me by my friends at Goodreads. This short novel is a "how-to" on sidelong insinuations, information gaps, and inferences that make for a wholly satisfying story. The main character, Redrick Schuhart, starts out as an entrepreneurial collector of alien artifacts, and becomes a hardened, curmudgeonly, but effective artifact hunter searching for (view spoiler)[the ultimate prize, a golden ball that purportedly gives the owner his wishes (hide spoiler)]. The Strugatsky brothers use multiple Points-of-View, switching from first person to third person, moving in and out of people's thoughts as they go. I tend to like stories done in this way, when it's done well, and it is done well here. In this case, the shifting viewpoints allow the authors to focus in or telescope out on events and attitudes, as needed. The result is a very rich narration, especially for such a short book. The premise is simple. Aliens have left some things behind. They reside in "The Zone," a contaminated area from which the government is trying to protect its citizens. "Stalkers" go in and collect the artifacts, then resell them. No one quite knows the full functionality of the artifacts, and no one understands the full dangers of "The Zone". This makes for some intriguing and intense moments throughout.The tone of the book is akin to that of some noir works, dark, gritty, getting darker and grittier as the tale wears on. I suspect that many of the discussions and plot line centering around the artifact trade are reflective of the Soviet-era underground economy (i.e., Black Market). I have no proof of this, but I wonder. Some friends of mine in high school traveled to the USSR in the late '80s. They had heard rumors about what a pair of American jeans could buy over there, so a few took over extra pairs, in case opportunity presented itself. One came back with one less pair of jeans and one more Soviet "bear hat" from one of the border guards that "inspected" their bus. Crazy, and true. But I digress.Like many great books, the meaning of the ending is left up to the reader. Is this novel about triumph over existential angst? Or is it about the inevitability of our naivete conquering our logic and good sense? I don't know. But the fact that I am left meditating upon these questions shows clearly that Roadside Picnic was no mere picnic.

  • Bradley
    2019-01-24 21:50

    This old Russian classic SF is surprisingly relevant and fresh today, sans all the copious amount of smoking going on. :) If anything is going to give this little gem away, it's pretty much only that.It's very tight, masquerading as a scavenger adventure that becomes a black-market thriller that becomes a Question about the nature of intelligence, discovery, and even the most basic question of all: "What the hell are these aliens thinking???"After all, they just left a huge mess by the side of the road, not even bothering to say hi to the damn locals before dumping their half-eaten crap and leaving their high-tech soda bottles.I mean, seriously? Who do these Americans think they are, despoiling such a pretty Russian countryside? *sigh* And then there's the whole mess about consumerism and capitalism, giving us a pretty complete and coherent condemnation while never quite "saying" anything. It's all just shown, and shown extremely well.And then there's the now obvious connection to the much later work that is heavily indebted to Roadside Picnic, the redoubtable Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. Others have gone over the connections better than I will, but I can say one thing freely: The two are very similar in the gross, between the oddness within the area and the desire for both understanding and possible trinkets, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Sure, we'll keep asking questions in both novels, long after they've ended, but this one keeps things pretty light even when the MC is crawling through the mud. I blame it on the alcohol. But then, this is very much a Russian novel.I think I might go ahead and say that I think this one is the tighter SF story. The first novel in Area X was delicious for the surreal and the details, but this novel had a lot more action and straight talk for those who prefer their tales snappy. Don't be surprised, though, if you get more of a bellyful of the evils of capitalism rather than a deeper exploration of aliens and our own ultimate insignificance. It's there, but the sneaky diatribe against the West is actually the superior portion of the novel. (Superior both in fun and plot and the things that our MC must endure, rather than sheer page space.)This is quite an awesome classic SF and I heartily recommend it. It obviously had a lot of love and care poured into it, and the results are fantastic. :)

  • Nickolas the Kid
    2019-01-21 16:10

    Ακόμα ένα βιβλίο που χρησιμοποιεί την ΕΦ για να εμβαθύνει στους κοινωνικούς και πολιτικούς προβληματισμούς του ανθρώπου...Οι εξωγήινοι περνάν μια βόλτα από τον πλανήτη μας και φεύγοντας αφήνουν διάφορα αντικείμενα τα οποία γίνονται πόλος έλξης για επιστήμονες, τυχοδιώκτες και οραματιστές... Τα "σκουπίδια" των εξωγήινων βρίσκονται σε μια περιοχή που ονομάζεται Ζώνη και εκτός των θησαυρών κρύβει πολλά και διάφορα μυστικά. Οι άνθρωποι ανακαλύπτουν έναν καινούργιο πολιτισμό ή ποια πραγματικά είναι η θέση τους μέσα στο σύμπαν;;; Το βιβλίο είναι δυνατό και η γραφή των αδελφών Στρουγκάτσκι στρωτή. Τα 2 πρώτα κεφάλαια είναι ελαφρώς κουραστικά όμως τα 2 τελευταία είναι άκρως ενδιαφέροντα και παρασύρουν τον αναγνώστη στο δυστοπικό μέλλον των συγγραφέων! 4/5*ΥΓ1: Εξαιρετική επίσης η κινηματογραφικής μεταφορά του βιβλίου από τον Αντρέι Ταρκόφσκι με τίτλος "Στάλκερ". Με ένα εμπνευσμένο φινάλε και σπάσιμο του "τέταρτου τοίχου"...

  • Simona Bartolotta
    2019-02-18 18:16

    2.5"This is the way it is with the Zone: if you come back with swag -it’s a miracle; if you come back alive -it’s a success; if the patrol bullets miss you -it’s a stroke of luck. And as for anything else -that’s fate."I'm afraid I'll keep responding to the words "Russian science fiction" by shouting "We by Yevgeny Zamyatin!" since, in my humble opinion, Roadside Picnic does not reach those level if not, maybe, in the concept. Because the concept is great (what if the infamous alien invasion finally came, only in the form of our foreign friends having a merry picnic and discarding their litter and scrap and waste there on the ground? And what if that waste, being alien, had some mysterious and incredible properties that men could study and put to use in turn?). And precisely because it's so great, it presents a tremendous amount of possibilities -both when it comes to the plotline and to the scientific aspect. But I feel that none of these possibilities were truly developed and explored. In fact, the whole story felt flat, uninteresting. The book is very short, and I went on even though I wasn't interested in what was happening, but I'm sure enough I kept on reading by inertia alone. The characters are no better.In all honesty, I can't recommend Roadside Picnic: it looks like one of those books that will make you somehow richer as a reader and as a person, but in fact it left me nothing at all. It remains a classic, obviously; just not my type of classic.

  • Apatt
    2019-02-18 21:13

    4.22 average rating, eh? It is not undeserved but I would say satisfaction is not guaranteed.Roadside Picnic is something of a minor classic that I have often seen mentioned in sci-fi literature discussion groups like the excellent PrintSF on Reddit. Certainly the basic conceit is wonderfully “sfnal”. Six zones of Earth have been visited by aliens over a two-day period, there are no witnesses for these visitations, the only evidence is the strange artifacts these alien apparently left behind or discarded. The short novel deals with the aftermath or cultures that develop from “The Visitation”, as this event came to be known.This book reminds me of “Big Dumb Object” sci-fi trope where an alien artifact is found by humans but their owners are absent, for examplesRendezvous with Rama ,Gateway, andRingworld . The main difference is that the objects in Roadside Picnic are little ones scattered all over the Zones of Visitation, your average sci-fi BDOs are gigantic things floating in space. So props to the two Strugatsky brothers for making an original spin on a well-worn concept.I love the bizarre alien artifacts described in this book. For example “empties” which are empty containers of some kind but you can only see the lid and the bottom, the container itself is not only invisible but seems to be made of nothingness. You can put your hands through the container in the space between the lid and the bottom as if there is nothing there but the lid and the bottom always maintain their relative positions and distance. They are extremely interesting artifacts but nobody knows what they are for, or what they are supposed to contain. There are quite a few mysterious objects like this in the book but the descriptions are quite elaborate so I will leave you to discover them for yourself. In addition to these objects, there are also weird effects of the Zones on people who were in the vicinity when the Visitation occurs.Now the negatives. There is something about the narrative or the prose style I don’t quite connect to. I don’t know whether this is attributable to the translator Ms. Antonina W. Bouis; in fact, the English of the translation seems clear enough but there is something vague about the narrative that I can’t quite put my finger on. Characters seem to drift in and out and it is hard to remember who some of them are. The mysterious artifacts are great, but some of them are not clearly described (unexplained is OK, as they are supposed to be mysterious, but not described is a little frustrating). I cannot quite connect with the characters even though their motivations are understandable. I imagine this is due to the perfunctory developments of these characters; even though much of the narrative is focused on Redrick Schuhart I don’t feel like I know much about him by the end of the book. The upshot of all these negatives is that I feel a little disconnected from the book as I was reading it, it all feels rather dispassionate. I also dislike the ambiguous ending (in all fairness some people don’t mind ambiguous endings, they frustrate me).To sum up Roadside Picnic has a brilliant premise, and is endlessly inventive, but I personally find the execution to be less than satisfactory. Having said that it is such a great story and it is quite short so I can recommend it with the above-mentioned reservations.3.5 stars._______________________NotesFor an explanation of the book’s title check out the "QUOTES APATT LIKED" section below, specifically the one that starts with “A picnic. Picture a forest”I like these two quotes, but they are not included on Goodreads’ Roadside Picnic quotes page:“For me the Visitation is primarily a unique event that allows us to skip several steps in the process of cognition. Like a trip into the future of technology. Like a quantum generator ending up in Isaac Newton's laboratory.”“I would put it this way. There are objects for which we have found uses. We use them, but almost certainly not the way the visitors use them. I am positive that in the vast majority of cases we are hammering nails with microscopes.”

  • Hadrian
    2019-02-15 18:47

    In the 1940s, during the height of the Pacific island campaigns of the Second World War, the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies built airbases and other facilities on Melanesian islands. The local inhabitants, who had only previously had localized and temporary contact with the West, if they had any at all, were suddenly introduced to technology far beyond the range of their experience, such as refrigeration, or airplanes, or soft drinks. When the war ended and we all left, the locals were confused over how these goods came, and in some instances imitated army procedures and made Army insignia in order to get the cargo once again. This led to the phenomenon now popularly known as 'cargo cults' - attempts to understand and work with a technology so far advanced that, in Arthur C. Clarke's words, it is "indistinguishable from magic".This is, in a way, the premise of Roadside Picnic. A strange and technologically advanced entity has visited Earth and we are left stumbling around wondering what happened. A main difference, of course, is that the extraterrestrial visitors were not in the middle of a war, at least as far as we know. They visited one day, left behind incomprehensible magic, and left us to wander around and peck at the scraps, like animals at a roadside picnic.The book has an irresistible premise. After the 'Visitation', goods within the forbidden 'Zones' are highly sought after, but often incredibly dangerous. There is a good chance of a quick and painful death, but also imaginable riches.This fantastic idea aside, the book read poorly in many places. The writing was awfully cluttered, and the characters seemed to be blocky noir caricatures. I suppose this might be the side effect of reading this after Ulysses. Still, I commend the imagination behind this book, and the ideas behind this cosmic horror of the unknown.

  • Jadranka
    2019-01-25 17:59


  • Stuart
    2019-02-19 20:10

    Roadside Picnic: Russian SF classic with parallels to Vandermeer’s Area XOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureRoadside Picnic (1972) is a Russian SF novel written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. This was back when authors and publishers were subject to government review and censorship. Since it didn’t follow the Communist Party line, it didn’t get published in uncensored book form in Russia until the 1990s despite first appearing in a Russian literary magazine in 1972. So its first book publication was in the US in 1977. Since then Roadside Picnic has been published in dozens of editions and languages over the years, and inspired the 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker, which the Strugatsky brothers wrote the screenplay for.The story is set after the Visitation, when aliens briefly stopped on the Earth and left six Zones where strange alien technology and physical phenomenon exist. Residents of these areas never saw the aliens, but the alien artifacts have mysterious powers that can sometimes be harnessed by humans without understanding the underlying technology. The title refers to the simple analogy of a group of people going for a picnic in the countryside, having a good time, dumping various trash, and heading on. For the forest animals, the actions of these mysterious beings are incomprehensible, as are they objects they leave behind. So we are those helpless forest creatures.Since the visitation, the Zones have been closed off by the UN and various governments to civilians, but the lure of the alien artifacts creates a robust illegal trade in them by “stalkers” who know how to avoid the numerous strange and frequently deadly traps that would kill the unwary. The protagonist of the story is Redrick “Red” Schuhart, a veteran stalker who has made dozens of successful trips to the Zone and emerged with enough artifacts to support himself and his girlfriend. This existence is quite precarious, so he also takes a job as an assistant in a lab that studies the Zone. However, he frequently finds himself in the local bar, especially when he makes another illegal score.When Red ventures into the Zone with another stalker named Burbridge, they encounter “witch’s jelly,” a substance that dissolves Burbridge’s legs. Red saves him, but has to evade the authorities upon his return. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Guta gives birth to a girl with a full body of hair (who gains the moniker “Monkey”), since many children born near the Zone or exposed to people like stalkers end up with strange mutations.After various scrapes with shady artifact buyers, underground organizations, and a stint in prison, Red finds himself at home once again. Sadly, his daughter has lost the ability to speak. Finally, he is lured into “one last job” to retrieve a legendary object called the “Golden Sphere”, which is rumored to grant the wishes of its owner. He enters the Zone with Burbridge’s son, but they must first get past the “Meatgrinder.” The ending of the story is fairly abrupt and ambiguous, so I will leave it to the reader to decipher.So was Roadside Picnic good? I thought the central concept was excellent, but I’d be hard-pressed to say I enjoyed the book. It spent a lot of time with Red drunk in the bar, commiserating with various others in the strange subculture that develops around the Zones, which are generally desolate and sparsely populated. The various shady buyers and their schemes to get artifacts weren’t as interesting as I hoped, and the actual time within the Zones was frequently anticlimactic. His family life with his wife and mutant daughter was more promising, but didn’t really develop enough dramatic depth. And the ending… I had to go back and re-listen twice just to make sure I hadn’t skipped a final chapter by mistake.The most interesting thing about Roadside Picnic is the parallels it has with Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation (2011), which it predates by about 40 years. That book is about a strange area known as Area X, where bizarre physical phenomena occur and many expeditions have gone in but have never returned. Of course it is not revealed whether Area X was due to aliens or other more occult sources, and the novel is stylistically much closer to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the New Weird school of fiction. Vandermeer loves to mix genres, injecting lots of horror and mystery elements, and has some fantastic descriptive writing. But Annihilation and Roadside Picnic do share the same DNA: a refusal to disclose their mysteries to the reader. They show the limitations of human knowledge, and our powerlessness when faced with a superior and mysterious force. The characters of Annihilation are more unreliable narrators than Red, and less easy to relate to. In the end, it wasn’t my favorite book, but it is still worth reading if you are interested in classic Russian SF.Film Version: Stalker (1979) directed by Andrei TarkovskyRoadside Picnic did inspire a very loosely-based adaptation by Andrei Tarkovsky, who also directed the film version of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris in 1972. He was intrigued by the book and went to a lot of troubles (including having to completely reshoot the entire film after the first film stock was unusable) to achieve “classical Aristotelian unity” and create a very artistic, intellectual, and STUNNINGLY BORING film version. I had already seen Solaris and knew I was facing long, uninterrupted and static shots, minimal dialogue, inscrutable snippets of philosophical debate, and above all ambiguity and a lack of action. Sound like a promising way to spend 2 hours and 40 minutes? I was shocked to find the film available at my local Japanese video store. What were they thinking? This film is exactly the type of pretentious art-house film that is highly praised, being picked #29 by the British Film Institute of the “50 Greatest Films of All Time” and getting a 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while being completely unwatchable. I started the film determined to give it my undivided attention, but it punished me unrelentingly. I dare anyone to watch this film to the end without wanting to stick a fork in their eye.The story has been changed quite dramatically from the book. The entire backstory about the visitation, black market for alien artifacts, and various organizations’ schemes are mainly left out, leaving us with… I’m not sure what. Instead, we have the Stalker, the Writer, and the Professor (much like the 4 main characters of Vandermeer’s Annihilation), the latter two seeking either inspiration or fame by discovering a Room in the Zone that will grant the entrant’s deepest wish.We are then subjected to over two hours where almost nothing happens at all. My wife and daughter started to ridicule the film and we decided to wait to see if anything happened at all, and burst into laughter at Tarkovsky’s insistence on lovingly filming desolate, abandoned industrial scenes with no events of any kind. There were quite a few completely incomprehensible discussions among the three characters about the meaning of life, ambition, and their true motivations for seeking the room. The ending is almost comically obtuse, as every time there is any possibility of action, the characters elect instead to sit or lie on the dirt floor and mumble about drivel. I have a feeling that Tarkovsky and I would not get along at a cocktail party.I guess Tarkovsky saw the film as a means of exploring the inner psychology of his characters, and the Zone as merely a framing device for this. I don’t think that was the original intention of the Strugatsky brothers (though they wrote the screenplay), since Roadside Picnic was, for me at least, more about how humans react to a superior and unknowable alien presence. So frankly the intent of Stalker was completely lost on me. There is one telling anecdote I read about. When a government official complained that the film was slow-moving, Tarkovsky supposedly retorted “the film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.” Pretty contemptuous of the viewer, if you ask me. Why bother making the film at all? I would grant this film zero stars — steer clear of it.

  • Nate D
    2019-01-29 17:11

    At long last. Somehow Andrei Tarkovsky was able to read this, extract an absolute masterpiece of pseudo-genre film, and yet actually have almost no relation to the source. Where Tarkovsky took this into ambiguity and philosophic riffs, the original is more specific in its terms, dealing almost entirely with the massive criminal economy that springs up in the wake of a tremendous event (if you've ever wondered what the Zone actually is, here we're simply told in the first pages, but that doesn't scratch the surface). Anyway, its a very practical, Russian treatment, and much more towards pulp in style. Yet the novel also has its hefty share of the metaphysical. This is, like Solaris, a book about terminal incomprehension. In stark opposition to the undying optimism of so much American science fiction, here, human ingenuity has met its stopping block. We're entirely superseded by events. This is equally present in the actual descriptions of the Zone -- which are incredible, nail-biting, and bizarre -- and in the surrounding events sometime only obliquely mentioned. The plot is in fact impressively oblique as a whole, with implications often left off-camera, or to creep up slowly and emerge in chilling moments of recognition. The exact significance of Burbridge's career, for instance, remains almost subliminally horrifying. Thrillingly almost nothing to do with the Tarkovsky film, and independently excellent for that.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-01-21 00:11

    One of my unofficial goals from now until the end of the year is to go back to the books I speed-dated and kept at the end of last year and finish the dang things! Roadside Picnic is one of those, although I have another reason to read it that will soon be revealed.This is a story about the aftermath of a first contact event - except there wasn't as much contact as aliens treating Earth like a... wait for it... roadside picnic. They came in, destroying entire areas and rendering others unsafe for humans (the forbidden zones), and left a lot of debris. "Stalkers" comb the zones for alien technology that they can only guess at the purpose, and suffer the consequences. I liked this edition because it is a more complete version, and there is an afterword by one of the Strugatsky brothers about the censorship issues and publication issues of the novel in the USSR.

  • Isaac Clarke
    2019-02-17 18:54

    ხო არსებობს ლიტერატურაში გარდამტეხი წიგნები, (არ მკითხოთ რომლები არიან, არ ვიცი ვერ ჩამოგითვლით. გამოგია რო არსებობს და მაგიტო ვწერ). ხოდა ესეც ერთ-ერთია - ამ წიგნმა მოახერხა და გარდა იმისა რო თვითონაც კაი წიგნია, მილიონობით ადამიანისგან შემდგარი ფანბეიზი შემოიკრიბა მისგან გამომდნარი თამაშებითა თუ კინო და ლიტერატურული ნამუშევრებით. და ამ ყველაფერს გავეშვათ იმ იშვიათ წიგნთაგანია, რომელიც უაღრესად ატმოსფერულია - გადაშლი და მომენტალურად ზონის დამთრგუნველი, ბნელი და საოცრად მისტიური სამყარო გითრევს და შენც გამოცდილი ჭაღარა სტალკერივით თითოეულ გვერდზე სასიკვდილო საფრთხეს ელი თითქოს გადაშლი და იქვე "კოღოს სიქაჩლეა" ჩასაფრებული რომელიც დაგითრევს და მიგალურსმავს მიწას. მოკლედ 100/100მაპატიეთ ნასვამი ვააარ.

  • Lamora/Ches
    2019-02-07 18:58

    Roadside Picnic is not your usual science fiction. Most first contact stories are founded on the fundamental assumption that aliens will find the human race worthy of their attention and interesting enough to engage with—even when the first contact being militaristic in nature, we know at least we are worth having resources wasted on us. But maybe what if they just came, stopped for a picnic, and moved on, leaving behind their equivalent to our plastic wrappers, used batteries, monkey wrenches and pocket knives?Arkady and Boris Strugatsky don’t approach the alien visitation concept in a grandiose way. This example of a first contact story differs greatly from its western action-packed counterpart; it isn’t heavy on explosions and space lasers.The book starts several years after “the Visit”, the brief, unobserved landing of aliens in different sites across the planet that created six eerie and blighted landscapes, or “Zones”. The “Zones” are pervaded with dangerous, imperceptible anomalies, like the gravi-concentrates, a spot that suffers from extremely strong gravity, or Witch's Jelly, a colloidal gas that penetrates any material and turns it into more Witch's Jelly.They are also abounding in odd artifacts left behind by the Visitor, from relatively commonplace objects that are nonetheless valuable to humans and that are worth a lot of money to the right buyer, to unique artifacts that are passed along as legend, like the Golden Sphere, also known as the wish machine.Roadside Picnic shows a duality in optimism and fatalism. While several characters like to load the alien visitation with purpose and the Zones that were created as a result, there seems to be no message to decode.One scientist, in particular, believes there was no intent behind these disturbances. To him, the aliens are akin to a group of day trippers, and the prevailing metaphysical longing, the desire to make sense of humanity’s place in the universe, remains unfulfilled. It's the same discomfort that is wrecking everyone’s life as they try to ascribe value and meaning to what might, after all, be nothing but alien junk.Redrick ‘Red’ Schuhart is the main anti-hero and a laboratory assistant at the International Institute of Extraterrestrial Cultures which was established to study the Zones of the world. He is also a Stalker. Red navigates the Zone and brings back artifacts to sell on the black market.He remains disgruntled throughout the book, intoxicated by the Zone and its semblance of infinite possibilities and simultaneously hoping for the big score that will allow him to quit his sideline job. This inevitably draws him to the search out for the legendary Golden Sphere and its ability to grant any wish, and Red’s last and desperate hope is a sort of plea that humanity will continue to move forward against the universe’s indifference.Look into my soul, I know — everything you need is in there. It has to be. Because I’ve never sold my soul to anyone! It’s mine, it’s human! Figure out yourself what I want — because I know it can’t be bad! The hell with it all, I just can’t think of a thing other than those words of his — HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!Roadside Picnic is also a reflection on the sociological repercussions of advanced technology carelessly discarded in our own corner of the galaxy by creatures from outer space. It focuses attentively on the unscrupulous and fiercely competitive atmosphere that would settle among us humans on our rush to turn alien litter into profit to escape poverty and starvation.The setting and how it influences and informs the characters about life, happiness and freedom might seem analogous to the oppressive conditions in Soviet Russia, but if it renders us a glimpse of the stagnation of the Soviet era in the 70s, it does so by concentrating on how short, scarce and unpredictable are the lives of the fictional men charging into the Zone by need and by greed.I don’t mean to say it is a book remarkably free of politics, which is not the case, but the focus of the book is largely directed towards the time concerns of unchecked scientific research and nuclear fallout.Those who know the video game series S.T.A.L.K.E.R., especially the first game in the series, “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl”, will recognize several main parallel plot points - such as the wish granter - and familiar elements, like the artifacts, the gravitational anomalies, and the ability to throw bolts to scout for anomalies on the trail to the center of the zone. This book did, in fact, inspire the movie that, in turn, inspired the game, so if you liked the game, the suggestion to buy this book is doubled.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-02-12 17:58

    What will happen when human mind comes across transcendent phenomena?Roadside Picnic is an attempt of an answer to this impossible question.“The houses in the Plague Quarter are peeling and lifeless, but the windows are mostly intact, only so dirty that they look opaque. Now at night when you crawl by, you can see the glow inside, as if alcohol were burning in bluish tongues. That’s the hell slime radiating from the basement. But mostly it looks like an ordinary neighborhood, with ordinary houses, nothing special about it except that there are no people around.”The aliens had visited the Earth and they had gone but after them, there were left visitation zones that humans vainly try to explore, understand and use.Roadside Picnic is a complex investigation of transcendence: of the moral, scientific, political and humanistic problems, it can create…There are rumours of the Golden Sphere hidden in the Visitation Zone and bruited about that it can grant any human wish…“He laughed a happy laugh, crouched down, and beat the ground with his fists as hard as he could. The tangle of hair on the crown of his head trembled and swayed in an odd and funny way, clumps of dried dirt flew in every direction. And only then did Redrick raise his eyes and look at the Sphere. Carefully. Apprehensively. With a suppressed fear that it would be all wrong—that it’d disappoint, raise doubts, throw him out of the heaven he’d managed to ascend to, choking on shit along the way…”Human beings and God: we don’t know if He really exists but we believe that He’ll answer our prayers.

  • Mona
    2019-02-04 22:11

    Gripping Russian Science Fiction"Roadside Picnic" is a gripping science fiction story written while the U.S.S.R. was still alive and well, although it wasn't published until years after it was first written; and it took longer still for the original version (without cuts) to be published.The authors, two brothers, have an entirely original viewpoint. There are no American or British science fiction novels like this in any way.In a way the novella can be read as an indictment of capitalism. It can also be seen, perhaps, as a metaphor for our species' addiction to warfare.In the town of Harmont, in an unnamed country (it clearly isn't Russia), there is a so-called "Zone", one of several world wide, left behind by "The Visitation" of aliens years ago. "Roadside Picnic" is a story about so-called "stalkers". These are guys who go into the extremely hazardous Zone in Harmont to retrieve alien artifacts. The aliens have left behind many unique, useful and beautiful objects that humans cannot begin to understand or duplicate. However, humans do find many uses for these alien artifacts. Because there is a great demand for these objects and because the task of retrieving them is so difficult and dangerous, the monetary reward for them is high.The title "Roadside Picnic" refers to the idea that possibly the aliens simply left a bunch of junk behind at the sites of their visits, indifferent to any consequences it might have for the inhabitants of earth.Stalking is a lucrative but very dangerous profession. There are multiple dangers in the Zone, and many of the stalkers have been killed or maimed by their excursions into the Zone.The few that are left have been hounded by the police and even imprisoned, as stalking is illegal.The main character is the legendary Redric "Red" Schuhart. He's just about the last real stalker left. He's a tough and experienced stalker. He can also be mean, crude, vulgar, cruel, and indifferent to the suffering of others, although he does have a soft spot for family members. In particular he loves Guta, his girlfriend at the beginning of the novel, and his wife later; his daughter, nicknamed "The Monkey"; and his decrepit old father. Somehow, in spite of his failings, we sympathize with Red, even as we sometimes cringe at his cruelty and indifference to others.Red narrates some of the story; although other parts of it are narrated by other characters, for example, Richard Noonan, a contractor who's a friend of Red.At the beginning of the book, Red has a day job as a lab technician at the International Institute of Extraterrestrial Cultures, a local think tank on matters relating to the Zone and the Visitation. He can legally go into the Zone during the day on expeditions sanctioned and equipped by the Institute.Red moonlights as a stalker. Stalkers operate at night to avoid the police harassment. Directly or indirectly, the Zone wreaks havoc on Harmont, although its treasures also bring a lot of money to Harmont's inhabitants. In Red's life, in particular, nearly everyone around him is harmed directly or indirectly by his association with the Zone. Several people die, although he also carries one old stalker out of the Zone. This man would have died if not for Red. His family is affected also in various ways which I won't describe to avoid spoilers.But Red can't give up his addiction to the Zone. It seems people are drawn to the Zone like moths to a flame. Few escape unscathed.The story draws you in and you can't put down the book until you've finished it.The ending is deliberately ambiguous, although the reader can imagine the most likely conclusion. This is a fun read. Also, it's short, which is refreshing. The version I listened to was followed by a rather boring, excessively detailed history of the difficulty the authors had in getting the book published. You can skip the afterword, but do read the novella.Robert Forster does a great job of reading the audio. He voices the different characters quite well, especially the husky voiced Red.

  • Chris_P
    2019-01-23 21:04

    I’m an animal, you can see that I’m an animal. I have no words, they haven’t taught me the words; I don’t know how to think, those bastards didn’t let me learn how to think. But if you really are—all powerful, all knowing, all understanding—figure it out! Look into my soul, I know—everything you need is in there. It has to be. Because I’ve never sold my soul to anyone! It’s mine, it’s human! Figure out yourself what I want—because I know it can’t be bad! The hell with it all, I just can’t think of a thing other than those words of his—HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!This is another example of how science fiction can be the fabric used to create great literature. Roadside Picnic questions the meaning of "human intelligence" while, at the same time, putting our intellectual (dis)abilities under the microscope. If intelligence is measured relatively to this of other species then humans are the most intelligent beings on the planet. But what if one day we stumbled on a much higher technology than our own? What if Newton was to come across a microwave emitter, as one of the characters in the book puts it? That's what the characters face in Roadside Picnic and the best that they can come up with, is to sell and make profit of the findings. That sounds human enough, doesn't it?It's been suggested in other reviews that there's something Dostoyevskyan in the novel and, as "off" as it may sound, I also think there is. The main characters are tormented beings and, although there are aliens in the game, the book's center is introspection. The first half sets the stage where the actual action will take place in the second half. A stage which stretches from the inside to the outside and then flows right back in.What keeps it from being perfect is that its philosophical depth is mostly concentrated in the two final chapters. That said, its being fun to read and simultaneously providing food for thought certainly makes it unique.

  • Edward
    2019-01-23 17:56

    Foreword, by Ursula K. Le Guin--Roadside PicnicAfterword, by Boris Strugatsky

  • Evgeny
    2019-02-06 16:12

    Strugatsky brothers have a cult following on the territories of the former Soviet Union; think Heinlein of the Soviets. This is probably their best-known novel internationally thanks to a movie Stalker by Tarkovsky and several video games by the same name. The main idea explained right in the prolog. A highly advanced alien race left (discarded?) artifacts and anomalies in several places on Earth called Zones. The Zones are dangerous, but the artifacts are highly prized and so some people called stalkers smuggle things from Zones. There is a price to pay for these smuggling trips though. As with a lot of good Soviet science fiction, expect a lot of question asked, no clear answers provided and no happy end. It is a though-provoking, hard-to-put down masterpiece, most probably the best introduction to Soviet science fiction. A must read for any sci-fi fan.

  • Tatjana
    2019-01-27 00:02

    film ("Stalker") je interesantan, knjiga je interesantnija :)Za ljubitelje starog (dobrog) sf-a...

  • Aaron
    2019-02-13 17:49

    Absolutely crazy good. A tight little bundle of joy concerning the aftermath of an alien visitation. This speaks to human behavior, the essence of intelligence, and a whole butt load of other wonderful philisophical and moral questions. Pure literature.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2019-02-16 16:01

    You may have seen the 1979 Russian film Stalker, or Сталкер, but up until a couple of months ago, I had no idea it was based on a novel. Roadside Picnic is amazing. Though I have to say I love the film more, this is an excellent book with deep psychological undertones and numerous twisted plot devices.

  • RubyTombstone [With A Vengeance]
    2019-02-15 23:49

    Well, this wasn't quite what I was expecting. I came into this knowing that the book was about the debris left behind by alien visitors to Earth, and that it posed questions around what humankind would do if we couldn't figure its mysteries. What if we found alien technology, and had no idea how to use it or for what purpose it might be used? What if we didn't know how it came to be here, never mind what it all might mean? I was expecting this to be a look at the issues of cross-cultural understanding when neither culture knows anything about the other. I was expecting this to be Ursula LeGuin-esque.While all of those elements are there in the book, they're only there on account of the Foreword written by LeGuin herself, and a conversation between two of the characters about 3/4 of the way through the book. This conversation poses those very questions directly - no subtext, no further thought required. If you removed this single conversation from the book, I really don't think those valuable points would come across very strongly. You might wonder at the characters who devote their lives to trawling through the most dangerous, unpredictable zones in the universe to retrieve objects they can't even fathom, let alone use. You might laugh at the characters who use these amazing light-emitting stones which break all the laws of physics as beaded bracelets, but I don't think you'd be prompted to meditation on what it means to be human unless this single piece of dialogue did it for you. I guess what I'm saying is that the ideas are fascinating. I just wish there had been a more nuanced delivery method.That said, I did really enjoy the Afterword by Boris Strugatsky which gives us a window on what it was like to be a writer in Soviet Russia during the 1970s and 80s. It's also a great example of his writing style - all the warmth and humour and pent up anger that's inherent in the book's main characters, who by the way, are incredibly relatable for those of us outside of Eastern Europe. So I'm torn between a 3 and 4 star review. I'll say 3 stars for any edition which doesn't include this particular Foreword and Afterword, and 4 stars for this edition which has both.

  • Jason Kelley
    2019-01-28 17:00

    This is the novel on which Andrea Tarkovsky based the motion picture Stalker. I have been an enormous fan of this film for years and was excited to finally get my hands on this novel. It wasn't so easy to do just 5 years ago. Thank you internet. An alien culture visits earth in several different locations. There is no human contact, and the aliens don't stay long. But they do leave behind a myriad collection of technological bits and an immediate landscape that is uninhabitable and very dangerous to explore. This landscape is called the Zone. The governments of the world have security hold on these lands and are studying all the artifacts that have been left behind. Out all of this comes a breed of thief known as Stalkers. They are locals who sneak into the zone and collect artifacts for sale on the black market as well as to government agencies who otherwise can't find specialists competent enough to enter the zone safely. The Zone is filled with booby traps that don't fit in with our laws of physics very well. But a good stalker has a preternatural knack for getting through safely. The story focuses around one particular stalker and the positive and negative effects the Zone has on him and those around him. My favorite parts of the story are of the stalkers adventures into the zone. I can almost feel myself in the Zone. I also like how the Strugatsky brothers approach the concept of humans dealing with hyper technology from aliens. Think, a monkey using a battery as a hammer. What I did not like was the almost lopsided focus on the bullshit humans like to do to each other because of greed and avarice. Man, I see enough of that already. Give me more inside the zone!

  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    2019-01-21 22:14

    The Visit occurred sometime in last half of the 20th century. Aliens dropped by earth, landing in six areas scattered across the globe. They stayed a few days and then they left. What becomes known as The Zones are the sites of their brief sojourn on our planet. Behind them they left landscapes where the laws of physic no longer apply, or have perhaps simply taken a vicious turn. They have also left odd detritus, objects of alien manufacture of immense interest to science and very profitable on the black market.Harmont is a town that borders one of the Zones. It seems to be in Canada or the Northern Midwest of the United States. Such vagueness suits the authors well. Their elliptical narrative, composed of four series of events some placed years apart from one another, leaves the reader on his own to put together what has happened and how, over the years, the proximity of the Zone affects the inhabitants of Harmont. Harmont itself becomes a kind of boomtown. Government research centers bring in hundreds of new citizens and manufacturing concerns spring up to exploit the new technology. A service industry of bars and brothels proliferates. The town is also a tourist attraction, although the Zone is far too dangerous for any but the best trained and carefully monitored scientists to enter. And then there are the Stalkers.Stalkers are young men drawn to the Zone for profits and adventure for which they are willing to risk almost certain death. Since so many wannabes die in their first attempt, successful Stalkers become legendary. Our hero is Rendrick Schuhart, known as Red. (Stalkers earn nicknames that make them sound like gunslingers or the bad guys from Dick Tracy comics.) Red is the perfect outlaw hero. What he does is outside the law, but he is a man of honor, a good family man, and loyal to his cohorts. But entering the Zone takes its toll. Although he may be caught and imprisoned for years at time, he always provides for his wife and child. His daughter is a mutant covered in fine, tawny brown fur. Oh, and his father is among those who have returned from the dead and hang around their old homes as slightly putrescent inconveniences. The dead man and his mutant granddaughter have an inexplicable bond.Roadside Picnic is a novel of character and atmosphere rather than plot. Descriptions of trips into the Zone are suspenseful and usually tragic. Red is burdened with difficulties at home, with the law, and with both the scientists and black marketers that employ him. The scientists and bureaucrats who manage them know that they have no idea what they really have their hands on or how their experiments will end. Are they doing good? Are they introducing deadly technology into a world that is not prepared for it? Or are they simply making geegaws for the commercial market? Despite the action and suspense the novel offers, the overall tone is despairing. But this is, after all, a Russian novel.

  • Maggie K
    2019-02-14 19:05

    I SO enjoyed this short novel.After aliens stopped near their town and left a bleak area filled with their refuse, individuals called Stalkers make a living retrieving and selling the castoffs.The psycholgical and physiological effects of the visit haunt the book, as characters make sense of the things that are happening to them and around them....I finished this a couple days ago, and the atmosphere is still haunting to me, a sign to me of a piece of fiction I will remember for a long time

  • Azumi
    2019-02-17 21:57

    Que historia más curiosa y original.La idea es genial y da mucho que pensar: unos extraterrestres visitan la tierra y dejan olvidados, un montón de trastos, artefactos y basura contaminante por doquier. ¿Y que hacen los humanos? pues recogerla, venderla, intentar entenderla y si no se entiende buscarle una utilidad para sacar algún provecho y los objetos peligrosos, que los hay y bastante chungos, se descartan.Me ha gustado mucho el símil con los picnics que montamos los humanos en los parques y luego dejamos todo tipo de desperdicios, latas, papeles, comidas y como lo compara con lo pueden llegar a sentir por ejemplo los insectos una vez dejamos abandonado el lugar. El comportamiento es el mismo en el fondo. Los bichitos también investigan y aunque no entiendan para qué sirve cada cosa le buscan su utilidad para sacar provecho. Me ha parecido alucinante.