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Roadside picnic by Arkady Strugatsky
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Roadside picnic (original 1972; edition 2012)

by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky (Author), Olena Bormashenko (Translator)

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1,287536,086 (3.98)88
Member:aethercowboy
Title:Roadside picnic
Authors:Arkady Strugatsky (Author)
Other authors:Boris Strugatsky (Author), Olena Bormashenko (Translator)
Info:Chicago, Ill. : Chicago Review Press, 2012, ©1972.
Collections:Your library, GT3, Have read, Advanced Reader Copies, 2012 (inactive)
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction

Work details

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky (1972)

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    The Ugly Swans by Arkady Strugatsky (leigonj)
    leigonj: By the same authors, both books feature strange happenings: in Roadside Picnic the curious effects left by a brief Alien visitation in 'the zone', and in Ugly Swans the perpetual rain and mutants in a small town, caused by who knows what?
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English (48)  French (3)  Russian (1)  German (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)


Frightening, important and completely original sci-fi story that was censored by the Soviet government when first published. Purchase the new translation to get the best version. ( )
1 vote LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
Faaaaaaantastic ( )
1 vote Braden_Timss | Jul 17, 2015 |
I haven't read science fiction since the late 70s, but I picked up this book because I had such fun reading the Strugatsky brothers' satire on crime novels, The Dead Mountaineer's Inn (which had a touch of science fiction itself). And I enjoyed it because, unlike my memories of other books I'd read, it focused on real people and their reactions to a stopover, initially 13 years earlier, by aliens, referred to as the Visit.

The novel opens with an interview with a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, who sets the stage for the novel by pointing out that the most important thing about the Visit was that "we now know for sure that humanity is not alone in the universe." Then the novel switches to Harmont, a city/town that was one of the six places the aliens visited and then left, leaving havoc behind. (Harmont is in an unnamed country, that seems to be someplace in North America, possibly Canada since there are references to Royal organizations.) The reader meets Red Schuhart, then 23 (so 10 when the Visit occurred), who works as a lab assistant at the local branch of the International Institute of Extraterrestrial Cultures by day, and as a so-called stalker by night. Stalkers go into the heavily guarded Zone (the area abandoned after the Visit) braving the dangers there to bring out "swag," weird objects the aliens left behind which command high prices on the black market. Some of these have found uses in human culture, although the humans have no idea what the aliens used them for. Gradually the reader learns about the quest to find the perhaps mythical Golden Sphere, which is said to grant your most heartfelt wish, and at the end of the novel Red goes back into the Zone to find it.

But in between, the reader enters the world of the Zone and the community around it. Dangers abound in the Zone, from hell slime to silver cobwebs to bug traps that concentrate gravity to amazing heat that can burn people, and many who go into the Zone fail to come out. The community around the Zone includes the scientists at the Institute, police who try to control the stalkers, a variety of stalkers, black marketeers, "legitimate" businessmen, bar owners, and more. Red has a girlfriend, Guta, and marries her when she becomes pregnant; the fate of their child, who they call the Monkey, is revealed gradually as the novel progresses. Most of the novel is told from Red's perspective, but there is a section, when he is jailed for stalking, that is told from the perspective of one of his friends, a local salesman of electronic equipment who also seems to be involved in some way in the effort to control stalking.

In a way, this is a philosophical novel. What does it mean to have been visited by aliens who didn't stay? Were they just having a roadside picnic on the way to somewhere else? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to do the right thing?

Note: my edition included as afterword by Boris Strugatsky describing the publication struggle about this book in the Soviet Union.
8 vote rebeccanyc | May 24, 2015 |
A dawning realisation is that for me, a richness of language and setting is just as important as the concepts described in order for me to enjoy a story.
The concept of an abandoned alien visitation site with baffling advanced alien technology strewn as refuse; the community that grows around it; government and Stalkers, all drew me into the story. Yet only twice in the story did I really feel like it hit the mark for me - Firstly, the conversation with Noonan where the Roadside Picnic idea is discussed, and when Red makes his final trip in the Zone. In total this probably accounts for 20 pages of the book. The rest I found a rather bland read. Just as Red seems removed from what is around him, I felt removed from the story, content to watch it pass by than be immersed in it.
Philosophically, there is much going on, but ultimately, for me it came wrapped in a dry and dull narrative.
Roadside Picnic was well written and structurally solid, but ultimately unsatisfying for me. ( )
  StaticBlaq | Apr 26, 2015 |
A true Sci-Fi classic. A little dated in style and characterization (unsurprisingly), but a tightly written novel with a rather unusual and mysterious premise. Well worth a re-read even if I left it rather a long time! Now to re-watch Tarkovsky's Stalker.............. ( )
  malcrf | Mar 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
 

» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arkady Strugatskyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, Borismain authorall editionsconfirmed
弾, 深見翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bormashenko, OlenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouis, Antonina W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lem, StanislawAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Möckel, AljonnaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, BorisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
You have to make the good out of the bad because
that's all you have got to make it out of.
Robert Penn Warren
Dedication
First words
I suppose that your first serious discovery, Dr. Pilman, should be considered what is now called the Pilman Radiant?
INTERVIEWER:... I suppose that your first important discovery, Dr. Pillman, was the celebrated Pillman radiant? (tr. Bormashenko, 2012)
Quotations
We usually proceed from a trivial definition: 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 his 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 acts.
It all had to change. Not one life and not two lives, not one fate and not two fates -- every little bit of this stinking world world had to change ...
On the one hand, we are forced to admit, on the other hand, we can't dispute.
I'm anxious about going into the Zone and cold sober to boot. I grab him by the shoulder belt and tell him exactly what he is and just how his mother conceived him.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575070536, Paperback)

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those strange misfits who are compelled by some unknown force to venture illegally into the Zone and, in spite of the extreme danger, collect the mysterious artefacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the Zone and the thriving black market in the alien products. Even the nature of his daughter has been determined by the Zone. And it is for her that Red makes his last, tragic foray into the hazardous and hostile depths.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:13 -0400)

"Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of the 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."--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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