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Roadside Picnic (Rediscovered Classics) by…

Roadside Picnic (Rediscovered Classics) (original 1972; edition 2012)

by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, Ursula K. Le Guin (Foreword)

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1,454615,150 (3.98)100
Title:Roadside Picnic (Rediscovered Classics)
Authors:Arkady Strugatsky
Other authors:Boris Strugatsky, Ursula K. Le Guin (Foreword)
Info:Chicago Review Press (2012), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:ebook, Your library
Tags:scifi, russian, classics

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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» See also 100 mentions

English (55)  French (4)  Russian (1)  German (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
This 1970s Russian SF novel is considered something of a classic of the field, and I can definitely see why. It's based on a fantastic idea, one that really gets under your skin: Thirteen years ago, aliens briefly visited Earth. Everywhere they landed, bizarre, destructive, inexplicable things happened. Then they took off again, giving no indication of why they'd come in the first place, but leaving the places they touched forever changed into something weird and dangerous, scattered with unfathomable alien technologies and equally unfathomable hazards. People go into these zones to scavenge for these technologies, but often they don't come out again. Or they come out changed. And creepy, impossible things continue to happen around them. What does all this mean? Nobody knows for sure, but one character speculates that perhaps the visitors' stop on Earth was no more than a roadside picnic, and these altered landscapes and abandoned miracles are nothing more than their discarded garbage and forgotten tools, and the careless tracks of their passing. Like I said, it's a fantastic concept.

The story itself, which focuses mainly on one of these scavengers (or "stalkers") isn't very substantially plotty or anything, but it pulled me along nicely, anyway. The setting is a little odd, because it's not quite anywhere in particular, under not quite any political system in particular (an artifact, perhaps, of the restrictions the authors were under while writing in Soviet Russia). But while I found that a little distracting, it mostly works OK in the end. The one really sour note is the book's treatment of women, which is abysmal, even for the 70s: every woman in the story is either a sex object, or is ordered about like a servant, or both, and none of them have the faintest shred of a personality. Still, as annoyed as I was by that, I'm still very glad to have finally filled this gap in my reading of the genre. ( )
1 vote bragan | Oct 15, 2016 |
A fabulous concept for a book. The stalker subplot is the highlight of the book, w immediate cash for items brought out of the zone. I thought the dialogue was a bit awkward, though that may just have been the translation in the pdf that I read.. Could have been 70's, could have been 1920's Russian sci fi. I would have liked more closure at the end also.
I am interested in watching the movie also, but you know how that goes... ( )
  delta351 | Oct 3, 2016 |
As remarkable as advertised. Read on the heels of my first (four) viewings of Tarkovsky's film adaptation, Stalker. Remarks about both over at my blog. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Interesting and enticing for the whole missing-information approach - but just didn't deliver the punch I was expecting. ( )
  jculkin | Feb 1, 2016 |
I am not sure exactly what it is about Soviet SF that I find so appealing and satisfying but I think it has to do with 'oddness,' a sense of the world and its characters being continually off balance and desperately searching for some firm footing that infects the reader as well (at least this reader). The same atmospherics are a constant in most of Stanislaw Lem's novels as well--no intention, here, of simply lumping him in with Soviet authors. This testing of the limits of a human-centric reality is not often an element in Western SF....although there is a hint of it in certain novels of Pynchon.

Very real, even gritty characters, face situations in which their own most basic precepts of how the world does and should operate fail them. Once principals of physics become squishy, so does any sense of 'common sense.' Characters in this novel drink a lot with a purpose: reality has become so weird that they drink to gain some grasp of reality rather than to escape it. Drinking allows the tightly wrapped Dr. Pillman to finally loosen up and express his hopes, fears, guesses about a world in which his beloved physics seems to miss the target so badly it is almost beside the point.

As in much of the fiction of the Strugatsky's, I never feel like it is plotted in a way that fully satisfies Western tastes. It flows too much like life and seems to lack the hand of a creator that carefully manipulates plot lines to arrive at some fully satisfying, poetic conclusion. (Think Chekhov. Not O. Henry.) I feel like this is maybe more of a developed taste in Westerners and it is certainly a taste I have developed.

If Goodreads supported half stars, this would come in at 3.5 for me. I very much enjoyed this book and am in the process of getting my hands on more work by the Strugatsky's as well as a collection of other Soviet SF. I love the atmosphere of these books and the twilight/uncertain worlds into which they plunge their readers. It is a world in which I rightly or wrongly imagine much of mankind to have existed during the Soviet era (read Boris' Afterward) and a world I catch glimpses of when something detected in my peripheral vision causes me to turn my head quickly enough. ( )
  tsgood | Dec 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arkady Strugatskyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, Borismain authorall editionsconfirmed
弾, 深見翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barceló, MiquelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bormashenko, OlenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouis, Antonina W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Capo, LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griese, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lem, StanislawAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Möckel, AljonnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rehnström, KjellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schalekamp, Jean-A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, BorisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturgeon, TheodoreIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uhlířová, MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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)
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.
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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)

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Average: (3.98)
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2 16
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