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Roadside Picnic (1972)

by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5801024,190 (4.01)158
"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)
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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 158 mentions

English (95)  French (5)  Russian (1)  German (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
This is a dangerous book, and different from much SF that Western readers are familiar with.

The main characters and narrators are not the engineers, captains, pilots or administrators. They are not the intellectuals. They are from the working class: sometimes brutish, sometimes brilliant, always under-informed and a bit bitter. They do dangerous jobs, trying to get the better piece of the pie, no matter what the admin may say. It's subversive in little ways.

The writing is terse and spare to a fault. Piles of detail are not given; the reader must pay attention to each word in a scene, or something 20 pages later will seem to come out of nowhere. Sudden moments of violence just happen without preamble, as they would to the character, and then the story continues, without lots of explanation...as it would for the character. Like the character who is picking his way through the Zone, the Reader should make his way cautiously through the text. You have to pay attention.

The story itself, the Zone, the characters, and the voice of the text are dark and unfriendly as well, and they soak into your subconscious. Hope and happiness aren't much present. This can leave a reader with very dark dreams, or lingering unease days after reading. It sticks with you like few other SF books I've read. The end of the book is intentionally abrupt and rather inconclusive; it marks a good stopping point for tale-telling, but does leave you wondering what the fallout would have been.

This is a dangerous book, but one worth the danger. It is a fundamentally different SF than the norm, but a very rewarding one. Once you've read it, "Roadside Picnic" doesn't really let you walk away from it. ( )
  MLShaw | Jun 10, 2021 |

Anyhow, I agree with Lem that the final chapter – while I sympathize with its ultimate message, “HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!” – isn’t the most successful of the book. It turns something that was fairly consistent in its harshness in a kind of dreamlike carnival of the deranged. In vogue in 60ies and 70ies literature, sure, but also a bit of an Achilles heel, as I feel the mystery and absurdity of life isn’t best served with fairly straightforward mimesis of a mental meltdown in outré surroundings: it too easily turns into something cartoonish.

Is the weird truly the best form to portray the Wonder? Part of the answer to that is taste, obviously, but I think reality is strange enough as is, and it doesn’t need embellishments to drive that home. On the other hand, Redrick Schuhart’s mental fate isn’t unrealistic given what he had to endure in his fictional life, so Boris & Arkady Strugatsky get a pass for that ending, easily.


Full review on Weighing A Pig ( )
  bormgans | Jun 3, 2021 |
An (unspecified) time ago spaceships landed in several places along the same latitude. They stayed a very short while and then left, but in their wake they left . . . depending on your point of view, potentially miraculous technology or fatally dangerous trash. Not normal trash, but objects and slime that burns, and and spatial anomalies that can tear a person apart and . . . the list goes on and on. But some of the stuff is unbelievably useful even if people have no idea how any of these objects (say, batteries) that never run out of power and, if encouraged even multiply!. In this (unspecified) country, not the Soviet Union, and western culturally, a black market thrives alongside the governmental research agencies despite all efforts to curb them. Stalkers, if they aren't immediately killed, gradually learn their way around and to recognize potentially useful things. The aliens made no attempt to communicate with the humans and Why Not? is a burning issue. Is this a test? Was this just a casual stop, a look around, or even, as is suggested, no more than what humans used to sometimes do in a rest area, eat a picnic and dump all the trash cluttering up their car or camper and take off. Maybe they never even noticed there was anything remotely like a civilization. Maybe we aren't even close yet (if ever). I loved everything in the novel: Redrick Schuhart is a fully rounded person (somewhat unusual in SF until more recently, it must be admitted--and this came out in 1972) and many minor characters are developed exactly as necessary, the dialogue is excellent (in all good translations, Russian dialogue tends to be good), the plot is perfect and intertwines with the thematic/philosophical content. Also -- the novel barely feels dated perhaps because the emphasis on people as they are is so true and ever-unchanging. I've often wondered if we aren't insane thinking that some alien culture might be delighted with us. In this one, it's clear to me, anyway, that we are beneath notice. Just. Wow. ***** ( )
  sibylline | Apr 10, 2021 |
I really liked this book. It is fairly slow moving (not an action flick) and the characters are shrouded in mystery. In fact, all the details are pretty shrouded and we are left to fill in a lot of blanks. Very thoughtful, very interesting, and probably pretty accurate as to what the aftermath of an alien visitation could be like...

I added a half star just because it was a classic. And I am glad I read it. But, to be fair, it probably is only a 4* read. ( )
  crazybatcow | Apr 4, 2021 |
Ik had nog nooit van de broers Strougatski gehoord, tot ik dit boek in Furet du Nord in Lille zag, net zoals een van hun andere, [b:Il Est Difficile D'être Un Dieu|24939163|Il Est Difficile D'être Un Dieu|Arkady Strugatsky|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1423995455s/24939163.jpg|41364467]. Dat hun boeken ook in het Engels vertaald zijn, ontdekte ik pas na de aankoop. Maar goed, m'n Russisch is onbestaande, dus moet ik wel een vertaling lezen.

Het verhaal speelt zich af in de Zone in het stadje Harmont, waarbij buitenaardse Bezoekers afval hebben achtergelaten. Die objecten zijn ongezien in de huidige wereld en stalkers proberen waardevolle, althans volgens de wereldse normen, voorwerpen op de zwarte markt te verkopen. Echter, dit kan niet ongestraft. Niet alleen is deze activiteit illegaal, maar de Zone waarin deze stalkers opereren, herbergt hier en daar mysterieuze krachten. Deze zorgen voor sterfte onder de stalkers, vooral in de Zone zelf. Maar ook hun kinderen, althans deze geboren na het Bezoek, vertonen vreemde gedragingen en mutaties.

Langs de andere kant hebben stalkers een gezin te onderhouden en zien ze een normale job niet zitten, willen ze hun eigen baas blijven en de nodige vrijheid bezitten, dus moeten ze wel zoiets proberen. Deze "vrijheid" heeft 2 kanten: Hoe meer objecten ze kunnen verpatsen, hoe meer geld ze krijgen, maar omdat dit dan ook hun enige job is en hun opdrachtgevers steeds meer blijven eisen, moeten ze keer op keer terug naar de Zone, met alle gevolgen van dien (o.a. op vlak van gezondheid), en zijn ze dus ook een slaaf van dat "systeem". Dit verwijt Redrick Shouhart (hoofdfiguur in het verhaal en werkend voor het Instituut) ook de normale wereld, dat werknemers slaaf zijn van hun werkgever.

Na de mysterieuze dood van een collega-stalker blijft Red teruggaan naar de Zone om antwoorden te vinden, alsook de Gouden Bol, alvorens de overheid tussenkomt en die bol eerst bemachtigt.

Ook bevat dit verhaal, via o.a. een dialoog tussen Richard H. Nounane (vertegenwoordiger en goede vriend van Redrick Shouhart) en een van de wetenschappers in het verhaal, Dr. Valentin Pilman, een grote brok filosofie m.b.t. het Bezoek van de buitenaardsen. Die buitenaardsen komen op geen enkel moment in beeld, alles draait rond wat ze achtergelaten hebben, de stalkers en hoe dit alles gebeurt. Pilman ziet het als een soort uitstapje dat de buitenaardsen gemaakt hebben, zoals wij mensen een uitstapje naar zee maken en afval achterlaten.

Wat me wel opvalt, maar het zal ook liggen aan de Russische inslag, aan de periode van toen, en dergelijke meer: er wordt stevig gedronken en gerookt doorheen het verhaal. De ene sigaret na de ander, de ene alcoholische drank na de ander (bier, vodka, cognac, wijn, ...). Water, frisdranken, fruitsappen, ...? Nog nooit van gehoord. Ook wordt er regelmatig een stevig potje gescholden en argot gesproken: van ordure over salaud en charognard tot enculé, en meer. Dat leest best leuk, moet ik zeggen, vooral als je zoiets niet vaak in het Frans leest. ;-)

Het verhaal is best vlot te lezen, zeker in één of twee dagen, maar dan moet je wel met verlof of een snellezer zijn, mijns inziens. Langs de andere kant miste ik wat achtergrondinformatie over de wereld, over de invloed of macht van de overheid, over de opdrachtgevers van de stalkers, en dergelijke meer. Daardoor komt de focus ook sneller en makkelijker op het hoofdpersonage te liggen.

Het is in ieder geval geen conventionele sciencefiction, geen ruimtetoestanden, geen moderne toekomst, ... en dat maakt het als afwisseling wel interessant. Het is ook een donker verhaal dat zich evengoed in de huidige tijd, dan wel in de jaren 1970 kon afgespeeld hebben.

Op het einde, wat dan wel weer een soort meerwaarde is (m.i.), is er een nawoord van Boris Strougatski (1997) waarin hij schreef hoe het boek ontstaan is en welke (politieke en andere) moeilijkheden hij en z'n broer hadden om het gepubliceerd te krijgen. Dit leidde tot een 8 jaar durende strijd alvorens groen licht werd gegeven. Maar de auteurs hebben toch gezegevierd, al wordt het aanzien als een pyrrusoverwinning. Deze editie bevat toch alleszins de (vertaling van de) tekst die de broers Strougatski gepubliceerd wilden zien.

Kort: Ik vond het best entertainend en een welkome afwisseling met wat ik normaal gezien lees. Alleen, zoals ik hierboven vermeldde, mocht er wat meer informatie over bepaalde personages en de wereld geschreven zijn, zodat ik me iets beter kon inleven en de zaken voorstellen. Maar ik wil gerust nog andere van hun werken lezen.

Er zijn lezers die dit boek beter dan mij gerecenseerd / geanalyseerd hebben, waaronder HIER en HIER.

( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Strugatsky, ArkadyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, BorisAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Adrian, EsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barceló, MiquelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bormashenko, OlenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouis, Antonina W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Capo, LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fukami, TadashiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griese, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalliomaa, HeikkiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lem, StanislawAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magee, AlanCover artistsecondary 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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"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."--

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