Roadside Picnic – Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugasky

Aliens have visited the earth, stopping briefly at several sites and leaving behind their trash in areas known as Zones.  Though most of the mystifying debris is extremely dangerous, some of it accidentally proves to be useful.  The scientists can’t understand the principles of the artifacts and feel sure they are using “sledgehammers to crack walnuts”.  An international institute sponsors research, a black market flourishes, Stalkers enter the forbidden zones and risk all kinds of disfigurement and death to steal bits of alien litter. It’s worth a lot of money.  Walled off and guarded by police, these Zones are legally accessible to scientists, but the Zones are deadly and even the scientists do business with the Stalkers.  Redrick Schuhart is one of the successful Stalkers….he is 23 and still alive.


Roadside Picnic was first published in Russian in 1971 and in English in 1977.  This is a new translation, which corrects the errors and omissions of the previous one.  It has a foreword by Ursla K. LeGuin and a new afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the history of its publication in Russia.  Like most Soviet science fiction of that era it is dark and gritty and surreal and ironic. This is a first contact story unlike most first contact stories. There was no communication, there can be no understanding.  The characters are tough, ordinary people, not heroes.  I haven’t decided whether or not I liked the book, but I couldn’t stop reading it and I can’t stop thinking about it.

 NetGalley Review    Publication date 5.1.12

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