Brent Garland, June 16, 2014 (view all comments by Brent Garland)
Written in 1971, this new translation of the Strugatsky brothers's short novel manages to both give a contemporary voice to the book while still keeping the feel of many of their works produced under the threat of Soviet censorship. This powerful tale of humankind in the wake of an alien visitation was censored for years in the USSR, even though it managed to inspire legendary Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky to make the movie STALKER in 1979.
Despite being 40+ years old, its insight and message is completely contemporary, due to the fact that its power comes not from the imagined future, but from what that imagining reveals about human relationships, institutions and desires. The Strugatskys' insights into the greed, bravery, despair and loves of their characters drives the story straight into the heart of the reader. I am not a regular reader of science fiction, but ROADSIDE PICNIC hits the spot.
Paul Mackinney, November 12, 2012 (view all comments by Paul Mackinney)
When I found Roadside Picnic, I didn't know what a treat I was in for. The authors start with a hard SF premise reminiscent of Rendezvous With Rama: Yes, the aliens have arrived and No, we don't really understand anything else. There the resemblance ends.
Arthur C. Clarke's characters are American. The politics of funding and professional rivalry are the only barriers to eager, well-fed scientists grappling with the mysteries of the universe. The Strugatsky brothers' characters are Soviet. The scientists lucky enough to pursue research or exploration combine intelligence and naivete in equal portions, as anyone with an ounce of political acumen has either suppressed all curiosity or been purged. And since all stories must be told by survivors, it's not a scientist but a criminal that tells this one.
Strugatsky writes with the dark passion of Harlan Ellison and the political humanism of LeGuin. It's wonderful stuff.
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Chicago Review Press -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Since its 1972 appearance in Russia, the Strugatsky brothers' novel has been published worldwide, inspired Andrei Tarkovsky's memorable film Stalker, and been the basis for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games. As this vivid new translation demonstrates, it also remains a powerful study of human behavior in the presence of superhuman power. The action takes place in and near a Visit Zone, one of six areas suddenly scattered with incomprehensible artifacts and disturbing phenomena; one baffled scientist ruefully suggests that aliens visited Earth like careless tourists and dumped their trash here. While cautious people keep their distance, furtive explorers called 'stalkers' enter the Zones to retrieve objects that are wonderful but unpredictably deadly. Over-lapping narratives show stalker Red Schuhart's struggle to master the Zone's inexplicable treasures and terrors. Boris Strugatsky's afterword describes how uneasy the manuscript made myopic Soviet bureaucrats; it has survived triumphantly as a classic because it expresses humanity's inarticulate rage and wonder at life's frustrations and promises." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Kirkus Reviews,
"The story is carried out with a controlled fierceness that doesn't waver for a minute."
by Infinity Plus,
"Brilliantly and beautifully written...a truly superb work of science fiction."
by Ursula K. Le Guin,
"Lively, racy, and likable...complex in event, imaginative in detail, ethically and intellectually sophisticated."
by Theodore Sturgeon,
"Amazing....The Strugatskys' deft and supple handling of loyalty and greed, of friendship and love, of despair and frustration and loneliness [produces] a truly superb tale....You won't forget it."
by Publishers Weekly,
"[A] vivid new translation...it has survived triumphantly as a classic."
by The Complete Review,
"No doubt: a powerful, classic work of science fiction. Certainly recommended."
"If you're going to read just one Soviet-era Russian science fiction novel, it should be Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's dark, ambiguous Roadside Picnic."
"The Strugatskys' worldview remains both uniquely cutting and replete with humanity....The characters' conflicted views of their troubled world make for a read that still feels fresh today. It's also a book that's bound to make you feel a little less sure of humanity's place in the universe."
Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of 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 hell keep going back to the Zone, again and again, until he finds the answer to all his problems.
First published in 1972, Roadside Picnic is still widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years. This authoritative new translation corrects many errors and omissions and has been supplemented with a foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin and a new afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the strange history of the novel's publication in Russia.
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