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Roadside Picnic ([Gollancz SF]) [Hardcover]

Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 April 1978 [Gollancz SF]
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.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; First Thus edition (13 April 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575024453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575024458
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,257,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

¿Deft and supple...a truly superb tale¿ Theodore Sturgeon --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Arkady Strugatsky (1925-1991) and Boris Strugatsky (b.1931) began to collaborate in the early 1950s after Arkady had studied English and Japanese and worked as a technical translator and editor and Boris was a computer mathematician at Pulkova astronomical observatory. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roadside Picnic 8 Sep 2008
One of the best pieces of sci-fi fiction in the last few decades, "Roadside Picnic" tells the story of a Stalker, one of the few who dare to enter a zone of suspended disbelief that is the remnant of a possible alien visitation. Stalkers venture into the deadly realm for artifacts, which are sometimes useful, sometimes enigmatic, sometimes life-threatening, in order to survive in the oppressive, broken social climate surrounding the zone.

Anybody who's ever played the video-game "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl" will recognise the very concise plot; those who've read "Nova Swing" by M. J. Harrison will have also come across one of the many pieces of fiction inspired by this short novel.

The writing is terse and superbly descriptive, shifting from a first-person narritive to third partway through. The change is expertly handled by the Strugatsky brothers, who are masters at the hard under-stated personalities that frequent Soviet fiction - think the protagonist from "Solaris", if you've read it, and you'll know what I mean.

Some have critisised the novel for being "too much sociology and not enough sci-fi", that is to say, not what they were expecting. However if you get exactly what you expected in a novel, you probably just read pulp or a 1960s comic book. "Roadside Picnic" is a beautifully written, inspiring read, with strong, desperate characters and a thrilling premise.

The only downside is that it is perhaps too short: the potential for other aspects of the story to be played out - like the original of the zones, further applications of artifacts, scientific or unanticipated, or the continued stories of some of the characters - are put aside in favour of a delicious form of mystery that will keep you reading right up until the fantastic thought-provoking denoument.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miracles 3 Jan 2011
By mjholt
The scenario is that extraterrestrials have visited our planet, and departed without apparently noticing us. The place they visited (in Canada) has become the "Zone". What they leave behind is to us inexplicable, and makes the Zone a place of danger and possibility. The narrator makes his living as a "stalker" - an illegal guide through this weird landscape.

The tone of the novel is quite bleak (though not without humour) - never mind trying to understand the alien, we can't even sort out our own human mess. And yet the moving ending sees the cynical hero putting his trust in the miraculous to put things right.

An extraordinary novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and relevant. 22 Feb 2010
By W. Gold
Just finished this. I haven't seen 'stalker' but I saw it referenced in a book and it piqued my interest. I like books like this which present fantastical situations in the way the characters see them with little or no narrative voice filling in the gaps for the reader. What particularly struck me about this book is that the tone and themes are equally relevant today and the writing and events (and technology) doesn't see 'old' which is more than can be said for lots of SF from the 70's. Overall I really enjoyed this book. The central metaphor, from which the book takes it name, is clever and resonant and the pace and characterisation kept me hooked through this short novel. A true classic, give it a shot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great story, perhaps a bit depressing 20 Oct 2010
This was a really good book, probably one of the best that I've read. It's a bit sad that so much misfortune happens to the protagonist, but in the end he's got only himself to blame for it. I think the women are characterized a bit old-fashioned, they are basically living in a patriarchal society. Other than that, the story is really really good, the characters are made of flesh and blood, and the Zone is really weird and sometimes terrifying...
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed prose 16 Oct 2002
By Mr. W. Hardy VINE VOICE
It's a pleasant thing to read fiction from Eastern Europe and Russia, mostly because it seems to highlight differences in the way things can be considered and approached. A new angle on something, a new way of looking at it can be very enlightening. This is most certainly true of science fiction.
Until quite recently the vast bulk of fiction/sci-fi I read was western european/american. After reading this, I know that it's time to change that pattern and start looking further east for a few more things that are a bit like this.
The premise of this novel is not completely unfamiliar to those who enjoy sci-fi. It's the approach that's different. I really don't want to make sweeping generalisations, but the whole thing just felt 'russian', which helped increase the sense of alienation when visiting the zone. There were certainly some influences of life behind the iron curtain, which had the effect (for me) of making it feel almost claustrophobic. Some of the ideas where not explored fully enough, which is why I gave this four stars.
The writing style is concise and detailed, and although the page count is quite low, there is a lot packed into those pages.
Definately worth giving this a go if you're looking for something in this genre that's just a little bit different.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly exceptional 3 Dec 2005
There are few sci-fi books as great as this. It's a pointer as to exactly what sci-fi can do. It's full not of macho escapist nonsense but of humanity and reflections on the place of the individual in modern societies, be they Soviet or capitalist.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird Russian Read
Great book! So very clever, a couple of protagonist, a strange premise, no real conclusion but just great reading? Odd!
Published 10 days ago by Mr. G.B. O'Dwyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book for any scifi enthusiasts
An amazing read for anyone into their truely hardcore science fiction, full of amazing details that creates a really great short read.
Published 1 month ago by Levii
3.0 out of 5 stars which i absolutely love, and suppose I was looking for a similar ...
I was bought to this by Amazon "likes" after reading Gateway , which i absolutely love, and suppose I was looking for a similar story based on the , fantastic, premise that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by W. Rollason
5.0 out of 5 stars Oppressive, mysterious, watch where you step
Spawned a film and a recent video game - look up Stalker. Amazing and quite unique, never seen this atmosphere and mystery created in quite this way in any other book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice but feels unfinished
This is a really superb piece of story telling, developing the idea of what would happen in the aftermath of an extraterrestrial visitation of the earth very well, it is a pretty... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Lark
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic - Couldn't and didn't put it down.
One of only two books I have read that, once started, I could not put down until finished (Touching the Void - if you are interested). Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2012 by DonSC
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, great atmosphere but poorly executed.
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. The basic premise is one of the most brilliant and compelling in SF but is badly fumbled. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2012 by skaragrimson
4.0 out of 5 stars Peace and Happiness for Everyone
I absolutely loved this book!

The writing style is new to me, but I found it refreshing. The writer did not go off on three-page explainations about certain things... Read more
Published on 20 May 2012 by Mr. A. McMullan
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not very exciting
This is one of those books where the blurb on the back (like the Product Description here) tells the reader what's going to happen about 75% of the way through the book. Read more
Published on 19 May 2012 by Andy Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars certainly not empty - its full but of what ?
A quick and exciting read - but I had a growing sense it was a metophor, a fable : but what was the hidden meaning, what is it really about ? Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2012 by knocked out 73 just woke up
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