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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral Classic of Soviet Science Fiction
Several alien spaceships have visited Earth at some point in the late twentieth century. Their landing sites seem to have been chosen at random, and during their visit they made almost no attempt at contact with humans. When they finally left, their landing sites were permanently altered and "polluted" with various artifacts and substances, and the sites themselves...
Published 16 months ago by Dr. Bojan Tunguz

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headline and so many words required - if you want a review please don't make rules.
Interesting, but many things do not make sense. Great discussion piece however - everyone who reads it has a different interpretation.

Headline and so many words required - if you want a review please don't make rules.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. S. F. Maisey


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral Classic of Soviet Science Fiction, 7 Mar 2013
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
Several alien spaceships have visited Earth at some point in the late twentieth century. Their landing sites seem to have been chosen at random, and during their visit they made almost no attempt at contact with humans. When they finally left, their landing sites were permanently altered and "polluted" with various artifacts and substances, and the sites themselves exhibit many strange and troubling behaviors. In the years and decades following the aliens' departure a vast array of scholars, scientists, technology experts, military interests, and black market opportunists tried to make sense of the visit and leverage the landing sites for their own varying interests. However, exploring the sites was always a very risky activity, and those who dared to venture within their carefully guarded perimeters frequently exposed themselves to harmful and often lethal consequences. These landing site visits, however brief, had impact not only on the explorers, but also subsequently on almost everyone who the explorers came in touch with.

This short Sci Fi novel reduces the subgenre of the alien visit to its most basic elements: the landing sites themselves, mysterious left-over artifacts, and the fundamental and irrevocable change that this visit has brought upon the human civilization. Within this minimalistic setup it is still possible to extract a surprising amount of narrative richness and human and intellectual drama. The main protagonist, Redrick "Red" Schuhart, is a hard-nosed "stalker" - an opportunistic and illegal rummager of the visitation zones - who is trying to make the most of his ability to extract valuable artifacts and sell them on the black market. Red is an almost prototypical antihero who is nonetheless guided by some high-minded principles and moral standard. This moral probity particularly comes into play in his relationship with his own family. He tries his hardest to protect them and help them out, especially since they have incurred a personal tragedy due to Red's involvement with the visitation zone.

This is a very deep and richly psychological book. Readers accustomed to the more western-style science fiction may find it more philosophical than what they are accustomed to reading. The "Roadside Picnic" nonetheless has a very well developed plot and nuanced and believable characters. This is science fiction at its best - good writing, rich plotline, and deep, potentially open-ended, questions and problems that it grapples with.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are we monkeys or cavemen,ants or ghosts?, 3 April 2013
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
This magnificent Russian SF novel is about 40 years old and was written by two Russian brothers,Arkady and Boris Strugatsky,and this is a new translation where the original language,idiomatic,slangy,violent and fresh,has been restored.Set in the early 70s,ostensibly in Canada.There are 4 chapters,detailing the life of Red Schuhart a stalker,who ventures illegally into the Zone,in spite of the extreme danger to retrieve the mysterious artefacts that alien visitors left scattered around.The book starts off with a description of the Zones,6 of which have been left randomly across the planet.Aliens have visited the earth and gone away again leaving behind them several landing areas littered with their refuse, bizarre technological wonders to be found in the Zones. These areas, where the physics of matter are warped in mysterious and dangerous ways, are thought to be the trash piles of aliens who dropped by for a picnic and didn't clean up after themselves The Zone in this novel,Harmont, has a town nearby that was changed by the alien visitation,where a thriving black market in alien products has grown up.The 1st chapter is written in the 1st person from Red's point of view,he is an amoral, lively, unpredictable buccaneer with a revolting vitality.Red has survived after many incursions into the Zone,and has a legendary status,but he isn't some exceptional or particularly unusual human being, but just some guy getting by as best he can in peculiar circumstances.The 1st time he gets out of the Zone where he went with a scientist to retrieve an "empty", two discs held together in space with nothing between them,we find out his girlfriend Guta is pregnant.We know that their child is likely to die or be born mutated due to his visits into the Zone.People are mundane,human relations ring true,there are no super intellects.Most of the characters are tough people leading degrading, discouraging lives,driven by lust,greed,fear and money.This innovation brings a lot of energy,describing the effects of this alien visitation on commonplace people,not an elite.

You meet Red's child,Monkey,over the 10 year period the novel takes place and you realize her strange mutation. Later chapters(3 more) are told in the 3rd person,this brings in more characters,scientists,traders,black marketers,and broadens the perspective and deepens our knowledge ,the stages in the growth of the frontier town which passes through a period of prosperity,the roles of the people in that society.There are conversation between different people about the Zone and scientists researching it and the people who live around the Zone.In one chapter ideas between Richard Noonan and a scientist are discussed about the purpose of the visit,the sociological implications of the advanced technology,was it to see the effects upon the human race,or to kick them a few rungs up the ladder of development,or was it a test,or was it sowing the seeds for a future harvest when the aliens returned?" The violations in the laws of causality is much more terrifying than a stampede of ghosts."Aliens might be indifferent to us and finally unknowable,we may only know them through the after-effects, a one-way contact. They are as far removed from us as we are to animals,insects.The exploration of levels ofconsciousness is good.

Red goes back again and again to the Zone to find the answers to all his problems,becoming mentally and physically changed.Movement away from the Zone leads to disasters and death to the places and people around the emigrants.The chapters in between the 1st and last chapters are one step away from the action(that is entry into the Zone by Red) where each character's viewpoint is distinct,where the authors describe the various deals,exploitations going on around the Zone and the madness of the free market economy. After imprisonment for trafficking in looted alien products, Schuhart agrees to one last expedition to the very heart of the Zone where resides a Holy Grail-like Golden Sphere, capable of granting any wish to the one who reaches it. Red has not sold his soul and can even take the moral high ground.He wants happiness,free for everyone,let no one be forgotten, he feels truly unworthy of the universe-shaping role that his wish will have. The words of an old friend shape his ultimate wish.

Objections to the publication(dragging on for 8 years)were moral,not ideological (contrary to what Ursula Le Guin says in the Forward),the language used,the lack of role models for Russian people,with the darkness,violence, drinking,crime and cursing.The story is racy,lively and pungent,the characters are individually vivid and likeable.The slice of life approach to the narrative works.Its not the plotting that's moving you forward,it's the different ideas,the jumps in time and perspective,societal changes,over 10 years.The ending is abrupt but awesome and the novel leaves you with many layers of commentary and social satire,amazing images and disturbing ideas,with subversive rumblings emerging into consciousness later.The authors have a great sense of humour, slyly poking fun at bureaucracy, and finding the humorous in the most mundane of everyday events .Their imaginative boldness was to posit an idea or theory of alien visitation and to cleverly describe the magical debris,the chemical and physical effects and changes,in a fresh inventive,idiomatic language,through down to earth characters.The shards,ashes, images,after-effects of who we are and what is our place in the universe.Because there are no pop cultural references nor references to the technology of their own time,the book has never dated and reads as if it had just been written.The technology of the aliens is far in advance of the technology we have today.This is SF as a feat of imagination,our limited human perspective on the immensity of the universe.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Return of a Classic Russian Science Fiction Novel, 2 Jan 2013
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
One of the best science fiction novels published last year is, oddly enough, among the oldest; Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's "Roadside Picnic", the inspiration for Andrei Tarkovksy's critically acclaimed film "Stalker". When it was published originally in its abbreviated English translation decades ago, none other than Theodore Sturgeon acclaimed "Roadside Picnic" as the product of "....[the] Strugatskys' deft and subtle handling of friendship and love, of despair and frustration and loneliness [produces] a truly superb tale..... You won't forget it." These are sentiments which I not only share but I believe are strongly emphasized in the newly translated edition of the entire original text of "Roadside Picnic", which is considered still as the greatest Russian science fiction novel of the 20th Century, as an excellent example of the traditional science fiction trope of "First Contact", but as Ursula Le Guin notes in the foreword to this edition, it is a "First Contact" tale in which aliens have visited Earth and ignored us, leaving behind in several areas, "Zones", debris that is potentially useful - and dangerous - to humans, especially to those willing to scavenge - "the stalkers" - it. Set somewhere unspecified in English-speaking North America, most likely Canada, "Roadside Picnic" is a most memorable odyssey of a young stalker, Red Schuhart, who is willing to test the limits of friendship and loyalty, love and desire in realizing that he must return again and again to the nearest "Zone" as a means of finding himself, as a means of finding solutions to all the problems he is facing. As a fictional exploration of the human spirit, "Roadside Picnic" is a science fiction novel worthy of a much broader readership, and one that might be especially receptive to it because it inspired Tarkovsky's brilliant film; it is also a notable novel that should earn a most receptive audience from those who are fans of speculative fiction, especially, science fiction. (As an aside, the surviving Strugatsky brother, Boris, contributes an afterword chronicling the difficult literary gestation that led to the novel's original publication in Russian.)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel approach to Science fiction, 8 Oct 2012
By 
Dorothy Thelwall (Ripon, N.Yorks., U.K. United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
This is the most innovative and unusual science fiction I have read. I approaches the idea of an alien visitation in a unique way and poses questions about how we regards the significance of our existence in the universe. An unputdownable read which I can only highly recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Return of a Classic Russian Science Fiction Novel, 2 Jan 2013
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
One of the best science fiction novels published last year is, oddly enough, among the oldest; Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's "Roadside Picnic", the inspiration for Andrei Tarkovksy's critically acclaimed film "Stalker". When it was published originally in its abbreviated English translation decades ago, none other than Theodore Sturgeon acclaimed "Roadside Picnic" as the product of "....[the] Strugatskys' deft and subtle handling of friendship and love, of despair and frustration and loneliness [produces] a truly superb tale..... You won't forget it." These are sentiments which I not only share but I believe are strongly emphasized in the newly translated edition of the entire original text of "Roadside Picnic", which is considered still as the greatest Russian science fiction novel of the 20th Century, as an excellent example of the traditional science fiction trope of "First Contact", but as Ursula Le Guin notes in the foreword to this edition, it is a "First Contact" tale in which aliens have visited Earth and ignored us, leaving behind in several areas, "Zones", debris that is potentially useful - and dangerous - to humans, especially to those willing to scavenge - "the stalkers" - it. Set somewhere unspecified in English-speaking North America, most likely Canada, "Roadside Picnic" is a most memorable odyssey of a young stalker, Red Schuhart, who is willing to test the limits of friendship and loyalty, love and desire in realizing that he must return again and again to the nearest "Zone" as a means of finding himself, as a means of finding solutions to all the problems he is facing. As a fictional exploration of the human spirit, "Roadside Picnic" is a science fiction novel worthy of a much broader readership, and one that might be especially receptive to it because it inspired Tarkovsky's brilliant film; it is also a notable novel that should earn a most receptive audience from those who are fans of speculative fiction, especially, science fiction. (As an aside, the surviving Strugatsky brother, Boris, contributes an afterword chronicling the difficult literary gestation that led to the novel's original publication in Russian.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 22 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
Original and thought provoking sci-fi. One of the best sci-fi books I have read. Up there with Dune or Forever War.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT SCI-FI, 24 Dec 2013
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This novel is a very interesting slant on the "alien contact" genre, and it kept me hooked throughout. The characterization is exceptionally well done and, notably, this fits superbly into the overall plot of the story. This is a quality piece of work, utterly sublime in some places. The afterword section of this unique novel is a poignant reflection on the various difficulties encountered in finally producing this beautifully uncut version. No doubts with this one, five stars most definitely
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction at it's best, 12 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
I loved this book it gave a totally different view of how an alien landing might really be and reminds us that we are only one small planet in a large universe. Would recommend to anyone who likes their science fiction to have a bit more depth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book., 24 July 2013
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This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
I read this on my iPad a couple of years ago and was blown away by it. Since then I have a large bookcase to fill and it popped up in my Amazon recommended list so thought what the hell. After reading it again I stick with my original thoughts on the book, it is a fantastic read, especially second time around. So, If you're looking for an unusual sci-fi book full of great dialogue and intrigue and written by two genius russian brothers, this is the book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Understand Stalker, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
Stalker is an amazing film but a bit incomprehensible. This is the book that inspired the film. Apparently the Zone was a brief stopping off point for aliens, a 'roadside picnic'. Watch the film, read the book. They are both great.
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Roadside Picnic
Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky (Paperback - 11 Oct 2012)
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