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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

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on 2 March 2017
This to me is real science fiction which leaves a lot of thought to the reader about who the visitors were, where were they from, what did they want, what are the real uses of the artifacts etc etc etc. Will be buying the BluRay Stalker soon, from the master Andrei Tarkovsky.
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on 12 May 2017
When a family stops for a picnic there is often debris left around that is devastating to the local wild life.

Imagine the same thing if aliens stopped by - but humans were the ones affected.

A great read.
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on 20 March 2011
Roadside Picnic is not your conventional science fiction. I could go into the politics behind it, the indicators of its Russian authors and their perspective - but there's plenty of essay-like material already written out there.

As a story, it is incredibly compelling. You will notice the book is short - it is almost frustrating, because it is so thought out. The alien artifacts of the Zone, and their effects, are written about in the form of brief encounters, but I was left wanting to learn more. Occasionally, I felt restrained by the way the story follows the protagonist - and this, as you read on, is precisely the point of the book: how the alien and unexplained touches the people of the novel.

The ending is a shocker - I kept reading beyond the last page, expecting to see more. It was a cruel ending for me, the reader, but fitting in line with the story.
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on 14 May 2017
Really interesting book which covered some engaging topics. Really enjoyed reading this. A must read for any sci-fi fan. Also made me realise the southern reach trilogy is plagiarism!
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on 29 April 2017
Absolute classic. Much better than the film version
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VINE VOICEon 3 April 2013
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's plan was to improve his own life when he reached the globe? He wanted to do something for Guta and Monkey. But when an innocent young person reveals his own wish - happiness for everyone - this takes the place of Red's more selfish wish in his increasingly confused mind. So perhaps he was going to reach this divine object and perhaps his (borrowed) wish was about to come true...

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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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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on 20 December 2016
Fantastic book
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on 3 January 2011
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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on 19 May 2012
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. This kind of spoiler really annoys me, even if the journey getting to that point is enjoyable. So, is the book up to that point enjoyable? Well, it's certainly not a chore, but it wasn't that entertaining in my opinion. The story isn't bad but there's a lot of the book describing events outside The Zone that I didn't find very interesting, and that ultimately didn't affect the story very much.

In its defence, the sections of the book where the character enter The Zone are great. The idea that a brief visit by aliens could leave behind all sorts of weird effects and devices is great. The descriptions of these things and the way that the Stalkers and scientists behave when dealing with them is fascinating.

Also, beware that there are a lot of lose ends at the end of the book. There is an ending of sorts, but it's a bit open and the reader never finds out what happens to some of the characters. This isn't terrible in itself, but it was a bit frustrating when I wanted to find out more about what would happen next.

I do recommend this book, but it's certainly not the best one in the Sci-Fi Masterworks series.
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