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Roadside Picnic [Paperback]

Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky , Ursula K. Le Guin , Olena Bormashenko
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 1 2012 Rediscovered Classics

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 he’ll 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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Review

"[a] vivid new translation... it has survived triumphantly as a classic." —Publishers Weekly


"The story is carried out with a controlled fierceness that doesn't waver for a minute."  —Kirkus Reviews


"Brilliantly and beautifully written . . . a truly superb work of science fiction."  —Infinity Plus


"Lively, racy, and likable . . . complex in event, imaginative in detail, ethically and intellectually sophisticated." —Ursula K. Le Guin


"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."  —Theodore Sturgeon


"No doubt: a powerful, classic work of science fiction. Certainly recommended."  —The Complete Review 


"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." —io9

 


"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."  —Discover 
 
 

About the Author

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are the most famous and popular Russian writers of science fiction, and the authors of over 25 novels and novellas. Their books have been widely translated and have been made into a number of films. Arkady Strugatsky died in 1991. Boris Strugatsky died in November 2012. Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness, and other science-fiction classics.


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral Classic of Soviet Science Fiction March 7 2013
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format: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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format: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. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive, authentic, and disturbing Feb. 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The best book I've read when it comes to conjuring up a hostile alien environment. The environment in question is the Zone, of course, which is here on Earth -- an area transformed by an alien visit before the start of the book. More than just a physically dangerous place, the Zone invokes a certain existential terror, because its hazards are often invisible, faceless, and incomprehensible. At the same time, it holds wonders that are equally incomprehensible, such as coin-sized batteries that can power a car and never run out of energy.

However, the book is more than just inventive and evocative sci-fi. The characters have a raw authenticity that puts other sci-fi books to shame, and though the book contains elements of tragedy and hopefulness, the overwhelming feeling is one of human insignificance in the wider universe.

A great book that will satisfy your urge for new ideas -- but leave you existentially disquieted.
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