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Roadside Picnic

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  24,874 Ratings  ·  1,492 Reviews
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 u ...more
Paperback, 145 pages
Published August 24th 2000 by Gollancz (first published 1972)
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João Sousa These books are very different one from the other. I would put "Solaris" in the "psychedelic science fiction" book shelf, and "Roadside Picnic" in the…moreThese books are very different one from the other. I would put "Solaris" in the "psychedelic science fiction" book shelf, and "Roadside Picnic" in the "dark science fiction" one. (less)
Andy No. Not at all. This is a novel about how an incomprehensible alien event changes a community and the people who live there. There is no attempt to…moreNo. Not at all. This is a novel about how an incomprehensible alien event changes a community and the people who live there. There is no attempt to link what happened to any reasonable scientific theory or fact. The author even goes out of his way to show how clueless the scientists in the story are as to how the alien artifacts function.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jan 12, 2013 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

SF writers typically approach alien contact in grandiose terms, but the Strugatsky brothers wonder instead, "What if it is more like a 'Roadside Picnic?'"

Aliens trekking through space find they have to rest a spell and land on Terra, for lunch, a little r & r, perhaps a smoke. After an interval--however long it takes for an alien to enjoy a meal al fresco--they lift off from our uninteresting planet, probably never to return, leaving behind the star voyager equivalent of empty beer cans, pl
...more
Nataliya

When people talk about the "special" feel of Russian literature, I tend to shrug it away as yet another point of confusion "Westerners" have with anything Slavic.

But when I tried to explain the feeling this book evoked in me to a few "Westerners" I startlingly realized that "it just *feels* so essentially Russian" may indeed be a valid description that encompasses the soul-searching ambiguity, the pursuit of deeper truths shrouded in light sadness, the frustrating but yet revealing lack of answ
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 06, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”Intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It’s a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from the dog, who seems to understand everything but can’t speak. However, this trivial definition does lead to wittier ones. They are based on depressing observations of the aforementioned human activity. For example: intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural act.”

“Yes, that’s us!”


 photo Stalker_zpsnki59goq.jpg
There is a 1979 film by Andrei Tar
...more
J.G. Keely
I play video games, now and again, but I don't care about being 'good' at them. I'm not competitive about my skills. I'm interested in the story, the characters, and the world. After a particularly irritating series of losing battles, I frustratedly told a friend "I don't want to have to spend a bunch of time practicing and becoming an expert just to get on with the story. It would be like having to read the same page of the book over and over until I 'got it right' and could proceed to the end! ...more
Megan Baxter
Mar 14, 2013 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
Being below the concern of alien beings is not a new science fiction theme (although it is a relatively rare one), but I've never read a book that examined the idea quite like this. Ursula K. Le Guin's foreword is right - most of the time, the people who interact with alien technology are highly skilled and educated, even if, as in Rendezvous With Rama, the aliens couldn't care less about us.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforc
...more
Forrest
Jul 20, 2013 Forrest rated it it was amazing
Another gem introduced to me by my friends at Goodreads. This short novel is a "how-to" on sidelong insinuations, information gaps, and inferences that make for a wholly satisfying story. The main character, Redrick Schuhart, starts out as an entrepreneurial collector of alien artifacts, and becomes a hardened, curmudgeonly, but effective artifact hunter searching for (view spoiler). The Strugatsky brot ...more
Brad
Feb 13, 2015 Brad rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf
This old Russian classic SF is surprisingly relevant and fresh today, sans all the copious amount of smoking going on. :) If anything is going to give this little gem away, it's pretty much only that.

It's very tight, masquerading as a scavenger adventure that becomes a black-market thriller that becomes a Question about the nature of intelligence, discovery, and even the most basic question of all: "What the hell are these aliens thinking???"

After all, they just left a huge mess by the side of t
...more
Simona Bartolotta
2.5

"This is the way it is with the Zone: if you come back with swag -it’s a miracle; if you come back alive -it’s a success; if the patrol bullets miss you -it’s a stroke of luck. And as for anything else -that’s fate."


I'm afraid I'll keep responding to the words "Russian science fiction" by shouting "We by Yevgeny Zamyatin!" since, in my humble opinion, Roadside Picnic does not reach those level if not, maybe, in the concept.

Because the concept is great (what if the infamous alien invasion fin
...more
Apatt
Jan 23, 2016 Apatt rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, pre-80s-sf
4.22 average rating, eh? It is not undeserved but I would say satisfaction is not guaranteed.

Roadside Picnic is something of a minor classic that I have often seen mentioned in sci-fi literature discussion groups like the excellent PrintSF on Reddit. Certainly the basic conceit is wonderfully “sfnal”. Six zones of Earth have been visited by aliens over a two-day period, there are no witnesses for these visitations, the only evidence is the strange artifacts these alien apparently left behind or
...more
Hadrian
May 23, 2011 Hadrian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, scifi, fiction


In the 1940s, during the height of the Pacific island campaigns of the Second World War, the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies built airbases and other facilities on Melanesian islands. The local inhabitants, who had only previously had localized and temporary contact with the West, if they had any at all, were suddenly introduced to technology far beyond the range of their experience, such as refrigeration, or airplanes, or soft drinks.

When the war ended and we all left, the
...more
Nickolas the Kid
Oct 05, 2015 Nickolas the Kid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, dystopian
Ακόμα ένα βιβλίο που χρησιμοποιεί την ΕΦ για να εμβαθύνει στους κοινωνικούς και πολιτικούς προβληματισμούς του ανθρώπου...

Οι εξωγήινοι περνάν μια βόλτα από τον πλανήτη μας και φεύγοντας αφήνουν διάφορα αντικείμενα τα οποία γίνονται πόλος έλξης για επιστήμονες, τυχοδιώκτες και οραματιστές... Τα "σκουπίδια" των εξωγήινων βρίσκονται σε μια περιοχή που ονομάζεται Ζώνη και εκτός των θησαυρών κρύβει πολλά και διάφορα μυστικά. Οι άνθρωποι ανακαλύπτουν έναν καινούργιο πολιτισμό ή ποια πραγματικά είναι η
...more
Stuart
Roadside Picnic: Russian SF classic with parallels to Vandermeer’s Area X
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Roadside Picnic (1972) is a Russian SF novel written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. This was back when authors and publishers were subject to government review and censorship. Since it didn’t follow the Communist Party line, it didn’t get published in uncensored book form in Russia until the 1990s despite first appearing in a Russian literary magazine in 1972. So its first book public
...more
Nate D
Sep 29, 2014 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Zones
Recommended to Nate D by: Tarkovsky
At long last. Somehow Andrei Tarkovsky was able to read this, extract an absolute masterpiece of pseudo-genre film, and yet actually have almost no relation to the source. Where Tarkovsky took this into ambiguity and philosophic riffs, the original is more specific in its terms, dealing almost entirely with the massive criminal economy that springs up in the wake of a tremendous event (if you've ever wondered what the Zone actually is, here we're simply told in the first pages, but that doesn't ...more
Isaac Clarke
Jun 10, 2017 Isaac Clarke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ხო არსებობს ლიტერატურაში გარდამტეხი წიგნები, (არ მკითხოთ რომლები არიან, არ ვიცი ვერ ჩამოგითვლით. გამოგია რო არსებობს და მაგიტო ვწერ). ხოდა ესეც ერთ-ერთია - ამ წიგნმა მოახერხა და გარდა იმისა რო თვითონაც კაი წიგნია, მილიონობით ადამიანისგან შემდგარი ფანბეიზი შემოიკრიბა მისგან გამომდნარი თამაშებითა თუ კინო და ლიტერატურული ნამუშევრებით.

და ამ ყველაფერს გავეშვათ იმ იშვიათ წიგნთაგანია, რომელიც უაღრესად ატმოსფერულია - გადაშლი და მომენტალურად ზონის დამთრგუნველი, ბნელი და საოცრად მისტიური სამყარო გითრევს
...more
Chris_P
Feb 18, 2017 Chris_P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I’m an animal, you can see that I’m an animal. I have no words, they haven’t taught me the words; I don’t know how to think, those bastards didn’t let me learn how to think. But if you really are—all powerful, all knowing, all understanding—figure it out! Look into my soul, I know—everything you need is in there. It has to be. Because I’ve never sold my soul to anyone! It’s mine, it’s human! Figure out yourself what I want—because I know it can’t be bad! The hell with it all, I just can’t think
...more
Mona
Mar 06, 2015 Mona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Gripping Russian Science Fiction



"Roadside Picnic" is a gripping science fiction story written while the U.S.S.R. was still alive and well, although it wasn't published until years after it was first written; and it took longer still for the original version (without cuts) to be published.

The authors, two brothers, have an entirely original viewpoint. There are no American or British science fiction novels like this in any way.

In a way the novella can be read as an indictment of capitalism. It ca
...more
Edward
Foreword, by Ursula K. Le Guin

--Roadside Picnic

Afterword, by Boris Strugatsky
Vit Babenco
Dec 15, 2013 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What will happen when human mind comes across transcendent phenomena?
Roadside Picnic is an attempt of an answer to this impossible question.
“The houses in the Plague Quarter are peeling and lifeless, but the windows are mostly intact, only so dirty that they look opaque. Now at night when you crawl by, you can see the glow inside, as if alcohol were burning in bluish tongues. That’s the hell slime radiating from the basement. But mostly it looks like an ordinary neighborhood, with ordinary house
...more
Evgeny
Aug 06, 2012 Evgeny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi, favorites
Strugatsky brothers have a cult following on the territories of the former Soviet Union; think Heinlein of the Soviets. This is probably their best-known novel internationally thanks to a movie Stalker by Tarkovsky and several video games by the same name.

The main idea explained right in the prolog. A highly advanced alien race left (discarded?) artifacts and anomalies in several places on Earth called Zones. The Zones are dangerous, but the artifacts are highly prized and so some people called
...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
The Visit occurred sometime in last half of the 20th century. Aliens dropped by earth, landing in six areas scattered across the globe. They stayed a few days and then they left. What becomes known as The Zones are the sites of their brief sojourn on our planet. Behind them they left landscapes where the laws of physic no longer apply, or have perhaps simply taken a vicious turn. They have also left odd detritus, objects of alien manufacture of immense interest to science and very profitable on ...more
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
Well, this wasn't quite what I was expecting. I came into this knowing that the book was about the debris left behind by alien visitors to Earth, and that it posed questions around what humankind would do if we couldn't figure its mysteries. What if we found alien technology, and had no idea how to use it or for what purpose it might be used? What if we didn't know how it came to be here, never mind what it all might mean? I was expecting this to be a look at the issues of cross-cultural underst ...more
Jason Kelley
Mar 17, 2009 Jason Kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the novel on which Andrea Tarkovsky based the motion picture Stalker. I have been an enormous fan of this film for years and was excited to finally get my hands on this novel. It wasn't so easy to do just 5 years ago. Thank you internet.

An alien culture visits earth in several different locations. There is no human contact, and the aliens don't stay long. But they do leave behind a myriad collection of technological bits and an immediate landscape that is uninhabitable and very dangerou
...more
Aaron
Aug 22, 2011 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely crazy good. A tight little bundle of joy concerning the aftermath of an alien visitation. This speaks to human behavior, the essence of intelligence, and a whole butt load of other wonderful philisophical and moral questions. Pure literature.
Lamora/Ches
Jun 19, 2012 Lamora/Ches rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Roadside Picnic is not your usual science fiction. Most first contact stories are founded on the fundamental assumption that aliens will find the human race worthy of their attention and interesting enough to engage with—even when the first contact being militaristic in nature, we know at least we are worth having resources wasted on us. But maybe what if they just came, stopped for a picnic, and moved on, leaving behind their equivalent to our plastic wrappers, used batteries, monkey wrenches a ...more
Maggie K
Feb 20, 2013 Maggie K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I SO enjoyed this short novel.

After aliens stopped near their town and left a bleak area filled with their refuse, individuals called Stalkers make a living retrieving and selling the castoffs.

The psycholgical and physiological effects of the visit haunt the book, as characters make sense of the things that are happening to them and around them....

I finished this a couple days ago, and the atmosphere is still haunting to me, a sign to me of a piece of fiction I will remember for a long time
David M
Feb 24, 2017 David M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'To think' means to outwit, dupe, pull a con, but none of these are any use here...


Well, the book is certainly less cinematic than the movie. I do consider Tarkovsky's masterpiece a leading contender for greatest film ever made. I wouldn't say the novel on which it's based is quite that epochal a work of art. Nonetheless, remarkable in its own right; certainly far more than a pulpy piece of genre fiction. The juxtaposition of a completely cynical society and a desperate spiritual longing is what
...more
Heidi Ward
Peculiar and fascinating Soviet sci-fi from the 1970s, Roadside Picnic posits an interesting first-contact problem: what if visitors from elsewhere came to Earth but didn't care to stay, leaving behind only a number of unearthly, poisonous "zones" littered with a bunch of eldritch, alien crap? How would humanity deal with that?

Not well, as it turns out. Also predictably, hilariously, fallibly . . . humanly. That is if you're the Strugatsky brothers, and your "hero" is Red, a professional "stalke
...more
Gwyn Ryan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon
Sep 17, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks, sf
I didn't know what to expect when I picked this up, and I had to skip Ursula K. Le Guin's introduction once I realised it was full of spoilers (I went back and read it afterwards and it was a good rumination of the book and it's impact back then but really, give away the final line of a book in it's introduction?) but I found myself quickly drawn into the curious story of the after effects of an alien visit to Earth in which no contact with man was made and we are left scrabbling in the debris t ...more
Andrew
Jan 27, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read (and although its showing the SF masterworks cover - I did choose the Gollancz Yellow Jacket edition) as part of a run of classic titles I decided to embark upon. There are as I say much better reviews on this book what I will say is that this is an intriguing book which took a unique concept and turned it in to something quite different. The science fiction aspect of the story really takes second place to the characters - almost a plot device to get the people where ...more
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The brothers Arkady (Russian: Аркадий; August 28, 1925 – October 12, 1991) and Boris (Russian: Борис; April 14, 1933 – November 19, 2012) Strugatsky (Russian: Стругацкий; alternate spellings: Strugatskiy, Strugatski, Strugatskii) were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated on their fiction.
More about Arkady Strugatsky...

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“The hypothesis of God, for instance, gives an incomparably absolute opportunity to understand everything and know absolutely nothing. Give man an extremely simplified system of the world and explain every phenomenon away on the basis of that system. An approach like that doesn't require any knowledge. Just a few memorized formulas plus so-called intuition and so-called common sense.” 76 likes
“Мы будем делать Добро из Зла, потому что его больше не из чего делать.” 61 likes
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