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Roadside Picnic

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  46,779 ratings  ·  3,130 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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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 li…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)
Chiles probly too late for an answer, but anyway: contrary to what others have said, i would say ROADSIDE PICNIC is complementary to SOLARIS: both examine th…moreprobly too late for an answer, but anyway: contrary to what others have said, i would say ROADSIDE PICNIC is complementary to SOLARIS: both examine the effects of something completely unknowable (epitome of 'alien') - that also just happens to somehow provide for the subconscious/subterranean desires/needs of humans - on the psychology of said humans; crucially though, there is an interesting contrast in tone & POV: while SOLARIS closely hews to the perspective of an intellectual (a typically SFnal 'elite' POV), ROADSIDE takes a 'roadside' boots-on-the-ground/working class POV, w/ the effect of the latter being tonally noir; SOLARIS, in contrast, tonally resides firmly in the upper echelons of 'philosophical' SF (though ROADSIDE is no less philosophical - just not tonally, vibing 'pulpy' more than 'brainy')(less)

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Bill Kerwin
Jan 12, 2013 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, plasti

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
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 06, 2015 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
Glenn Russell

Are you familiar with Stalker, the stunning 1979 Soviet science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky? If so, I have good news, comrades: the novel on which the film was based is even better. I join the ranks of sf aficionados who judge Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic among the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Although there are six locals or Zones where aliens left mysterious objects behind on this planet, the setting for Roadside Picnic takes place in and around on
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
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, scifi
Review updated on October, 26 2018.

A group read with Elena, Lee, and Sarah. I will update the list if other people will join later.

You have to make the good out of the bad because that is all you have got to make it out of.
Robert Penn Warren

The epigraph of the book is so perfect I simply had to quote it.

Strugatsky brothers have a cult following on the territories of the former Soviet Union; think Heinlein of the Soviets in terms of popularity.
Strugatsky brothers
This is probably their best-known novel internatio
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a novel about first contact with aliens, I love Roadside Picnic! It is fresh and relevant and, wait for it, contains no aliens. This novel about first contact is more concerned with what aliens left behind.
In the novel, there are scavengers who raid the zones where aliens visited in search of the sometimes deadly artifacts which are littered haphazardly about. But what precisely did the aliens leave? Is it more akin to the trash a traveler might leave behind after a roadside picnic? There a
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Russian SCI-FI.

I think the more accurate description was would be Soviet era SCI-FI as apparently the Strugatsky brothers had quite the time getting it past censors and published. One wonders if the 145 page novella began as a Tolstoy-esque behemoth and the rest wound up on the comrade editor’s floor.

This is a very novel approach to a first contact story. The title comes from the idea that alien artifacts that have been left behind in “zones” throughout the world were not deliberately left, but
Leonard Gaya
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In April 1986, a major nuclear disaster took place at the Chernobyl power plant, an hour’s drive north of Kiev (then USSR). A radioactive cloud spread across the whole of Europe in the following days. Millions were contaminated. The nearby city of Pripyat became a ghost town. In the aftermath, some farm animals were born with deadly deformities. Men and women had to go inside the contaminated zone to seal off the reactor inside a giant concrete shell. They were called the “stalkers”.

Their name d
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What happens when aliens arrive on Earth and leave again without so much as a hello, leaving behind all their rubbish? Naturally, humans want to get involved, for better or worse, despite the fact that the advanced refuse is almost entirely deadly and beyond comprehension.

This book carries the spirit of a trend in human history. The Earth is not at the centre of the Universe, nor is the Universe confined to our single solar system, galaxy, or even cluster of galaxies. The more we learn, the mor
Jan 23, 2016 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
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-shelf, sci-fi
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
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
👽 Evil Russians™-Sponsored, How Did This End Up Here Buddy Read with Evgeny, Lee and Elena 👽

⚠️ I wouldn’t read the thing that follows, if I were you. I mean, it’s kind of pointless, sort of meaningless and pretty much has nothing to do with roadsides and/or picnics. But hey, it’s your puny life and you are free to waste it as you please and stuff.

This is me desperately trying to write a not-too-crappy crappy non-review for this book for the past eight bloody shrimping days:

(view spoiler)
Simona B

"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
Jul 20, 2013 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
Vit Babenco
Dec 15, 2013 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
Megan Baxter
Mar 14, 2013 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
I decided to read a science fiction for my classic-of-the-month this month even though old sci-fi is often a miss for me. Thankfully this one wasn't a total miss though it was slow-moving. 

Aliens land on earth, perhaps to have a "roadside picnic", and leave behind a bunch of trash. The areas where they landed become uninhabitable and it's dangerous to enter into these zones. The items left behind by the aliens are of immense interest to the scientific community and as collectors items on the bla
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
My book-long conversation with Roadside Picnic:

Me: "Really? We're not alone?! The Aliens are here?!"

RP: "Well... they were here. They've gone home now."

Me: "But they've left heaps of amazing stuff for us? Cool!"

RP: "Yeah, it's kinda cool, except, well... what they left might actually be alien trash, and they don't seem to have even noticed us."

Me: "Oh... right. But they visited several places on Earth, yeah? So at least there's lots of alien trash to analyse?"

RP: "Yeah, except all the zones they
Ivana Books Are Magic
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Roadside Picnic is a beautifully depressive and wonderfully atmospheric science fiction novel about life on Earth after an alien 'Visitation' that leaves humans with more questions than answers. The novel takes place after the alien visitation event and slowly introduced its readers to the event as well as its consequences while at the same time following the first person narrative of its principal protagonist Red. The novel opens with an interview with one of the scientist and quickly switches ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
First contact is made in the form of Zones and its far from idyllic or disastrous scenarios from the SF past. What we got is far more akin to a slap to the face... hell we can understand a slap. This is an indifferent gesture, if it can be called that and nobody knows for certain. This uncertainty and danger sucks in all that have anything to do with it and probably drives them mad, or at least make them pay for it. We see all this through the life of the Stalker Red and with him ask: Why, How, ...more
Nate D
Sep 29, 2014 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
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
One of my unofficial goals from now until the end of the year is to go back to the books I speed-dated and kept at the end of last year and finish the dang things! Roadside Picnic is one of those, although I have another reason to read it that will soon be revealed.

This is a story about the aftermath of a first contact event - except there wasn't as much contact as aliens treating Earth like a... wait for it... roadside picnic. They came in, destroying entire areas and rendering others unsafe fo
Manuel Antão
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2000
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Matter-of-Factness SF: "Roadsiden Picnic" by The Strugatsky Brothers

(original review, 2000)

Just started re-reading this yesterday and am already gripped. It's truly unsettling in the most understated of ways. It reminds me a little of John Wyndham's work; it has a similar quality of matter-of-factness about it that somehow makes it all the more chilling.

Pure literary gold...strangely put me in mind of "Stoner". You read and there is no
Jun 19, 2012 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
Marianna Neal
For about half of this book I thought "this is interesting, I dig it, it's different, but I don't know if it's my thing". Then, here and there scenes and causally dropped lines of dialogue or observations would chill me to the bones, and I would think "oh man, I'm going to need more Strugatsky brothers works for sure, some of this is excellent". And then I read chapter 4. I don't know how to go on with my day now. F*ck me. ...more
Feb 18, 2017 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 thi
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, sci-fi
4 ⭐
the story started amazing.
I can't say that I ever called a sci-fi book atmospheric but this one was, for me at least, the story was told seamlessly, I could easily imagine everything, the sneaking into the zone and the way they felt once they stepped into the threshold.
It was depicted in such an otherworldly way I was mesmerized by it, so vivid was the descrepsion of "the alien trash" and the overall atmosphere of the zone.
after part two for some reason I just didn't care anymore, I didn't kn
Mar 06, 2015 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
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The brothers Arkady Strugatsky [Russian: Аркадий Стругацкий] and Boris Strugatsky [Russian: Борис Стругацкий] were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated through most of their careers.

Arkady Strugatsky was born 25 August 1925 in Batumi; the family later moved to Leningrad. In January 1942, Arkady and his father were evacuated from the Siege of Leningrad, but Arkady was the only s

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