Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Read: 19 January, 2013

My first introduction to this story was watching the 1979 film Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It’s a weird movie and distinctively Russian in its “let’s just give up and go home” mentality. I found it boring and silly the first time I watched it, but it stuck with me. Finally, I decided to watch it again and I fell in love. It’s an interesting movie and well worth watching if you come across it. Just be forewarned: Nothing happens. I mean that. Nothing happens. If you expect stuff to happen in movies, you’ll be disappointed.

Next, I played some of the games. Same world, same concepts, but totally different. For one thing, all those dangers that the stalker warns his guests about in the movie but that never amount to anything actually happen in the game. Between the three of them, there’s quite a bit of fun to be had. Gameplay is good (especially after the long-awaited patch for Clear Skies), storyline is interesting, environment design is amazing. Also worth it if you’re into FPS games.

All this is just to say that I’ve been familiar with the the Stalker setting for many years, so I was excited to see where it all began.

The book follows Redrick Schuhart, a stalker, over the course of about a decade. A stalker is an individual who goes into the Zone illegally to collect alien artefacts for black market sale. Through Schuhart, we get to see the threat and terror of the Zone, and of the people who seek to profit from it at all costs.

It’s a very short novel, but a slow read. The translation wasn’t particularly good, keeping idioms and word orders from the original Russian, but the story was very interesting and compelling. And, of course, the novel is sprinkled through with philosophical discussions, often about how absurd people are and how futile are their aspirations – it is a Russian novel, after all!

If you are into science fiction or Russian literature, I highly recommend giving this book a read!

Buy Roadside Picnic from Amazon and support this blog!