Roadside Picnic

( 24 )

Overview

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...

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Roadside Picnic

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since its 1972 appearance in Russia, the Strugatsky brothers’ novel has been published worldwide, inspired Andrei Tarkovsky’s memorable film Stalker, and been the basis for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games. As this vivid new translation demonstrates, it also remains a powerful study of human behavior in the presence of superhuman power. The action takes place in and near a Visit Zone, one of six areas suddenly scattered with incomprehensible artifacts and disturbing phenomena; one baffled scientist ruefully suggests that aliens visited Earth like careless tourists and dumped their trash here. While cautious people keep their distance, furtive explorers called “stalkers” enter the Zones to retrieve objects that are wonderful but unpredictably deadly. Over-lapping narratives show stalker Red Schuhart’s struggle to master the Zone’s inexplicable treasures and terrors. Boris Strugatsky’s afterword describes how uneasy the manuscript made myopic Soviet bureaucrats; it has survived triumphantly as a classic because it expresses humanity’s inarticulate rage and wonder at life’s frustrations and promises. (May)
From the Publisher

"[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 
 
 

“Go read Roadside Picnic. It’s a phenomenal book.” —SF Signal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613743416
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Series: Rediscovered Classics
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 122,595
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

ROADSIDE PICNIC


By ARKADY STRUGATSKY BORIS STRUGATSKY

CHICAGO REVIEW PRESS

Copyright © 1972 Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61374-341-6


Chapter One

REDRICK SCHUHART, 23 YEARS OLD, SINGLE, LABORATORY ASSISTANT IN THE HARMONT BRANCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL CULTURES.

The other day, we're standing in the repository; it's evening already, nothing left to do but dump the lab suits, then I can head down to the Borscht for my daily dose of booze. I'm relaxing, leaning on the wall, my work all done and a cigarette at the ready, dying for a smoke—I haven't smoked for two hours—while he keeps fiddling with his treasures. One safe is loaded, locked, and sealed shut, and he's loading yet another one—taking the empties from our transporter, inspecting each one from every angle (and they are heavy bastards, by the way, fourteen pounds each), and, grunting slightly, carefully depositing them on the shelf.

He's been struggling with these empties for ages, and all, in my opinion, with no benefit to humanity or himself. In his place, I would have bailed a long time ago and gotten another job with the same pay. Although on the other hand, if you think about it, an empty really is a puzzling and even a mysterious thing. I've handled them lots of times myself, but every time I see one—I can't help it, I'm still amazed. It's just these two copper disks the size of a saucer, a quarter inch thick, about eighteen inches apart, and not a thing between the two. I mean, nothing whatsoever, zip, nada, zilch. You can stick your hand between them—maybe even your head, if the thing has unhinged you enough—nothing but empty space, thin air. And despite this, there must be something there, a force field of some sort, because so far no one's managed to push these disks together, or pull them apart either.

No, friends, it's hard to describe this thing if you haven't seen one. It looks much too simple, especially when you finally convince yourself that your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. It's like describing a glass to someone or, God forbid, a wineglass: you just wiggle your fingers in the air and curse in utter frustration. All right, we'll assume that you got it, and if you didn't, pick up a copy of the Institute's Reports—they have articles about these empties in every issue, complete with pictures.

Anyway, Kirill's been struggling with these empties for almost a year now. I've worked for him from the very beginning, but I still don't get what he wants with them, and to be honest, I haven't tried too hard to find out. Let him first figure it out for himself, sort it all out, then maybe I'll have a listen. But so far, one thing is clear to me: he's absolutely determined to dismantle an empty, dissolve it in acid, crush it under a press, or melt it in an oven. And then he'll finally get it, he'll be covered in glory, and the entire scientific world will simply shudder in pleasure. But for now, as far as I know, he's nowhere near this goal. He hasn't yet accomplished anything at all, except that he's exhausted himself, turned gray and quiet, and his eyes have become like a sick dog's—they even water. If it were someone else, I'd get him totally wasted, take him to a great girl to loosen him up a bit, then the next morning I'd feed him more booze, take him to more girls, and by the end of the week he'd be A-OK—good as new and ready to go. Except this sort of therapy wouldn't work on Kirill. There's no point in even suggesting it; he's not the type.

So, as I said, we're standing in the repository, I'm looking at him, the way he's gotten, how his eyes have sunk in, and I feel sorrier for him than I can say. And then I decide. Except I don't really decide—it's like the words tumble out themselves.

"Listen," I say, "Kirill ..."

He's standing there, holding up the last empty, and looking like he wants to crawl right inside it.

"Listen," I say, "Kirill. What if you had a full empty, huh?"

"A full empty?" he repeats, knitting his brows like I'm speaking Greek.

"Yeah," I say. "It's your hydromagnetic trap, what's it called? Object seventy-seven B. Only with some shit inside, blue stuff."

I can tell—I'm starting to get through. He looks up at me, squints, and there in his eyes, behind the dog tears, appears a glimmer of intelligence, as he himself loves to put it. "Wait, wait," he says. "A full one? The same thing, except full?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Where?"

My Kirill's cured. Good as new and ready to go. "Let's go have a smoke," I say.

He promptly stuffs the empty into the safe, slams the door, gives the lock three and a half turns, and comes back with me to the lab. For an empty empty, Ernest would give four hundred bucks in cash, and I could bleed the bastard dry for a full one; but believe it or not, that doesn't even cross my mind, because in my hands Kirill has come to life again—he's buzzing with energy, almost bursting into song, bounding down the stairs four at a time, not letting a guy light his cigarette. Anyway, I tell him everything: what it looks like and where it is and how to best get at it. He immediately takes out a map, finds this garage, puts his finger on it, gives me a long look, and, of course, immediately figures me out, but then that isn't so hard ...

"You devil, Red!" he says, smiling at me. "Well, let's get this over with. We'll go first thing tomorrow morning. I'll request a hoverboot and a pass at nine, and by ten we'll be off. All right?"

"All right," I say. "And who else will we take?"

"What do we need another guy for?"

"No way," I say. "This is no picnic. What if something happens to you? It's the Zone. Gotta follow the rules."

He gives a short laugh and shrugs. "Up to you. You know better."

No shit! Of course, that was him being generous: Who needs another guy, we'll go by ourselves, we'll keep the whole thing dark, and no one will suspect a thing. Except I know that the guys from the Institute don't go into the Zone in pairs. They have an unwritten rule around here: two guys do all the work while the third one watches, and when they ask later, he vouches there was no funny business.

"If it were up to me, I'd take Austin," Kirill says. "But you probably don't want him. Or would he do?"

"No," I say. "Anyone but him. You'll take Austin another time." Austin isn't a bad guy, he's got the right mix of courage and cowardice, but I think he's already doomed. You can't explain this to Kirill, but I know these things: the man has decided he's got the Zone completely figured out, and so he'll soon screw up and kick the bucket. And he can go right ahead. But not with me around.

"All right, all right," says Kirill. "How about Tender?" Tender is his second lab assistant. He isn't a bad guy, a calm sort.

"He's a bit old," I say. "And he has kids ..."

"That's OK. He's been in the Zone already."

"Fine," I say. "Let it be Tender."

Anyway, he stays there poring over the map while I race straight to the Borscht, because my stomach is growling and my throat is parched.

The next day I get to work at nine, as usual, and show my ID. The guard on duty is the beefy sergeant I pummeled last year when he made a drunken pass at Guta. "Hey," he says. "They're looking all over the Institute for you, Red—"

I interrupt him politely. "I'm not 'Red' to you," I say. "Don't you try to pal around with me, you Swedish ape."

"For God's sake, Red!" he says in astonishment. "But they all call you that!"

I'm anxious about going into the Zone and cold sober to boot. I grab him by the shoulder belt and tell him exactly what he is and just how his mother conceived him. He spits on the floor, returns my ID, and continues without any more pleasantries.

"Redrick Schuhart," he says, "you are ordered to immediately report to the chief of security, Captain Herzog."

"There you go," I say. "Much better. Keep plugging away, Sergeant—you'll make lieutenant yet."

Meantime, I'm shitting my pants. What could Captain Herzog want from me during work hours? Well, off I go to report. He has an office on the third floor, a very nice office, complete with bars on the windows like a police station. Willy himself is sitting behind his desk, puffing on his pipe and typing some gibberish on his typewriter. Over in the corner, some sergeant is rummaging through a metal cabinet—must be a new guy; I've never met him. We have more of these sergeants at the Institute than they have at division headquarters, all of them hale, hearty, and rosy cheeked. They don't need to go into the Zone and don't give a damn about world affairs.

"Hello," I say. "You requested my presence?"

Willy looks at me like I'm not there, pushes away his typewriter, puts an enormous file in front of him, and starts flipping through it. "Redrick Schuhart?" he says.

"That's my name," I answer, feeling an urge to burst into nervous laughter.

"How long have you worked at the Institute?"

"Two years, going on the third."

"Your family?"

"I'm all alone," I say. "An orphan."

Then he turns to the sergeant and orders him sternly, "Sergeant Lummer, go to the archives and bring back case 150." The sergeant salutes him and beats it. Willy slams the file shut and asks me gloomily, "Starting up your old tricks again, are you?"

"What old tricks?"

"You know damn well what old tricks. We've received information on you again."

Aha, I think. "And who was the source?"

He scowls and bangs his pipe on the ashtray in annoyance. "That's none of your business," he says. "I'm warning you as an old friend: give up this nonsense, give it up for good. If they catch you a second time, you won't walk away with six months. And they'll kick you out of the Institute once and for all, understand?"

"I understand," I say. "That much I understand. What I don't understand is what son of a bitch squealed on me ..."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from ROADSIDE PICNIC by ARKADY STRUGATSKY BORIS STRUGATSKY Copyright © 1972 by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Excerpted by permission of CHICAGO REVIEW PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    a book worh hording

    My copy of this book is a soft of the Roadside Picknic with Tale of the Troika. I have read it 3 times now and enjoyed it enough each time to want to read it again. It is dark and vague in some ways and frighteningly clear in others. It was undoubtedly one of the most important SF book of late 70's. But its important here to add that it stands today as well as it did when it was published. It has not aged much. True the political situation in that part of the world has changed, but not so much for the poor and desparate. The charachters develop and the reader can identify with their plight. Aliens, never depicted, are viewed as incomprehensible, dangerus and careless. An intoxicating mixture. On another level this novel is a commentary on the human condition, our own dangerousness, and perhaps most important the importance of hope. A fun read but also has many layers if your open to Them.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    A lively and thoughtful book

    What a great piece of character-driven science fiction! And this new translation is really wonderful. Highly recommended.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    New favorite!

    Im on my second read-through now and i know i will read it again afterwards. I wish it was longer. One complaint is that the translation at times seems to be missing things. Still aa great book though.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    amazing

    great read

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2009

    Absolutely Enthralling Tale

    I love this book! Its pretty short and at first I was unsure if I could grasp the concepts it talks about but from the beginning this book gave me everything I wanted, the ending is pretty great but also confusing and a little depressing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Several alien spaceships have visited Earth at some point in the

    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. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2014

    I have read this book probably 5 times and i have seen movie ¿St

    I have read this book probably 5 times and i have seen movie “Stalker” based on this book about same amount of times, yet I have never get bored. Every single time i find more and more to it. The Strugatsky brothers are truly masters of their craft. Each conversation, each scene, each character has so many layers, that every time you discover the story from the new side. This book awake a desire to understand others, to look on the things from different perspective, to think critically. As they said themselves "thinking is not an entertainment but an obligation”. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Good read!

    Awesome book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2013

    Christina

    Okk Kouri I guess Imma give up.. I dont know why I havent, but I hate myself for not letting you know how I felt about you. At the time I thought you know that we would make the perfect couple and stay together forever.. I was wrong because now I cant let you go.. its very hard.. if you dont come back on and we dont ever talk again I just hope you have a WONDERFUL rest of your life and I hope someday we can meet.. GoodBye Kouri.. Ill miss you..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2013

    BoneClan territory

    Stay out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    On of the greatest science fiction novels???

    No. Not even close. Dont waste your money. Pick it up at the library if you really want to read it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    Christina

    ;( I miss you wayy too much Kouri.. < / 3

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Kallie

    Jake?

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Just okay

    Just okay.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews

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