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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 There is a 1979 film by Andrei Tarkovsky loosely based on The Roadside Picnic The screenplay is by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky I m, of course, going to have to watch it.Redrick Red Schuhart is a stalker He is one of the few people crazy enough to go into The Zone Thirty years ago Aliens visited the Earth They landed at six different locations Hung out for a while and took off They ignored us.What The Frill Here we are the most intelligent species to ever evolve on this planet debatable and the big moment occurs when another, obviously intelligent species comes to visit, and they act like the snooty prom queen and king at the big dance You d think we were mere bugs Not even worthy of a good probing or dissection In these zones they left behind trash, as if, as one scientist put it, they had just stopped off for a roadside picnic They also left behind traps Things unexplainable Things that science even has trouble labeling One example is what Red calls a bug trap, but the eggheads call it something elseHis face has become completely calm, you can see he s figured everything out They are all like that, the eggheads The most important thing for them is to come up with a name Until he comes up with one, you feel really sorry for him, he looks so lost But when he find a label like graviconcentrate, he thinks he s figured it all out and perks right upStalkers are people who go into The Zone and retrieve objects They then sell them on the black market for cash They need a big payoff because every time they go into The Zone they are risking life or limb there is this slime that melts the bones and eventually turns everything it touches intoslime Most of the original stalkers are dead Their corpses litter the landscape of The Zone providing guideposts for don t go there The Zone does something to them Their kids are mutants Red s child becomes less and less human as she grows and becomes something unknown, unknowable People from this area can t emigrate because odd disasters start happening in the places they move to The Zone owns them Still, Red should just settle down and get a real job, a safe jobBut how do I stop being a stalker when I have a family to feed Get a job And I don t want to work for you, your work makes me want to puke, you understand If a man has a job, then he s always working for someone else, he s a slave, nothingand I ve always wanted to be my own boss, my own man, so that I don t have to give a damn about anyone else, about their gloom and their boredom Besides being dangerous, working as a stalker is also illegal He soon finds himself on one last mission for a golden sphere that he has to find before The State robots get there first It is aboutthan just the money It is about outwitting everyone maybe even himself Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were Russian science fiction writers who managed to publish most of what they wrote even under the heavy censoring hand of the Soviet Union Ursula K Le Guin in the forward explains it wellWhat they did, which I found most admirable then and still do now, was to write as if they were indifferent to ideology something many of us writers in the Western democracies had a hard time doing There wrote as free men writeThey did struggle to get Roadside Picnic published In the afterword Arkady has a list of all the letters and petitions that were exchanged between various Russian committees trying to get approvalEight years Fourteen letters to the big and little Central Committees Two hundred degrading corrections of the text An incalculable amount of nervous energy wasted on trivialitiesYes, the authors prevailed there s no arguing with that But it was a Pyrrhic VictoryArkady and Boris StrugatskyThe book was published in Russian in 1972 and translated into English in 1977 This edition, that I read, is a new translation with all the original text, as the authors intended, reinstated There is a 1979 movie as I mentioned above The book also inspired a video game called S.T.A.L.K.E.R.I absolutely love this concept Hollywood has spent so much time making us worry about Aliens coming to Earth to enslave us, to steal our natural resources, to take over the planet, to use us as incubators for their spawn etc We are completely unprepared to be ignored We really don t like being ignored The book can be read on many levels It is an enjoyable fast paced read on the most basic level For those that like to apply philosophy, politics, and psychology to their reading there is plenty of hooks to keep you pondering the true meaning of different situations It is a book, that without a doubt, will give the readerwith each new read This is one of those terrific finds that I may have never read without the guidance of friends on GR Our compiled reading knowledge is oh so much greater than when we read alone If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at (((READ EPUB))) ☞ Пикник на обочине ★ 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 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 thatit 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 answers to the clear divide between right and wrong, and the heart shattering scream of soul.This is a story of the aftermath of the aliens visit to our planet Well, a visit may be too grand of a word It seems dishearteningly likely that the space visitors made little notice of us that their visit here was little but a roadside picnic a quick stop in the middle of nowhere, a break after which they left to never be seen again, leaving only a bit of waste behind them the relics worth quite a bit of money, and a toxic area the Zone where humans cannot survive, where the invisible effects of something inside it inflict permanent scars mental and physical on those brave or foolish enough to venture inside it It was hard for me to believe that this book was written years before the catastrophic explosion at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station an explosion that left a Zone full of deadly invisible poison affecting those in it or near it, with ghost city that once was full of people and now is just a shell of a disaster.No wonder that in popular culture Chernobyl and Strugatsky s stalker became intertwined The disheartening insignificance of the contact goes well against the well established rules of science fiction There was no communication, no contact, nothing It appears that despite the hopes of all the sci fi writers over decades, we were not that interesting to the other intelligence actually, we probably weren t even worth noticing Just a matter of fact quick purposeless roadstop and a bunch of refuse which still proceeds to affect the lives of people around the mysterious ZonesA picnic Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow Cars drive off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music In the morning they leave The animals, birds, and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places And what do they see Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around Rags, burnt out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind And of course, the usual mess apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire, cans, bottles, somebody s handkerchief, somebody s penknife, torn newspapers, coins, faded flowers picked in another meadowEchoing the insignificance of humanity is the insignificance of the main character Red Schuhart is a stalker a riffraff taking frequent quick forays into the Zone to smuggle out the alien artifacts that are valued on the black market, undeterred by having to live on the outside of the law, always at risk of horrific side effects or death inside and imprisonment outside He does what he does not for any noble purpose but simply because there s little else to do He is a common guy, ordinary, inconsequential, average, hard hit by life His goals are not noble just survival In life, he is a bottomfeeder It s underscored many times how inconsequential Red is and maybe it s precisely why his plight has such an appeal to us After all, despite the bravado, most of us carry no illusions of our own significance in the grand scheme of things.The visits to the Zone that we undertake with Red and his less cynical,wide eyed companions first ill fated Kirill, then just as ill fated Arthur are harrowing in a peculiarly surreal fashion It s not about what s happening it s about the possibility of something unknown yet dreadful happening, the nerves set completely on the edge, the uneasiness of tense anticipation You can feel the characters on the verge of snapping, and the uneasy feeling is omnipresent.And yes, in the true Russian and Soviet fashion, the politics are very much in the background of this story even if it s written as though it s seemingly apolitical The idea of little people affected by the bigger things that are out of their reach The caution of us unable to understand and come to grasp with even the refuse of the outside civilization The endless corruption that always seen to almost spontaneously spring into being The mundane drone hopelessness of being just cogs in the machine The hollowness of the society The bitterness of a small person when faced with something larger be it other worlds, or the government, or the powers that we do not understand, or humanity itself.And yet there is something akin to hope in the end or, on the other thought, maybe there is not Redrick s semi delusional soliloquy at the end of the book, in the sight of the mysterious Golden Sphere the feverish, desperate, pleading semi rational painful revelation as he with horror realizes thatMy whole life I haven t had a single thought, thatthey ve cheated me, left me voicelessin the semi delirious haze is his final scream of soul speech a fierce ray of hope for us or is it another lost, desperate, delusional scream into the void Maybe there s no answer, after all And he was no longer trying to think He just kept repeating to himself in despair, like a prayer, 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 of a thing other than those words of his HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN 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 one such Zone in Harmont, Canada, a fictional mining town way out in the boonies The bulk of the novel consists of Redrick Red Schuart s first person account at age 23, 28 and 31 as a stalker risking his life and the health of others in order to conduct illegal sneaks into the Zone to smuggle out alien artifacts At 200 pages Roadside Picnic is not an overly long work but a reader can gather a bushel basket of probing insights and powerful images on every single page The novel is a gripping adventure story, no doubt about it, but if readers wish to delve deeper, this is a book that could be used in a university course for either psychology, philosophy, sociology or history Such fertile, thought provoking material my initial drafts included no less than three dozen points I planned to cover But, alas, since this is a review not an extended essay, I ve whittled down the number Here they are The VisitAs Nobel laureate Dr Pillman states unequivocally in the first few pages, the fact that aliens payed a visit to Planet Earth is the most important discovery in human history, proving once and for all we Earthlings are not alone in the universe Many of the philosophic dimensions of this earth shattering breakthrough are exploredin depth later on in the book Critics and scholars of the Strugatsky novel have speculated what the Zone might represent, equating the Zone with things like capitalism, the black market or,generally, the yearning for consumer goods however, as fruitful as these interpretations might prove, Roadside Picnic retains its magic and power for readers if we let the Zone be the Zone where extraterrestrials left behind their stuff as if they were happy go lucky vacationers who tossed their trash along the roadside after a picnic, as if they considered human intelligence too minuscule or human stupidity too colossal to bother making direct contact with our kind The Many Human Roadside PicnicsOne of the seasoned officials servicing the international organization in charge of the Zone characterizes the belt of land surrounding the Zone as a hideous sore on the face of the planet Since the Zone has attracted a huge number of tourists and scientists and military troops, skyscrapers and a complex for jazz, variety shows and a gigantic brothel have been slapped up In this regard, Harmont is not unlike the thousands of ugly towns and cities built for their strict utility that quickly become useless, an architectural phenomenon common to all political and economic systems across the globe Modern society as a producer of mass roadside picnics This abandoned apartment complex built by Soviet Gulag prisoners looks like a movie set for the film Stalker Xenology, the study of extraterrestrials I agree with Dr Pillman the way we humans are going about studying the left behinds is highly flawed in that it assumes the aliens think like we think Such arrogance Why can t people in modern society keep their hands off For additional examples we don t have to look far of all the indigenous peoples who have their own society and cultures, how many have escaped the Western world invading and disrupting their way of life The Midwich Cuckoos Redux Dr Pillman goes on to observe All the people in contact with the Zone for a sufficiently long time undergo changes You know what stalkers children are like, you know what happens with stalkers themselves Why What causes the mutations There s no radiation in the Zone A spooky scenario It is quite possible those mutations could have catastrophic long range consequences, turning humans into aliens for an eventual alien takeover In this way Roadside Picknic bears comparison to John Wyndham s The Midwich Cuckoos or Jack Finney s The Body Snatchers And those aliens need not do anythingthan leave their stuff behind since we humans can t resist keeping our hands off what belongs to others Holy H P Lovecraft Our Nobel laureate goes on to explain how duplicating spacells and reanimated corpses from the Zone violate the principles of thermodynamics, or, inordinary language, are outside the laws of nature Wow In this way Roadside Picnic is not only a work of science fiction, it crosses over into the realm of Lovecraftian supernatural horror Now, good humans, you really having something to worry about Empties, Full Empties, Hell Slime, Graviconcentrates, a Golden Sphere if these extraterrestrial objects and realities have or might have supernatural properties, you should definitely think twice before messing with them.Red the StalkerArkady and Boris Strugatsky caught hell from Soviet censors for the coarseness, vulgarity and immoral behavior included in their novel Case in point Stalker Red Schuhart is addicted to booze, cigarettes, crass language and gross behavior And Red can t wait for his next opportunity to use his brass knuckles or return to the Zone, his home away from home.Can we blame Red He s surrounded by nothing but filth and ugliness, tawdriness and crap While turning the pages I attempted to find anything, I mean ANYTHING in Red s world, either in nature or in art or music that contained the slightest gram of beauty There was none The closest thing bordering on uplifting aesthetic experience is when Red passes a bakery with brightly lit windows in the early morning and he let the warm, incredibly delicious aroma wash over him I mention this to note how Red could appreciate beauty if there was any to be had, but, most unfortunately, his world is one of unending ugliness.Pulp Science Fiction Revisited I take it back There is a second uplifting aesthetic experience Red comes across It s the most obvious one for a young adventurer a beautiful woman She was silky, luscious, sensuously curvy, without a single flaw, a single extra ounce a hundred and twenty pounds of twenty year old delectable flesh and then there were the emerald eyes, which shone from within, and the full moist lips and the even white teeth and the jet black hair that gleamed in the sun, carelessly thrown over one shoulder the sunlight flowed over her body, drifting from her shoulders to her stomach and hips, throwing shadows between her almost bare breasts Ha Perhaps Arkady and Boris had their tongues deep in their cheeks, purposely conjuring up the stereotypical female image so common in science fiction pulp magazines in bygone years.A Hero s JourneyRed s adventures as a stalker spans eight years As we learn toward the end of the novel, Red s journey is a hero s journey, involving what Joseph Campbell termed sacrifice and bliss To judge the truth of these words, I encourage you to read this classic for yourself I guarantee you will not be disappointed.Arkady and Boris Strugatsky How can I give up stalking when I have a family to feed Get a job I don t want to work for you, your work makes me puke, do you understand This is the way I figure it if a man works with you, he is always working for one of you, he is a slave and nothing else And I always wanted to be myself, on my own, so that I could spit at you all, at your boredom and despair Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic 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 Isn t that exactly what you do spend your time doing with books He replied, Haven t you just described literary analysis Hmm.A while ago, as most of you probably know, Roger Ebert wrote an article declaring that Video Games Can Never Be Art Predictably, this caused a huge backlash, opening up a large and messy debate Ebert, tired of being the center of this discussion, made a follow up response where he declared that he had no definition for Art which would exclude video games, that he had not played them, and hence, was in no position to judge, but that he was not going to take back his statement I read the articles, and I agree with Tycho from Penny Arcade that Ebert never made any arguments which require refutation Since Ebert does not know video games, he never says anything which would disqualify them as art Just because they started as simple little machines you pumped coins into doesn t mean they can t be art, that s how films started, after all.Unfortunately, I don t feel that the defenders of Video Games as Art have done a great job of making their points, either, and I found Kellee Santiago s much lauded TED presentation simplistic and full of errors in reasoning, never really touching on what makes art, or why games should be included But I have personally had many experiences with video games that were as touching, thought provoking, entertaining, and beautiful as works in any other medium In fact, the plot, characters, romances, and moral quandaries of the Baldur s Gate series are not just better than the game s novelization, but are aheartfelt and thorough exploration of epic fantasy than most modern authors I could name.Planescape Torment, by the same publishers, is a wildly surreal existential exploration, touching on many philosophies and calling into question the very nature of reality and of identity It is a revolutionary exploration of the genre that is oftenthoughtful and subtle than Mieville s Perdido Street Station.These games and others combine complex, thoughtful plots, psychologically deep characters who change throughout the story, beautiful graphic art, music, cinematography, philosophical explorations, and humor to create unique visions of human experience Ebert asks whether we can point to games that are as good as the greatest works of art Perhaps not but then, videogames have only been around for thirty years, and I d be hard pressed to name a novel of the last thirty years that is as good as the greatest literary works Certainly, there are videogames which are superior to many works of art from other media.And one such game is S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is loosely based on the Strugatsys book at last, we re getting somewhere I came across the game, played and enjoyed it, all without knowing anything about the book that inspired it The game is one of the most disturbing and horrifying stories I have ever been through, in any medium The subtly unsettling build of the game affected methan any horror movie or book As a bleak, lonely, post apocalyptic world, I found it fartouching than The Road which Ebert holds up as an example of modern art.But for me, video games have never been about the puzzles, the fights, the winning or losing it s about the story, the experience, the quiet moments which define a world You come to a campfire in the grey light of the early morning, tired, your mind numb from a firefight in the dark, having stumbled into the midst of a group of nervous men who fired at the half seen movement A twig snaps and bodies lie still There is a misting rain You sit quietly for a moment, watching the grass waving, just letting everything fall away You approach the fire There, on the ground beside you, half buried in the dirt is a skull, a pelvis Yeah Me, too you think. So, as I do with any story I like, I sought out the game s roots and inspirations, hoping it would lead me to something equally enjoyable Which is how I found Tarkovsky s film, which has become one of my favorites, and which I prefer to the better known Solaris.And that lead me to Roadside Picnic a backwards trip through time from furthest inspiration back to the source It s such an intriguing setting for me, such an unusual take on alien interaction It is so dehumanized, so remote, that to me, it feels muchrealistic, muchcomprehensible than men in rubber suits making space war Which is to say, it isn t comprehensible, it s onething we cannot understand, no matter how hard we try, but which we must live with, every day, muddling through.The central concept of Roadside Picnic is one that has shown up elsewhere, from David Foster Wallace s Infinite Jest explored here to theexplicit homage in H John Harrison s Nova Swing But it s really not surprising, as there is a kind of universal Jungian appeal to the concept of the Wish Granter hidden in the Land of Death.But for me, the exploration in Roadside Picnic never went deep enough, so that I constantly wished forNot forunderstanding or exposition quite the opposite I wantedof those silent moments,time to stare into the abyss, to be confronted with the nameless, the unnameable, and the smallness of man I wantedof what the Tarkovsky film gave me the silent ponderousness with which man meets the Great Mystery.The book had too many explanations and digressions about itself, things I wished I could have seen, could have passed by, uncomprehending, instead of being told about them later as a mass of theories and explanations The film was full of digressions, as well, but these were always about man, about the eternal questions which alienation brought to the forefront These only served to deepen the mystery, since they danced always around it, avoiding it though I will say not all of these digressions were necessary or welcome, especially when it turned characters into mouthpieces.Similarly, what I missed from the game was the isolation, the way the blackness was always there, patiently waiting, just beyond the lamplight of your false security, and also the moments of unexpected surreality which inspired such gripping terror There is a definite Lovecraftian element, and if we have learned anything from Lovecraft s followers, it s that long explanations are the best way to kill a monster.I enjoyed the book s slow burn, the gradual psychological progression that these men, who had looked into the darkness and come away harrowed, in time they turned on one another in their fear and isolation, counterfeiting an enemy of flesh to represent the insensible, incomprehensible enemy which they faced each day The degradation of family, community, and identity in the face of encroaching darkness lent the characters an introverted desperation which was very engaging and very Russian.It was also an effective and subtle satire of the impersonal brutality of government, which was why this book went unpublished so long in Russia In the end, it only reached publication in censored form There is an author approved version from the past decade, but it s too grand a hope to think we might see an English translation of it There is simply not enough demand for a small cult sci fi book, which is a shame.The translation I read was a bit stilted, and there were many opportunities for subtlety which I could feel, but not quite comprehend I wish it had beenpersonal, less built on dialogues after the fact, that it hadclosely approached the horrific implications of the world, and that it had given ustime to come to terms.But I don t get a say Well, not yet Though with all authors, writing becomes the act of telling those stories you were always looking for, but never found you must create them, for yourself And that s part of the final barrier between video games and art Can the audience participate in art Does that destroy its vision Does the undecided ending of Inception make it less art because it invites the audience to participate in that ending Moreover, is art not art to the people who create it, because they decide its outcome That is a part of Ebert s argument I, for one, look forward to a future where I can haveparticipation in the art I consume, and it s a desire creators recognize I get alternate endings , re imagined remakes, adaptations which take liberties from their inspiration.Perhaps some day soon, we will live in a world where we do not define the quality of stories by what device they are played on. 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 WarrenThe 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 This is probably their best known novel internationally thanks to a movie Stalker by Tarkovsky and several video games by the same name By the way, the brothers did not like the movie as it was quite different from their vision To give you an idea about how influential it was, the term Stalker in the sense it is used in the book movie practically became a word Also any big list of best science fiction works includes the novel.The main idea explained right in the prologue 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 stalkers smuggle things from Zones There is a price to pay for these smuggling trips though Red Schuhart is one of such stalkers, quite famous and lucky a stalker need lots of luck to come back alive from a trip to the zone During the progress of the story Red pays the price of visiting the Zone in full Red s development is great and he is an interesting character to survive he acts in a way that leaves no doubt about him not being a nice guy The Zone itself is spooky, fascinating, and really forces you to use your imagination Thanks to its brilliant depiction the terms witch s jelly , meatgrinder , shrieker , and others always invoke the Zone in my mind Even after my countless rereads I still get spooked being inside it following Red s expeditions.As with a lot of good Soviet science fiction, expect a lot of question asked, no clear answers provided and no happy end, but still in my opinion the ending was very powerful and moving It is a though provoking, hard to put down masterpiece, most probably the best introduction to Soviet science fiction A must read for any sci fi fanHAPPINESS FOR EVERYBODY, FREE, AND NO ONE WILL GO AWAY UNSATISFIED The last, unanswered question still remains did Strugatsky brothers predict Chernobyl disaster The dead city of Pripyat and its surroundings bear a strong resemblance to the Zone. 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 isconcerned 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 itakin to the trash a traveler might leave behind after a roadside picnic There are lots of possibilities And that brings us to one of the novel s central themes what does it say about our intelligence if the aliens who visited the planet didn t even notice there was intelligent life on Earth I definitely thought about Jeff Vandermeer s Annihilation while reading this, but each writer had his own take Fun read 4.25 stars. 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 Thewe learn, thewe realise that we don t inhabit any special place in things We re not at the centre of anything In the same way, the people in this book are forced to consider the possibility that they re not the poster children for intelligence or consciousness, but akin to ants, scurrying around the remnants of beings that are profoundly unknowable A funny, tragic and unique take on alien contact, Roadside Picnic offers a thoughtful and fascinating look at what it means to be human. Russian SCI FI.I think theaccurate 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 are rather the detritus of a brief galactic stop over on back water Terra on the way to somewhere else.There are other ideas about the aliens and what they left behind and why Told from the perspective of a stalker a kind of prospector or poacher who enters the zones to collect the artifacts and sell them It s a dangerous job as the zones are radioactive or magical or something as illness, mutation and death stalk the alleyways and empty streets in an eerie prophesy of Chernobyl years after this was published.SF fans will draw comparisons to Frederik Pohl s 1977 novel Gateway because of the profitable but hazardous collection of alien relics But whereas Pohl s novel was hard SF, this had the Russian literature undercurrent of depression and morose introspection.This was very influential and even contained a Vonnegut reference a classic in the genre and a must read for fans. 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 Yes, I like to wear a gorilla costume when I write crappy non reviews Helps me think deep thoughts and stuff Only that it didn t for once this time Help me think deep thoughts, I mean And it s not like I didn t try super hard and stuff I squeezed and squished and squashed my two ever failing little grey cells for hours on end, to no avail My Evil Russian friends kindly offered to send me on a paid holiday to one of their Siberian vacation camps for artists I hear they have the best camp counsellors, by the way to see if I could find some inspiration there, but all the flights from Mariana Trench Central to Yakutsk were fully booked Life sucks and stuff hide spoiler