Monday, 30 April 2012

Book Review-Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Release date: May 1, 2012 (originally published in 1972)
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Translated by: Olena Bormashenko
Author: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Thank you to Net Galley and Chicago Review Press for providing this eBook for review.

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of the 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 and immediately acclaimed as a science-fiction classic, Roadside Picnic is included on almost every list of the hundred greatest science-fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years. It was the basis for Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmic masterpiece Stalker and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games, which have proven immensely popular.

            This brand-new translation, which corrects many of the errors and omissions of the previous one, has been supplemented with a foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin, and a new afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the strange history of its publication in Russia. Finally, one of the greatest science fiction novels—and one of the most popular pieces of Russian fiction—is back in print in an authoritative edition.

This book is my toughest review yet. I feel like I just read something profound and important, but I can't quite grasp exactly WHY I feel that way.

Roadside Picnic is a refreshingly unique book. I feel odd using the word 'refreshingly' for what's considered a classic, but that's the only word I can use to describe it.
The plot is amazingly genius--Like nothing I've ever read before. I mean, c'mon...Aliens have visited the earth and left behind....stuff. Alien stuff that no one knows exactly what to do with. But some of it is worth a LOT of money...and some of it is deadly.
To get to the good stuff, you have to brave the deadly stuff. Like, literally crawl through slimy puddles of deadly guck-stuff. 
How cool is THAT??

Because the novel begins awhile after the actual alien visit, I almost felt like I'd started a book in the middle, which was a bit distracting.
For the first quarter of the novel I felt a bit lost, but the story sucked me in after that and my brain quickly adjusted. ;)

The characters didn't exactly jump out at me, and I didn't really feel invested in them at all, but again, the story grabs you and keeps you turning the pages.

The best parts were the journey's into the Zone. That's when your heart starts to race and your palms get sweaty and you stay up way past bedtime to find out what happens next. ;)

This translation is just okay. You can definitely tell it's a translation and, at times, that's distracting. The words don't 'flow' as well as they could and sometimes there's a choppy-feeling as you're reading.

Because this is classic sci-fi and the story itself is just so amazing, I definitely recommend Roadside Picnic to all sci-fi lovers.
It's most definitely worth the read, and I'd REALLY love to discuss this book with like-minded geeks! ;)
There's a TON of fodder in this book that would make for some great debates and conversations!

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I recommend the Antonina Bouis translation as an alternative. She's a very good translator. You can get it from the UK (or online at the Strugatsky archive).

    Roadside Picnic, along with Correction, Persuasion and Moby-Dick, are my four favourite novels of all time.