Roadside Picnic (Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky)

24 November 2021

Roadside Picnic

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those strange misfits who are compelled by some unknown force to venture illegally into the Zone and, in spite of the extreme danger, collect the mysterious artefacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the Zone and the thriving black market in the alien products. Even the nature of his daughter has been determined by the Zone. And it is for her that Red makes his last, tragic foray into the hazardous and hostile depths.

Average Rating:

Sinclair Manson (26 November 2021 20:38)

This was a compelling read, describing some fairly weird events with great clarity. I read it at about the same time that I went to see the new Dune movie and the contrast was striking. As Ursula Le Guin pointed out in the foreword of the edition I read, Red is not a character operating on a grand scale. He espouses no ideology and tries only to do well for himself and his family. What scruples he has are eroded away over the course of the book and I read his final, desperate wish as some kind of cry for justification. As the alien artefacts of the story are picked over selfishly without any understanding of their purposes or workings, so we each scrape through lives shaped by the detritus of great philosophies.