|My copy--pretty good for 1977|
Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Ekaterina at In My Book reviewed this Russian SF classic for Vintage SF Month, and I was intrigued but didn't expect to get to read it very soon. Then I started back to work for the new semester and found a copy in the stacks! Wow! I feel so lucky. It's the first English edition from 1977, and includes another short novel, Tale of the Troika. I'll be reading that too.
In the not-too-distant future, a bunch of alien artifacts landed on Earth in 6 locations, as though shot in packets. Redrick Schuhart has grown up right next to one of the Zones, and he's a stalker--he makes illegal runs into the Zone to find alien artifacts to smuggle and sell. Stalking is an incredibly dangerous job; the Zone is filled with bizarre phenomena and invisible deadly dangers. You might find so-so's, which act like batteries and multiply spontaneously, but you might also fall into a ditch and have your bones disintegrated by witches' jelly. Although the Zone emits no detectable radiation, stalkers' DNA mutates and their children are not quite human. So why did this stuff just fall from the sky? Is it just so much alien garbage, left by the roadside?
|New edition cover|
As far as I can tell, the story is set in Canada, with some characters from all over the world, drawn by the Zone. From the setting and plot, you might never realize that the authors are Russians, except that I felt like the whole atmosphere was very Russian indeed. The story feels Russian to me. But I wonder if I would have thought that if I hadn't known already?
|My last chance to use cool image|
This is a very influential book, and also an excellent story. I think you should read it, and I'm looking forward to reading more Strugatsky works.