Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky Review
by Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii
A Tempting Quote:
“I look up at him, and my heart leaps into my throat— I can’t say a word. I want to yell Stop, don’t move! and can’t. And there probably isn’t enough time, anyway, it all happens so fast: Kirill steps over the empty, turns around, and his back goes right into the silver stuff. The only thing I can do is close my eyes” (Strugatsky 31).
Terms to Know:
The Zone- When some aliens visit this planet, they leave behind a “dead” area known as the Zone. It contains many strange things that humans struggle to explain, including random magnetic fields, electric currents, and possible time travelling. Additionally, anyone who enters the Zone carries with them series of bad luck and other effects on themselves and those around them. For example, Redrick’s (the main character’s) daughter grows less human after he continuously visits the Zone. She stops understanding the human language and develops strange animal-like ways.
The Visit/Visitors- This term is used to describe the aliens that “created” the Zone. Once again, science knows little about them and where they came from.
Empty- One of the artifacts that the aliens left behind in the Zone. They are really valuable, and will bring anyone a large pay if brought back. However, one must endure the dangers of the Zone in order to obtain an empty, so that is why not many are up for the challenge.
Golden Sphere- is rumored to grant a wish that you really want from within. Redrick (the main character) and Arthur (who just happened to have come along with him) try to find this so that they can fix the problems that they experience in their lives.
Stalker- Someone who goes to the Zone to hunt for artifacts and other clues. Redrick (the main character) is a stalker, and so are most of his co-workers.
In the beginning, readers are introduced to Redrick Schuhart. He is very easy-going with his life, and often doesn’t see the serious side of things. He enjoys going to the bar and drinking with his friends, despite the seriousness of his position as a stalker, which means he illegally enters the Zone at night to search for valuable artifacts.
We also meet his girlfriend, Guta, who is pregnant. Despite all the scientific research that the children of stalkers are born with strange mutations, Guta states that she wants to keep the baby. Redrink and Guta later get married.
Then, during one of his trips to the Zone, Redrick and his coworker run into a mysterious silvery web and before Redrick can say anything, his coworker, Kiril, steps into the web by accident. This is where the quote I wrote above comes in. Kiril seems to be fine at first, but he dies from a “heart attack” several hours later. The loss of his friend causes Redrick to really think about why he is a stalker.
The next time the readers see Redrick he is part of a “gang” of stalkers, lead under a code name by Richard Noonan. Certain decisions that he makes anger some, while please others. At this point, he is torn between his family and his work (which leads him to jail at one point) and it seems as if his work is taking over.
In the end, Redrick has to realize that maybe all of the sacrifices he makes for his stalking are not worth it, and he has one last chance to redeem himself. Whether or not he takes the chance, and how he gets it is for the readers to find out.
This book is a bit slow at first, but I promise you that by the end, all of you will like it. There is also a huge message behind the whole thing that will be revealed at the end. If you don’t get the message, go back and reread the book until you get it. It’s practically impossible to miss. In fact, my favorite part of the book was the last few chapters because of how it all connected. I also enjoyed how the book was broken up into sections and how each little section.
I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. The reason why I didn’t give it full starts was because it might be difficult for some people to pick up on the initial terminology and ideas. That’s why I included a few facts that I thought might be helpful in the beginning of my review. Enjoy