Title: Roadside Picnic
Plot Type: Science Fiction
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—2; Humor—2
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (2012)
LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION:
Click HERE to read a review of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the series of video games released between 2007 and 2010 that were inspired by the film. The letters in the acronym stand for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explores, Robbers. The games are set in a different location than the book and the film—in the area surrounding the abandoned city of Chernobyl after the nuclear meltdown of 1986. Click HERE to read the Wikipedia article on the game.
Theodore Sturgeon (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. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a "full empty" something goes terribly 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 [in Russia], Roadside Picnic is still widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years. This authoritative new translation corrects many errors and omissions and has been supplemented with a foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin and a new afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the strange history of the novel’s publication in Russia.
|Scene from Antz|
|Debris at Chernobyl|
|Abandoned Gas Masks at Chernobyl|
One aspect of the story that makes it solidly modern is the effect of technology on the world of the stalkers. "A new breed of stalker has appeared--armed with technology. The old stalker [like Red] was a sullen, dirty man, stubborn as a mule, crawling through the Zone inch by inch on his stomach, earning his keep. The new stalker is a tie-wearing dandy, an engineer, somewhere a mile away from the Zone, a cigarette in his teeth, a cocktail by his elbow—sitting and watching the monitors." It's like the difference between a Revolutionary War soldier armed with a sword and a Gulf War soldier armed with an automatic weapon, or the difference between a WWII fighter pilot and a 21st century drone operator, or the difference between the old-time American mob and the modern Russian cyber Mafia. Technology marches on.