A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Red is a Stalker, a smuggler who deals in alien artifacts. He risks his life by carefully trekking through the government controlled Zone—where it seems aliens have visited earth and left behind a wreckage of strange phenomena and incomprehensible objects. He sells what alien technology he can scavenge with no regard for the possibly dangerous consequences.
Stalkers are romantic, rebellious figures, but Red is more than just an outlaw hero in the Strugatsky brother’s classic soviet-era SF novel Roadside Picnic. His experiences in the Zone, hallucinatory and often violent, go beyond mere treasure hunting and slowly take on a greater meaning. As the cosmic significance of the Zone begins to dawn on Red, he decides to make one final trip, looking for something more than just loot.
What makes Roadside Picnic a classic is it’s deft blend of old school SF adventure and big ideas. The plot and characters are compelling and the pacing is pretty swift—but there’s a mysterious side to the novel as well, and plenty to think about as it draws you in. A perfect SF novel for those who like to be left with more questions than answers.
Review by Matthew