Reviews of Roadside Picnic (1972)
Review by ropie (2005-08-14)
First of all, I would like to point out that 'Roadside Picnic' is readily available to download and print out on the internet, and I have to reccommend that anyone with an interest in Soviet fiction, particularly science-fiction, should do so. This is not a long book at approximately 120 pages, but it contains enough ideas and insights to fill a much larger novel.
The basic premise is that the world has been subject to some sort of 'visitation' that has left areas of dangerously warped physics and enigmatic alien matter known as 'zones'. The main character is involved, along with others, in attempting dangerous scouting missions into the zone near his town to collect extra-terrestrial artefacts to sell to the government.
It is almost a disappointment that some of the wonderful artefacts and strange mysteries of the zones are not dealt with in greater detail. However, what is given to us is presented in such a carefully considered and literary manner that the book is a joy to read, though at times hard to understand.
The first and last chapters - of four - contain the most action, though for the most part the pace is slow but tense. This lends an air of gravitas to the proceedings and indeed the climax of the story is a sort of release, deeply embedded in the psyche of the time it was written and, as most reviewers have noted, the book will probably require atleast one re-reading to fully appreciate it.
Overall, an exciting and complex book that speaks volumes about its writers, its country of origin and adds an important slant to the science fiction that most English-speaking readers will be familiar with.
Review by sqbr (2003-07-05)
A quite good exploration of exactly how clueless we would be in the face of alien contact. Aliens visit earth, leaving behind a region where strange incomprehensible things happen.
Humans make cautious forays to try to gather anything useful but really have no idea what they're doing and often die without knowing why. Very much a "Universe big and scary, humans small and clueless" novel, and pretty good one if you like that sort of thing.