I’m copying over some reviews of titles I’d written up in 2018 and earlier, just in case these titles are new for other people.
I’m glad that we have a solid English translation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic. This is a book that people really should be reading, if only because there’s a perspective to it that we rarely see in science fiction or literature in general.
While this may be a science fiction novel, taking place a number of years after first contact that involved no contact at all, the narrative is more akin to horror than anything else.
Aliens arrived on Earth, landing in a handful of seemingly random locations and then left shortly thereafter without any attempt to interact with us. What they left behind in their landing locations were bizarre, hazardous, and toxic zones where people like our protagonist would illegally venture with the purpose of risking their lives to collect items of alien manufacture that could be sold to scientific institutes for study or private collectors for bragging rights. The odds of surviving these trips into the zone were slim and anyone who made it out was changed by the experience.
This is where the novel begins, the context surrounding a story that is equal parts inspirational and terrifying, disorienting and straightforward. This book should be considered not only a fantastic sample of Cold War era Russian science fiction but also an example of surreal horror at its finest.