Strugatskii's Roadside Picnic

Has anyone read it? If so, what did you think?

Strugatskii brothers are my absolutely favorite scifi authors, I have all their books, and the Roadside Picnic is one of their best, IMO. There are very few books that I read and re-read half a dozen times. Their books I have. In fact, I think to get the full impact of the Roadside Picnic or “Ulitka na Sklone” you have to read it at least a couple of times.

I tried to share it with my wife (who admittedly is not a big scifi fan), bought her the English translation, since her Russian is not good enough for her to enjoy reading in it, and she was like - meh. So I am wondering whether it’s their style that is decidedly Russian that does not come through well in translation or is not suitable for English-speaking audience. Or it’s something else.

I went on a big Strugatsky (I think that’s how it was spelled on the English-language anthologies I got) several years ago. I really enjoyed their work.

I don’t remember that story particularly well, because I remember the movie (and the games it inspired) better. But I do recall that I liked it.

The Strugatsky’s definitely had a flavor that was unusual for this American SF fan, but for me that was definitely a plus. I could see where someone who wasn’t a fan of SF would not get or not appreciate what they were doing with their stories, but I’d definitely recommend them to any fan of SF.

I vaguely remember reading it, I think. Is it about aliens who stop by on Earth for a “roadside picnic” (actually, IIRC, some unguessable alien reason for stopping) who leave behind artifacts that … well spoiler box time)

cause all sorts of problems for the people who find them, even kill them?

Yes. Except it’s not about the aliens, really :slight_smile: there are no aliens in the story. The “Zone” in which the artifacts are is the backdrop of most of the story, yes.

I am guessing since you vaguely remember it, it didn’t leave much of an impression. So that’s another “meh” vote I presume.

I really enjoyed it and read it at least twice years ago when Collier published it as party of their series of Russian SF. One of my favourites of theirs.
There was a new translation out last year, maybe two years ago, and I’m intending to read as well that eventually.*

I’ve also read half a dozen other books by them, including two different translations of The Second Invasion from Mars/The Second Martian Invasion. I enjoyed both versions but the story felt quite different in tone depending which translation you read. Some of their other works were very good and a couple seemed pretty dull, despite being well thought of in Russia. Noon: 22nd Century and Hard to be a God, for instance.
But The Snail on the Slope, Tale of the Troika, Monday Begins on Saturday and others were all very readable. The differences between the readability of their books was noticable enough that I suspect the translation was to blame.

  • the 1977 translation was by Antonina W. Bouis, the 2012 one by Olena Bormashenko.

No, actually, IIRC it had a nice eerie tone. I liked it. I’ve read thousands of SF short stories, the fact that I remember it at all is an endorsement.

I read it in a scifi course that focused on the concept of “the other” in science fiction. This was one of the first stories we read, as I recall.

I remember liking it just fine. It was one of several early scifi short stories we read, and I think it did the best job of illustrating the point that the professor was trying to make.

Early? It was published in 1972. Is that early?

Oh, well, clearly I’m mixing up my timeline of what we read when. Gimme a break, it was well over a decade ago! :smiley:

I read it after watching Stalker. I liked it, but the ending seemed sort of abrupt. I like what Tarkovski did with it.

Speaking of “foreign” sci-fi, Fantastic Planet is one of my all-time favorite movies.

I read it a long time ago, and liked it but didn’t love it. It was certainly distinctly different from most western SF and the very downbeat and ambiguous ending made quite an impression. You don’t quite know if the hero has saved the world or destroyed it (or possibly nothing really happens at all), but either way he hates himself now.

Read it last year in the newly translated version and loved it. I don’t think the protagonist hates himself now; the roadside picnic has twisted the world so horribly that doing what he did seemed worth the shot. Even if nothing happened, he took the chance; if something did happen - hey, good times all around.

I read it almost 30 years ago and never forgot it, when a zillion other stories have been.