Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Review: Roadside Picnic

Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Started reading: January 20th 2022
Finished the book: February 1st 2022
Pages: 145
Genres: Classics, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Published: 1972
Source: Digital Copy
Goodreads score: 4.16
My score:
Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a “full empty,” something goes 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, 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.

My thoughts
Thanks to Arjen for introducing this book to me, of which I've had never heard, but what seemed to be a Classic in SF and Dystopian books. I am not the biggest fan of older books, because sometimes I just have a harder time getting into the story. The choice of words, especially in English is hard for me. What I liked most about this book was the setting and the vibe around the mysterious Zones. I just felt something lacking what I think was me not being invested in the characters.

  • Longer time: I liked that we follow a character for a longer period of time. I'm curious to see how things evolve and that way you can also make bigger changes happening that are more believable, in my opinion. I also feel like the langer timespan fit this book very well and was a smart choice by the authors.
  • Setting: Some SF and Dystopian books are very alike. We all know the vampire and zombie apocalypse books. This book is so unique with the Zones and the mystery that hangs around it. I liked the vibe, the setting and the mysterious aura that all surrounded it. I think it could've been even bigger, scarier and grander, but the fact that it's so mysterious made it creepy!
  • Vague: The way things were described and the choice of words made it sometimes vague for me. I could not always picture everything correctly and that distracts a lot when reading. I also feel that made it harder for me to invest in the book.
  • Questions: I have and had a lot of questions that are not answered. Of course, a book surrounded in mystery needs some questions left unanswered, but in this book... A LOT was not answered and I'm not a fan of that choice.
  • Characters: I did not care about the characters at all, to be honest. I think this goes together with the fact that it was sometimes hard to understand for me. The two work together, but not in a good way unfortunately.
I can see why this book is perceived as a classic. I also think back in 1972 this book was truly groundbreaking. It's definitely unique in the Dystopian genre, the Zones are like nothing I've ever seen. The whole mysterious and creepy vibe were my favorite part of the book. Sadly I wasn't all that invested and that took away some of the fun reading this book.

Other opinions on this book
"Brilliantly and beautifully written. A truly superb work of science fiction."
- Infinity Plus

"No doubt: a powerful, classic work of science fiction. Certainly recommended."
- The Complete Review

Memorable quotes from this book
"Sometimes I ask myself, what the hell are we all running around for, anyway? To make money? But what the hell do we need money for if all we do is run around making it?"

"You can imagine anything at all. And real life is never what you imagine."

Thanks for reading!
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~ Esther