'Roadside Picnic' a classic sci-fi novel


truely great !! one of the all time classics !!

One of my long-term goals is to learn enough Russian to read an untranslated copy. Also there’s a good film based on RP by the name of Stalker. Which in turn launched a few video games. And some LARPs.


I always remembered this as being written by Stanisław Lem. Oops.


I’m aware that the book is significantly different from the first version of the film, which got ‘mis-handled’ by the film stock processor and is lost to history, not to mention the second (supposedly darker and less hopeful) re-shoot with which we are familiar.
[edit: The production staff and some of the cast members sometimes also refer to another version, for which there is slim pickins on the net…]

I’m in a position of having formed an opinion of that film which leaves me impressed beyond pretty much any other film I’ve seen or heard of; which leaves me in a pickle.
I’m reticent to read it because I don’t want to find that the themes with which I’m so impressed and love the film for are drawn from some other, contradictory philosophy.

Although, to be sure (and I’ve mentioned this recently), I enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey much more since I read the book.

1 Like

Stalker is in my top three favorite films. I think Tarkovsky is the greatest creator who ever lived. That said, the book and the film are, to me, two entirely different things. Sort of like the difference between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner. No problem.


Could it be because Solaris, another Tarkovsky great, is by Lem?


Hmm, yes but.
Bladerunner really does follow the intention of Androids quite closely when you are considering the philosophy behind the two. Maybe flipping the central implication and the moral compass but essentially they are, well, two different sides of the same coin.
I’m glad I’ve ‘read’ both and I think they compliment one another but I was aware that they dealt with the same themes, from what I’ve heard and descriptions I’ve allowed myself to read, they sound purty dern different. The book seems to me to trump the film and if it’s too different I’ll destroy my ivory tower for Stalker.

hehe, I think I just convinced my self to read it.

My opinion is that Stalker is far and away superior to Roadside Picnic, so I think there is little for you to worry about. The novel almost feels pulpish at times. Fun but pulpish. It could be that some quality was lost in translation.

How timely! A friend of mine started this community blog project to write up free RPG material for a post apocalyptic setting called From the Zones, inspired by Roadside Picnic and the movie version, Stalker. Several blogs are participating and they’re all over the spectrum. Some are really madcap!

Once a week there’s a recap post tracking our progress. Here’s the From the Zones tag on Fate SF (run by the guy coordinating the project).

The image on the cover of the book in the post is taken directly from the film.
Beautifully shot, exceptionally bleak.

Stalker is my all-time favorite film, which is saying something, since I have about fifty films in my top five. What I like about Stalker is that the Zone is unexplained. No one is sure what created it. While in Roadside Picnic, it’s definitely aliens. Personally, I like the idea of hostile geography, requiring care and intuition to survive.

Stalker is also the name of the guys who explored Chernobyl after the meltdown, but it may simply be a Russian term/slang for anyone who goes into dangerous places. Appropriate, since three members of the crew (including the director) died from chemical contamination related to the making of the movie.


The book is great but I haven’t seen the film version.

I haven’t read much Russian literature from that era but one odd thing kept bugging me in the book. The characters talk surprisingly rudely to each other even the ones that are supposed to be friends.

I have read only Finnish version so it might be a translation issue.


Is it wrong for an American to like the name “Arkady” so much? That’s okay, right?


The Humanoids by Jack Williamson is another excellent sci-fi novel.

Roadside Picnic is in the public commons. Go download a copy. No need to buy it.

Well this could also be a cultural/language difference. We, Russians, are sometimes perceived as rude, because our language doesn’t require a lot of speech patterns which make you sound polite, to be polite. And some will be lost in translation, as for example we have Vi (Вы, polite form of “you”) and Ti (Ты, a you for close friends, buddies, and equals, but rude for people you are not acquainted with).


OH MY GOODness- I “discovered” the book because I was “working through” films by the director. I LOVED “Stalker”>> totally creepy and cool without explaining everything. But I loved the “Roadside Picnic” after I ran down a copy of it. Much more polticially, socially biting (and funny at the same time). I believe folks should do both! film & novel!
and I totally disagree about “Blade Runner” and Android Sheep Dreaming…- here it is clear that the movie (while keeping in the spirit of the story) is a great,great improvement over the story!
Thanks for the heads up about the community blog project and another novel- I will check them both out.

Welcome to1972.

Good book.

I have to say that movie is a big dissappointment for me. I watched it couple of times and came to the conclusion that all that Soviet-era tropes and the fact that everything is locked into this despair-inducing loop just makes me sick. I think I just have a dislike for 80-s soviet movies in general. And my dad made me watch a shitload of them. Book on other hand is superb.


The book’s style is somewhat reminiscent of Neuromancer - the characters’ vernacular is very vulgar, while the literary descriptions are almost poetic. In the untranslated copy — that contrast is even more spiked.