Roadside Picnic

I just finished Piknik na obochine (1972) by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I read the Swedish version Picknick vid vägkanten (transl. Kjell Rhenström). The English title is Roadside Picnic. My sci-fi reading has over the years been rather limited, so I hadn't even heard of the brothers. The book is very good. It is truly mysterious, it has in a way an apocalyptic theme, but it is more a catastrophe waiting to happen, or slowly creeping up on an (mostly) unsuspecting world. The story is short, and fascinating. I was quickly captivated. When reading it, it is eerie to think that is was written 14 years before the Chernobyl Disaster. Maybe the authors were "inspired" by the Kyshtym disaster, though I don't know how many people even in the Soviet Union actually knew about it. There were rumours about it even in the west. In 1976, the biologist (and dissident) Zhores Medvedev made the accident widely known globally.

The famous movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky is loosely based on the novel, and the movie script was written by the brothers. They later also published the book Stalker. Oddly enough, the Russian original title is "Stalker" from the English word "stalk". Stalker is also a popular series of computer games. The games are based on the books and the film, and takes place in a fictionalised Chernobyl Enclosure area. Rather embarassing, Stalker is a movie I have not seen yet. I have been thinking of seeing it, for decades. I am not a film buff, so I am rarely really seeking out movies I want to see. I really should see it, I guess. The only Tarkovsky film I ever saw was Nostalghia (1983), which i actually saw in movie theatre when it was fairly new. A rather puzzling film, in my humble opinion.

I strongly recommend Roadside Picnic. It has an ominous feeling, but also occasionally a rather humorous tone, reminding me a little of Harry Harrison. I have read some Russian classic novels and also fantasy, and I will read more Russian authors, both fantasy and sci-fi.

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