Review: “Roadside Picnic” – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Posted: August 16, 2016 in Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
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S3E6B – Roadside Picnic (book)*


“Roadside Picnic” took a surreal concept, wrote about it in Russian, translated it into English, and eventually into its highest form, became the subject of this month’s podcast.

As I write this I feel that the book is calling to me, daring me to reread it. I gave it a paltry three stars, but that was only because it was overly complex. Sort of like a Radiohead album. It’s the sort of thing you need to read a couple times to appreciate because it is so dense and rich.

We all enjoyed it. And we did not interpret the book in the same way, yet we all agreed that it was a masterful work. It was dark, enchanting, foreboding, horrible, and mysterious.  It evoked different emotions in all of us and led to a decent debate about the actions and intentions of the characters. Ultimately the overall theme of the book struck me as a statement about the profound meaningless of our lives, whereas Ryan gleaned something completely different. Ryan also rated the book as a five star read, his second time doing so in three years.

Of all the books discussed on our podcast to date, none have sparked such a pleasant disagreement. We had a general accord that this book was somewhere beyond the brink of acceptable genius. It was an unexpected gift that we devoured hungrily. And we still want more. Worth tuning in for and worth reading. So until next time, spit out your gum and rub it on your bum, cause there is no deodorant in outer space!



Ryan: 5 Stars “…A moody morass rallying against the gray walls of reality, in perfect tone…

Wilk: 4 Stars “…Excellent surreal journey into the heart of Russia’s most celebrated science fiction writers minds…

Rick: 4 1/2 Stars “…Very streetwise which is uncommon in this genre…


(Click the links to read full written reviews on


This book was originally written in Russian, and took about eight years to publish under the communist system in place at the time due in part to censorship issues.  An English language version came out in the United States in 1977.  However, it wasn’t until 1991 that the author-endorsed original version came out in the Russian language.

In 2012, another version was released with a new translation by Olena Bormashenko (in part, correcting some issues in the previous translation). This newer version also contains a forward by author Ursula K. LeGuin (but watch out for some spoileresque language) and an afterward by Boris Strugatsky about the censorship issues the book suffered. Here’s an article by Annalee Newitz at iO9 praising the newer version: “A New Translation of The One Russian Science Fiction Novel You Absolutely Must Read.”


* DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the views and opinions of the hosts and guests of NDIOS are completely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the other hosts and guests or that of NDIOS.

  1. […] Episode Link:… […]

  2. Reblogged this on Ryan Sean O'Reilly and commented:

    New podcast episode on the Russisn science fiction masterpiece “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugastky !

  3. […] book “Roadside Picnic” and the movie adaptation “Stalker” also spawned a series of successful […]

  4. […] “Roadside Picnic (1972)” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (book) […]

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