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Dark, Naturalistic Sci-Fi,
This review is from: Roadside Picnic Tale of the Troika (Paperback)
With shades of hard-boiled Realism and Naturalistic motifs, the Strugatsky brothers tell a dark sci-fi tale that explores themes of identity, desire, corruption and wish-fulfillment fantasy. Redrick Schuhart is our everyman, and even though he is distinctively unique, he embodies so much humanity that few readers could read _Roadside Picnic_ without deeply sympathizing with this character.
That the Strugatskys are able to generate this kind of sympathetic character within this genre is admirable in itself, but they manage to give even their most minor characters a fair amount of depth. For example, on one level Richard Noonan is a predictably corrupt and stereotypical supervisor of a government agency, but the more we see him, the more we sympathize with him, too. We are allowed to see him as human. Even the most detestable characters (e.g., Buzzard Burbridge) radiate a certain humanity that prevents us from being completely alienated from them (even if we might still feel ill will).
The plot itself clips along at a decent pace, and enough surprises await us that the text remains engaging from start to finish. Phenomena in the Zone like 'witches jelly' and 'mosquito mange' are described in just enough detail to leave some room for imagination, and the discussions about the Visitation (e.g.,the "roadside picnic") and ethics (e.g., stalkers) give us plenty to contemplate. Incidentally, if the book has a serious flaw, it is that the resolution seems clipped, but to be fair, the effect may be intentional, and is certainly a characteristic typical of Realists (_Ghosts_ and _A Doll's House_ by Henrik Ibsen come to mind, as well as the novels of Delillo and Saramago).
A great work? I may say so. I initially gave this book five stars, but after finishing the text of this review, I reconsidered. This deserves five stars. This is one of those works that deserves more attention, and I hope to have the opportunity to read some more by the Strugatsky brothers.