SF Masterwork of the Week: Roadside Picnic
Soviet bothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky began to collaborate in the early 1950s. Before this Arkady studied English and Japanese, working as a technical translator and editor, and Boris was a computer mathematician at Pulkovo astronomical observatory. They are the authors of a body of highly regarded science fiction – including Monday Begins on Saturday and Hard to be a God, both of which are forthcoming as SF Masterworks – but their signature work is the remarkable Roadside Picnic, filmed in 1979 by Andrei Tarkovsky as Stalker.
Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those strange misfits who are compelled by some unknown force to venture illegally into the Zone and, in spite of the extreme danger, collect the mysterious artefacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the Zone and the thriving black market in the alien products. Even the nature of his daughter has been determined by the Zone. And it is for her that Red makes his last, tragic foray into the hazardous and hostile depths.
Roadside Picnic is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and now (YES, NOW!) as an SF Gateway eBook, as well. You can read more about Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and their work via their entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.