I consider myself fairly steeped in science fiction literature, and I'd read of this book being mentioned over the years but never thought much of it. In recent years the influence of the novel has shown up in the gaming world, notably the games S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Half-life 2 (the design of City 17 seems very influenced by Roadside Picnic..except the aliens are still there). The book was recently re-published in English so I picked it up. Glad I did! I would very nearly give this a 4.5 stars but Goodreads (for some terrible reason) doesn't allow half star ratings...so I'm going with a solid 4 stars.It's a twist on the first contact idea. Instead of meeting aliens face to face, what happens if they make a short stop on Earth and have a "roadside picnic" taking no notice of the animals that scurry around them. When they depart they leave behind Zones where physics is wildly twisted and dangerous, and their equally dangerous xeno-junk litters the landscape?
The book is pretty dark and probably parallels the mindset of the average communist citizen residing in 1971 Soviet Russia...feeling trapped in the role dealt to you, constantly surrounded by fear, and always longing for hope, happiness, and freedom. Throughout the short novel you get the sense that none of these characters are truly happy, they are in an eternal conflict with their entire existence.The last line of the book rings true to this parallelism, as Red realizes there's really no way out of his dismal existence. I don't want to mention more as it would spoil then ending.Next thing to do is rent the Russian movie that's based on this novel.