Time for first scuffed book review post that I planned after all the reading during my vacation. Five books from Strugatsky brothers were consumed during calm days when I was alone at the summer house between my friends and relatives arrivals.
Strugatsky brothers are Russian sci-fi authors and aren’t super huge worldwide, but main thing that puts them on the big picture is “Roadside Picnic” book that was an inspiration to “Stalker” movie by Tarkovsky and then both inspired Stalker the videogame that we all know and sequel to which is a very big thing currently. Great sci-fi writers and totally worth reading even just for Roadside Picnic especially if you are a Stalker fan, you sure will see a lot of familiar things and even words (at least Russian book and game uses a lot of same slang), Ela already read it btw, haven’t heard his opinion yet though. But enough intro, let’s start…
For disclosure I want to mention that I read everything in Russian, prefer reading in original language when possible and well way easier to get Russian books here since everything is getting translated. Was reading on old Kindle e-book that I gifted to my grandma back in a day, but she never got used to it in the end and switched back to regular paper books, so I yoinked it and actually like it a lot, very nice device and while there most likely are better options this one has one very important benefit – it was free for me, so whatever.
First smol review is for Roadside Picnic of course, that’s the book I started my “marathon” with and one I just swallowed in one go over one evening after my friends left for one night. From first pages book basically let’s you know that it’s Stalker – some lexicon is identical to the game, general concept is also very similar, except of course book doesn’t use Chernobyl as Zone (book published 14 years before catastrophe). Familiar idea of stalkers trespassing into Zone to yoink some artifacts left by aliens who visited and changed 6 areas on Earth leaving them full of dangerous unknown things that also can be very useful and very expensive.
Accent in the book is more on the dangers of the Zone itself rather than dangers of other human beings present there like in the game and also less focus on the Zone itself, since book also describes outside world and how it is being affected by Zone and artifacts. Even Wish Granter from the game is inspired by one local artifact that takes main stage in the book finale. Overall after playing 2 Stalker games (doubt 3rd one will change a lot, but maybe sequel, we’ll see) I’d say book is more interesting – writing is on a completely different level (guess that’s expected), world building is more deep and there are some messages for readers to digest and think about. It also explores the morality of stalkers work, main hero providing for his family and selling some dangerous things to questionable people and in the end going even further with last run that we witness in the book, but that would be a spoiler, so can’t go in detail about that much.
Main thing that game could use from the book in my opinion is adding extra depth to zone – more mysteries, more anomalies, more ways to “you died” if you aren’t careful and also if you lack information, because stalker’s experience dealing with Zone is a very important factor in the book. Also more pressure from officials trying to fight stalkers since they are all trespassers and not allowed in the zone, game kinda has that, but you barely feel it, because most of the time military is just sitting at their base and unless you go there they don’t really care about all the stalkers and whole factions with their little settlements there. In the same time I like that faction and human relationship bit in game, reminding that even in such a weird and dangerous place one of the most dangerous things is another human.
Really enjoyed reading this book and as I said it was just one evening big binge, because it was very interesting and pretty easy to read, so I can totally recommend, especially if you are not really into reading, but really like Stalker games, would be way easier to get into reading this one. Would also love to hear your opinions if you get to read it (or any other book I read and gonna mention in future reviews)!