ROADSIDE PICNIC/TALE OF THE TROIKA by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

ROADSIDE PICNIC/TALE OF THE TROIKA

KIRKUS REVIEW

Do the Soviets take science fiction more seriously than we do? Here are two works of science fiction that can be read by anyone without making allowances, two short novels that tower over the other sci-fi offerings of the season like an Escher drawing over a set of slipcover designs. The second--the more conventional-presents the deliberations of a minor municipal commission which a berserk elevator has stranded on one of the odder floors of the Edifice of Knowledge. Once there, the commission soon turns into the Troika on the Rationalization and Utilization of Unexplained Phenomena (flying saucers, talking bedbugs) and starts referring to itself as The People: ""'The people,' announced Law Fedotovich, 'prefer to ride in a convertible.'"" The Kafka-cum-Lietenant Scheisskopf antics get cumbersome in spots, but are invariable redeemed by some glorious bit of invention (""Surname: Blank. Name: Blank. Patronymic: Blank. . . Nationality: Pterodactyl""). All in all, it is an uncommonly forceful exercise in the bureaucracy-gone-mad genre. Roadside Picnic is a much tighter and more original piece of fiction. The scene is an Earth reshaped by an extraterrestrial ""visitation'--perhaps nothing more than a casual dumping of picnic litter, but enough to create entire local Mafias dedicated to nonstop looting of the deadly Visitation Zones. The story, tracing the terrible psychological and genetic price paid by a young looter and his family, is carried off with a controlled fierceness that doesn't waver for a minute; one can hardly think of half a dozen American science fiction novels written with such command and concision.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1977
Publisher: Macmillan