I was reading the wiki article on Roadside Picnic and was sure I had read it. However, the article contains many details I don't recall.

The version I recall reading was relatively short, involving a single, or perhaps two, trips into "the zone". Additionally, the zone was clearly in the UK somewhere and there are various mentions of locations and other details (I recall a British helicopter in particular).

Am I misremembering this? Or was there another, shorter, version of the story?

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    Wikipedia: "M. John Harrison's novel Nova Swing (2007), which features a location called the 'Event Zone' where reality is skewed in various ways, can be seen to be influenced by Roadside Picnic."
    – Spencer
    Dec 4, 2020 at 0:31
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    That's just the standard UK. But seriously, the original Roadside Picnic is already rather short and it is situated in Canada. There are also only two trips in the story. Dec 4, 2020 at 0:34
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    Spencer - does not take place in the UK. David - it was in true UK, IIRC there is a Bristol Sycamore and mentions of train lines into various English cities. Dec 4, 2020 at 1:12
  • I don't know how much they differ, but there are at least two English translations of Roadside Picnic. The most recent one is from 2012, Olena Bormashenko. There is also the original translation by Antonina Bouis, and I have heard that there was another one in between, although I don't know anything about it.
    – Buzz
    Dec 4, 2020 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


In my copy of the novel there is an extensive afterword written by Boris Strugatsky where the story of writing the novel is explained. In that afterword there are at least two versions:

  • A version published 1980 anthology Unintended Meetings which is described by the author as "disfigured, massacred, and pathetic" and the result of eight years of "battle" with the publisher and "two hundred degrading corrections to the text" an so on.
  • The novel version (copyright date 1972), "completely restored and returned to the authors' version.

I don't believe the location of the zone is ever definitively disclosed.

As an aside, there is also a 1979 film Stalker with a screenplay written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, loosely based on the 1972 novel.

  • Interesting, have you read the first of the two you mention? Does it have various references to England? Dec 4, 2020 at 14:35
  • Unfortunately no, I haven't read the 1980 version so I couldn't say for sure. Soudns like more research is required. Looking back at my copy of the novel, there is a forward by Ursula K. Le Guin where she states that "the setting appears to be North America, perhaps Canada, but the characters have no particular national characteristics." It sounds like she's reviewing the novel rather than the anthology version (she says that part of the forward was based on her 1977 review of the first English translation of the novel which clearly predates the 1980 anthology.) Dec 5, 2020 at 6:56

Futretrack 5 by Robert Westall

A fantasy of the near future in which Britain is divided into Zones and castes to which men and women are pitilessly allocated at the end of their schooling. Whether crazed proles in the Unnem zones, smug pampered bourgeois Ests or arrogant Techs, all are ultimately pawns of the computer that governs it all. One boy penetrates the conspiracy by which the nation is governed and has the knowhow to strike at the heart of evil.

What matches:

  • Set in (future, dystopian) UK.
  • Unemployed masses herded into Zones.
  • protagonist goes "on the razzle" into one of the Zones.
  • country patrolled by psychopters, equipped with psycho-radar that can detect criminal thoughts.
  • Uhh, interesting and I'm going to read it, but no, no aliens that I can see in this one. Dec 4, 2020 at 14:33

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