First of all I need to mention that this is not similar to better-known Roadside Picnic in any sense. This book is completely dissimilar and it shows a completely new side of masters of science fiction from the Soviet Union.
There are two different and practically independent plot lines. There is a mysterious forest somewhere. One part of the book is spend on Pepper POV who is the guy working in the research institute right outside of the forest with another POV by Kandid who used to be an employee of the same institute, but ended up in the middle of the forest as a result of a plane crash. The first POV can be qualified as satirical science fiction while the second one is closer to heroic (?) fantasy. I will talk about these two in greater details.Pepper
. The institute is a highly bureaucratic organization. It is bureaucracy taken to the point of absurd and then way
beyond this point. I mean logic-packed-its-things-and-went-home-a-long-time-ago type of absurd; this is called weird literature these days. Pepper is completely helpless in there, and he cannot influence any of the events. In the Soviet Union it was seen as a critique of the Communist bureaucracy and it was the reason the book was not published in the country until much later. Unfortunately, the modern First World countries are rapidly approaching this kind of absurd and the majority of the Third World countries already have it, so the book did not age at all - and I really
wish it did so we can only read about high bureaucracy and not witness it firsthand.Kandid
. The guy lost his memory, and all he wants is to get back out of the forest, but he has completely forgotten that the life is like outside. Unfortunately this is not as easy as it seems. He lives in a village with local people's lives completely foreign to him and us. Something is going on in the entire forest on the global scale, but nobody in the village knows what it is and everybody chose not to notice these happenings - not to mention doing something about it. The only hint we get is that the changes are not for the good (according to the authors' interview, this is the future coming, but we might not like it).
I made this book sound completely hopeless and gloomy, but Kandid's ending gives me high optimism; five deserved stars for the sadly underrated book. This one desperately needs a good translation.
This is a copy/paste of my BookLikes review: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/747225/a-weird-but-very-good-mix-of-satirical-science-fiction-with-heroic-fantasy