|cover of one edition of the book from wikipedia.|
Maybe the derivatives of this novel are more famous than the book itself: there's a soviet movie of the name "Stalker" from Andrej Tarkovsky, which has its own magic. There are also two or more games called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (or similar, i'm not a gamer type). Anyways, it's really worth reading the book!
The plot can be sketched the following: someone (or something) hits the earth and, as a result, the so-called "zones" are created. In this zones (which have the size of a small city), strange things happen and some laws of nature seem to be completely different.
Most of the time, the reader sees the events through the eyes of a guy named Redrick "Red" Schuhart, which is a "stalker". These guys illegally enter the zones and collect items of alien technology which they sell to anybody who pays them a good price. Around the zones, an community of scientists, military forces and mostly dubious folks accumulates.
One strength of the story is the way the Strugatsky brothers describe this strange world in and around the zones, whose mysteries remain unveiled, though. More important: the description of the people living their lifes there is really great. This becomes more obvious in the second part of the book: despite of all modern sciences, e.g. the great advancements in physics and chemistry, the "event" and its implications leave the people perplexed. They strongly are altered not only in a physiological but also in a psychological way.
All attempts to understand the zones and the technology found there seem helpless. The people somehow see the hazard originating from the zones but at the same moment they seem to be addicted to its mysteries.
Well, this book really got me into thinking. Despite its excellent style of writing, it offers what every good SciFi should do: a small journey to regions or situations somehow extraordinary.
Read more in the wikipedia: