Arkady and Boris Strugatsky 1972 (2012 - this translation Olena Mormashenko). Roadside Picnic. Gollancz SF: London. 209 pp.

The opening quote from American writer and poet Robert Penn Warren is a one-line summary:

Goodness … You got to make it out of badness … Because there isn’t anything else to make it out of.

Aliens have had a roadside picnic on their way through. Their landing areas are the dangerous Zones, managed by a beauracracy attempting control and a black market attempting vast profit. Their occasionally useful but technologically incomprehensible litter is the basis of this pathological economy in a bleak society in a nameless country with very human characters. In this parable the Zones might be capitalism, or some other -ism, or perhaps even Dante’s inferno. Or, as suggested in the postscript by the surviving author Boris, don’t over-analyse just treat it as an ideology-free tale on the struggle of life. Boris’ documentary evidence of the mindless idiocy of the censors, more stylistic than ideological, in pre-peristroika Russia is breathtaking. Kafka passed this way.