Part of the reason the book is so mesmerizing is the first person perspective of Red Schuhart, a drunken, paranoid and stressed-out Stalker. Red's struggle for meaning despite his deep fatalism wins you over despite his many unlikable qualities as the prose skillfully depicts the thought process that leads to his actions. Another reason is the convincing world the Strugatsky's create: one dominated by both an overreaching government and a pervasive black market capitalism. The price that such a dualistic societal setup exacts on its citizens feels convincing; after all, the Strugatsky's were writing in 1970s USSR (the absurdity of which is detailed in a wry afterward). Overall, the sheer inventiveness and psychological depth build all the way to the last chapter – a riveting highlight of this taught little book that’s stuck with me ever since I closed its cover. Part of the credit must go to Olena Bormashenko, whose translation never feels stilted or makes you aware that it's a translation. Highly recommended.
Cross posted on Thought Ambience