Aliens have come and gone. They landed, ignored us humans, and soon left. But where they landed, these Zones, they left artifacts behind, dangerous artifacts. Dangerous, because humans really have no idea what they actually do. But the humans, always curious, need these artifacts, to study and use. In the beginning of this book, Red is trying to work honestly, with the government, collecting these items. He has his past as a stalker, a person who illegally enters the Zone in search of artifacts to sell on the black market. He's trying honest work. But after a tragic run into the Zone and a family to feed, Red returns to his old ways.
I thought the majority of this book would take place within the Zone - Red making his way, avoiding danger, and picking up left over alien artifacts. But the majority of this book takes place outside of the Zone between Red's ventures into the Zone. We get to see how the Zone affects Red, his family, and those in town around him. It's amazing and depressing to see how much this zone affects the environment and people around it - mentally and physically.
We mostly see this world by way of Red, though we get another character's point of view half way through for a bit before going back to Red. Red's a hard man, which is understandable. Stalkers have to have a certain mind set. Red has what seems like a magical ability to know exactly how to navigate within the Zone. He has this fabulous Zone intuition - step there, crawl here, don't, for the love of god, touch that. It's how he survives.
The ending is abrupt and may be unsatisfying for some. I have mixed feelings. There's a build up that really pulled me in, so for it to suddenly end, it was a bit unsettling. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the perfect place for the story to end. What Red is about to do, it fits that we would not get to see that.
ARC provided through NetGalley.