Somewhere in 20th century Eastern Europe, or perhaps in the future, there was a child and a man named Ivanov who was imprisoned along with three other children in a military zone. The child, who has lost his parents, dreams of becoming a "stalker," a guide and savior, the only one who can cross the dangerous border and lead his friends out of the "Zone" to freedom. In the second part of the novel, following a daring escape, the child has become a youth, is called Delan and has a girlfriend; he has been separated from the others and lives at a boarding school in a utopian but cruel theocracy. Once again he has to escape to freedom, this time to find his old friend Ivanov. The third part of the novel opens in present-day London. Ivanov is now a famous conductor who has emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States. A recording of Mahler's second symphony - the "Resurrection" - brings about a deep personal crisis: when Ivanov returns home, he realizes that he has lost all interest in his new life - in his wife, his two daughters and his successful career. His only chance of recovery is through creative therapy: he must confront his repressed memories, find his lost identity and restore his ability to communicate and love. It is now that, in his mind, he creates the child and the "Zone".
Stalker - the title comes from Andre Tarkovsky's 1979 film - is a uniquely surrealistic novel. It is written both as stream of consciousness and as science fiction transforming Eastern European themes into an inspired mythical, quasi-cinematographic narrative.