This is going to be a bit of an unusual post. Normally we cover manga and anime, but this time it is a novel: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky.
There are a couple reasons I want to write about it. First, unless you follow Russian sci-fi lit, the chances are you won’t even hear about this book. I might be underestimating its popularity, probably not though. Second, there are a few things to talk about in this book. I mean, books often give you something to talk about, but this one was particularly good in this aspect. And lastly, there is no real reason for you to read this book, so I feel fine spoiling the whole plot.
The novel tells the story of Artem, a young adult living in Moscow metro (underground train network) on the VDNKh station, with his stepfather. To be more specific, they live in the Moscow that survived a nuclear war, which wiped out the whole of human population on the surface, leaving a few thousand survivors in the metro. The metro itself had fallen apart and became a total chaos. Some stations try to survive growing and selling mushrooms, some stations created oppressive communist governments, some follow neo-nazism, some exist in the state of anarchy, and some adopted a strict caste system. There are different groups of people trying to achieve different goals, from religious sects to revolutionaries, from merchants to bandits, from insane people to so-called stalkers – people who dare leave metro and go to surface to gather materials and goods people in the metro need.
The setup for the story is fairly classic and shows that Glukhovsky is aware of Tolkien’s and other similar works. At the beginning of the story Artem’s station is sieged by mutants who are not just strong, but also capable of overwhelming human’s will across huge distances, although it takes them time. For the more experienced people it was clear that these mutants will overrun the station and then spread through the rest of the metro, possibly destroying the whole thing. That would be the end of humanity in Moscow, for what it is worth.
So Artem is visited by a stranger named Hunter who tells him to go to one of the central stations to deliver a report of the situation to the people there, and hopefully to get some help. Hunter was hoping to do something about the mutants, like closing the entrance point they use, but he didn’t really expect to succeed. After Artem was sure Hunter died in his attempt, he started his long journey.
I don’t want to give a report of all the adventures Artem lived through while he was trying to get to the center. The metro was in chaos, moving between stations might be difficult for a number of reasons, from locals being extra strict about whom they allow to pass through to the tunnels acting weird and people dying for no apparent reason. Artem lived to see all of that and a whole lot more.