01/05/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Gollancz. 458 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08624-1).
check out websites: www.orionbooks.co.uk and www.metro2033.com
'Metro 2033' has an interesting premise. A post-apocalypse war situation where the survivors live in the underground tube network. What distinguishes this book is that it's not in the western world is that this is Moscow's Metro system and written from a Russian perspective, as if author Dmitry Glukhovsky's name itself isn't a giveaway, which means a different mindset. Oddly, the English translation doesn't necessarily mean you have to read this book with a Russian accent although I did in some places to get into the gist of the story and a reminder how much tougher the Russians are under extreme conditions, like their weather. Mind you, they are underground for much of the time, living in a dim light, poor food - mushroom tea anyone? - and protecting their territory from the monsters that are creeping out from the radioactive mess overhead.
This is the story of Artyom, living in VDNKh, who is given a secret message to deliver to the centre of the Metro to the Polis of an upcoming danger. I have to confess that even Artyom doesn't know the importance of the message so we, as the reader, are kept in the dark about it as well and you end up wondering what it was about. It's even more confusing that Artyom takes so long to get through the various tunnels to get there but a return trip later is very quick. To give away too much about these adventures is the real spoilers but it will keep keen to know what will happen next.
You might have noticed that this is essentially a quest trip with adventures at every station where everything from religion to different regimes take to the fore, where everything is precious although some people can also be generous as well. When you look back, you often end up wondering where most of the population of these stations are but as it's centred so much on Artyom's quest, such details tend to be missed. Interestingly, Glukhovsky is opening up this reality for other people to play with as a franchise, not to mention a computer game based on the story treatment coming out shortly. One has to wonder which one came first, even as eye to the possibilities if the book did well which it did. Saying that, it is possible for 'Metro 2033' to be read off-line so this isn't exactly being avarice.
Russian folk are essentially very pessimistic and Glukhovsky makes no compromises to that with the western mindset. It is a culture of close family ties, even when you're fostered, and people looking after each other. Artyom could have done with a little more development, mostly cos many of the supporting cast tend to be a little more memorable but these are side-issue.
There's an interesting reflection on God and how uncaring he was when he kicked out Adam and Eve from Eden and other such crimes. Artyom also reflects in typical Russian fashion on accepting that he might be put to death on more than one occasion in a way that we wouldn't in this hemisphere.
If you are going to play the game version, then this is the backdrop from this book. Whether reading it will enhance your game-play you'll have to decide. As a book, 'Metro 2033' stands up well on its own and you might be surprised how much you enjoyed reading it even if there's a question over what happens next.
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