Review: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

ImageThe year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend. More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Man’s time is over. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro — the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. Artyom, a young man from one of the stations, is given the task to alert everyone to a new awful threat. The future is suddenly in his hands…

I really wanted to like this book. Everything about it promised so much! The setting is the Moscow metro system in the year 2033. Above ground, it appears that humanity has been wiped out by nuclear war. The survivors live entirely in the underground tunnel system; stations have evolved into microcosms of the old social and political systems of Russia.

The inhabitants are now into the second generation, and Glukhovsky touches on some of the adaptive changes humans have undergone as a result of living in a lightless world, believing themselves the last representatives of humanity. Strange mutations have resulted from the nuclear devastation, and frightening creatures are taking over the world above; some of them threaten life in the tunnel systems.

The premise is simply fascinating, and begs for more attention by the author. But one of the main flaws of the book, as I see it, is that Glukhovsky simply does not pay enough attention to building a cohesive, believable world, and the promise in the premise is not fulfilled.

Glukhovsky’s primary concern is with relating the adventures of his hero Artyom, a young man drawn ostensibly by chance into a strange quest to save the metro system. The structure of the quest is aimless and ultimately lacks satisfactory closure. I struggled to remain engaged with Artyom and indeed the fate of the metro system. About a quarter of the way through I simply stopped caring about what would happen to any of them.

The novel rushes to a close in the last ten pages (after a build-up of nearly 450 pages) and these last few pages throw the whole book into a new light – suddenly, I saw how the novel could have been a rich critique of modern humanity, an exploration of the madness and futility of war, and the destructiveness of anthropocentrism.

A factor that served only to exacerbate any issues I had with plot and character development is what is almost certainly a poor translation (I am giving Glukhovsky himself the benefit of the doubt, as I cannot read Russian and verify the quality of the original), and some awful copy-editing.

The [only] good news is that this novel was adapted into a PC game – and I think the story material is eminently suited to it! I actually bought the game, and I am looking forward to exploring it.

(Originally posted on Goodreads)


One thought on “Review: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

  1. Pingback: The watch list | She reads speculative fiction

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