Monday, July 22, 2013
Metro 2033 Review
Title: Metro 2033
Author: Dmitry Glukhovsky
Price: Currently not available in U.S.A.
Rating: 4 out of 5/ A Double Agent
Today I would like to introduce you to the greatest book you will never read. Metro 2033 is being called such things as a runaway hit, instant cult classic, the game changer of European science fiction. It currently has spawned two major American video game adaptations and is being made into a movie from famed studio MGM. Metro has become a literary lantern, leading readers away from the safety of sci-fi predictability and plunging them into a dark and horrifying world they will never want to leave...that is if english speaking readers can actually find said lantern. It is written by Dmitry Glukhovsky in his native tongue of Russian and tracking down a copy that has been translated into english is about as difficult as finding a first edition Hobbit. To purchase this book in a language that my foolish brain could understand required contacting every bookshop on the East Coast, then being directed to a bookshop in London, and finally writing a ridiculous check to get it shipped to my current country of origin. Was the three month delivery date worth it...yes. But someone please tell Russia to stop hoarding all their best books.
In the year 2033 the human race isn't doing particularly well. After an apocalyptic nuclear war that occurred 20 years prior, humanity is on the verge of extinction. A nuclear fallout has covered the entire earth and either killed or mutated everything on the surface. Possibly the only humans left on the planet live in the deepest tunnels of the Russian Metro. Each station has been developed into a town and people travel the tunnels, trade, and try to survive in the endless darkness. Flash lights and guns are now the most prized possessions and bullets have become standard currency. This is where our protagonist Artyom was born, and it's the only life he has ever known. He works hard as a security lookout, helping to keep the border of his station safe from the mutants and monsters that crawl down from the surface. Recently Artyom has heard reports of strange things happening all over the Metro. People disappearing in tunnels that have no exists, strange music and voices in pipes, and a new monsters called dark ones that can make you go insane by reaching into your mind. As Artyom's station is in danger of being overrun by dark ones he is sent out in a desperate attempt to warn the rest of the metro before humanity finally ends forever.
I'm not sure if it is fair to fault the translation of this book as something I didn't like but it stands out as the most frustrating part of this book. Conversations occur with an unnatural cadence and often times I felt as if I were missing key hints. The locations in the book seem to jump around and were all very similarly described, making it extremely hard to visualize where I was in the story. I found myself endlessly studying the tiny map in the back of the book cover trying to figure out where Artyom was and how he had gotten there. The Russian station names are a struggle but creating easy to remember nick names helped me a great deal. Overall the difficulty in reading and understanding Metro caused some serious problems when it came to visualizing the story. It felt as if I had watched a film with stunningly detailed and amazing scenes connected by muddled and fuzzy static, giving you only the audio to piece things together.
I think the reason that this book has done so well on such a global scale is because its been so long since we had an original SF horror story. The book's writing and theme simply has a indescribable classic feel, giving me that nostalgic urge to reread staples from prior decades. Even with the difficulty in translation, a sense of suspense stays with you constantly. Many of the characters come and go without much thought but I challenge any reader to follow the adventures of Artyom and not grow attached enough to fear for his safety, or perhaps more importantly his sanity. Metro 2033 is refreshingly unpredictable, unforgiving, and most importantly unforgettable. It will relentlessly drive you to the last page and then leave you staring into space shocked long after the covers have closed. If the measure of a good book is how long the story stays with you afterward than this simple paperback could not achieve higher marks.
Right now Metro 2033 is extremely hard to find but it is worth every second tracking down a copy. Hopefully in the near future we will see this on shelves everywhere in America, with a fine tuned overhaul of the translation into english. Perhaps then I will revisit my scoring and be able to give this story a perfect 5 out of 5. Until then I will simply be satisfied with the knowledge that another author has finally described the pants wetting fear of a librarian silently coming at you from between bookshelves.