This entry has been on stand by some time now, ever since I’ve finished “Metro 2033” a few weeks ago, mainly for lack of time, a lot of bumps along the way, reading the sequel and probably because I guess it was one of those that deserve some time to sink in first.
As I said, after finishing the game “Metro: Last Light” and becoming aware that there were books that inspired it I had to get my hands on them and thankfully Dmitry Glukhovsky’s work lived up to the expectations as this was one of those books that it was hard to let go untill you’ve reached the end.
The setting is the one we’re familiar with from the games, 10 years have passed since a nuclear/biological world-wide war almost managed to erased all of humanity. In Moscow, in those few minutes before all hell broke loose, some lucky thousands managed to escape underground, into the bunker like metro system and encapsulate themselves from the apocalypse above. As far as anyone knows, since any kind of communication was lost, they can very well be the last remnants of our species in this bleak future whose borders are now shrunk to the metro limits.
Since then, and after the turmoil of the first times, some order has been regained as each individual station, or group of stations banded together, now form small nations or city states who struggle to survive or prosper, declare war, make alliances or trade with each other and all must face the mutants that rose from the ashes of the armageddon above and weird psychological and supernatural occurrences in every dark corner… one can even say that the metro has gained life and awareness. An array of ideologies can be found throughout this new world, political systems for every taste and even religious beliefs and creeds but one thing is common to all, old military cartridges are the way to go when it comes to currency.
The story starts in VDNKH, one of the northernmost inhabited stations of Metro, with Artyom, a young man who can barely remember his former life on the surface or his own parents. At this time the relatively small and peaceful station faces a crisis and they’re forced to face the ever increasing threat of the dark ones – mysterious pitch black beings that came from the surface and make formidable and terrifying foes – that some time soon can, and probably will, overrun them and storm the rest of the underground system.
These events end up bringing a stalker – one of the few man brave enough to venture up to the surface, face the radiation, mutants and dangers to scavenge and retrieve anything useful enough for survival (you know, the local heroes XP) – named Hunter to investigate these new creatures and where are they really coming from. Before setting off, and because he “saw” something different in the boy, Hunter makes Artyom responsible of a special message in case he doesn’t return from the potential suicidal mission.
It doesn’t take long until Artyom has to, in turn, set off on his own to deliver Hunter’s message to Polis (one of Metro’s strongest “state”) and ensure any hope of salvation for his people, his station and all of Metro. He will face the underground world head on, through the many stations, people and mutants that populate the tunnels, witnessing every kind of spiritual, economical and political event that there is to see and barely surviving some of them.
Although Artyom’s journey is the main plot we can consider it more of a way of exposing Glukhovsky’s creation, through description and the random talk and rumours that overflow everywhere we can make a very clear idea of what life is under those circumstances and how it affects human nature and behaviour. Heck, it manages to give a vivid, claustrophobic, tense and oppressive experience that, more than once, made me climb on to our roof just to feel the emptiness of the sky above XP
This horror novel takes a different approach from the games as it isn’t mainly action-oriented, instead a more philosophical perspective and a deliberate slow pace reign and can be considerate a winning combination for the exploration of Metro. The only big flaw, at least for me, was the ending because after all of that slow “building up” it just felt kind of rushed and too quick… ok, I know an end is and end and sometimes it’s just better to get over with it but this time, even though there was a somewhat unexpected twist, it left me longing for something more. But oh well, that aside, it’s one of those books I do recommend of you have the time!
When I have the time I’ll write something on the sequel!