Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 was something of a phenomenon in his native Russia. Glukhovsky began posting chapters of his work online, soon gathering thousands of followers eager for his next instalment. A book deal was not long in coming and with a videogame adaptation soon after, Metro 2033’s extraordinary success seems fated to continue.
The novel is set in Moscow some years after a nuclear war. Survivors have been driven underground to the city’s subway system to escape an irradiated landscape. Here, they develop independent ‘states’, each based in a particular station. However, flesh-eating mutants known as Dark Ones also dwell in the tunnels making contact and travel dangerous.
Artyom, an inhabitant of the VDNKh station must penetrate the heart of the metro to curtail the spread of the mutants and by doing so save not only his own terminal but perhaps what remains of humanity.
It’s a great premise – essentially, Metro 2033 is a modern-day Gulliver’s Travels in which Glukhovsky comments on the socio-political landscape of Russia. The metro has Nazis, radical Christians, Communists and more – none of whom are spared sharp examination.
However, the book’s transcription leaves no room for subtlety, the prose often feeling like a first-person stream of consciousness tacked onto a loose plot. It left us wishing that we’d studied Russian, because underneath the clumsy phrasing it’s clear that Glukhovsky has a brilliant concept made more intriguing by its disparity to a western mindset.
Metro 2033 is an intellectual and fascinating novel, a five star book in its native language – but it’s gutting that much of its impact is lost in translation.
[isbn name=”Metro 2033″]978-0575086241[/isbn]