Exploring A Post-Apocalyptic World With "Metro 2033"

In the long distant year of 2018 I read "Metro 2033" for the very first time and deemed that it was good. Then live went on and I decided to play the video game inspired by the novel. This was also deemed good, so I had to re-read the novel. As such, and with my reviewer skills slightly sharpened, I wrote a review: 

"Metro 2033" starts with a simple premise: in 2013 the world blew itself into oblivion, and only the people who managed to flee into the Moscow metro in time survived. Each station became its own state. However, due to the radiation the world and animals changed, the most recent threat are The Dark Ones which frequently attack VDNKh - Artyom's home station. Hearing for this new threat, Hunter appears and tries to find the source and stop further attacks. Should he not return in time, he wants Artyom to go to Polis and get help. Hunter does not return and so Artyom's journey through the metro starts. He encounters different cultures, weird and terrifying phenomenon ... 

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky
The story begins with introducing the reader to the post-apocalyptic world that Artyom lives in. It does so by having him - and you - listen to various stories that other soldiers on watch tell each other: Metro gossip. There is a lot to tell about how humanity got to this point, how they live in this dark world, as well as who Artyom is, and which dangers they face. As such, the story itself does not move in inch in the first chapters. Instead you are shown as well as told about the ins and outs. This leads to quite a lot of info being dumped. 

Once the setting is clear the story picks up and you follow Artyom during his journey. As soon as this starts, the information about the different stations, along with some information about the past, is distributed in a more comfortable manner. You either see what Artyom sees, or get the answers to the questions that he asked. This way you also get a fuller picture of the world and the atmosphere. 

This is the main part of the story: Artyom leaves his "world" at VDNKh for the first time. Almost every ideology is reflected in the Moscow metro: from Nazis, Communists, to Jehovah's Witnesses as well as techno-phobes cannibals, and the solider mentality. History also seems to repeat itself and Artyom reflects on the things he hears in each place. This makes "Metro 2033" more into a read with a philosophical touch than an action thriller set in a lost world. 

However, this difference does not exclude thrilling writing. The pages are not turned because one action event follows the other, instead Glukhovsky uses a factual and unapologetic writing style to get events across. Bourbon drops dead, without any further dramatics or dwelling on it in this moment. Artyom has to react, and react now! 

"I've died," Bourbon said, "There is no more me."
And as straight as a cross-tie, he fell face down.
And then that same terrible sound rushed into Artyom's ears...

By doing this, Artyom's reactions and actions, as well as his thinking seems very human. He focuses on the now, and when he holds his breath so does the reader.

While the book is well paced, is it not a page-turner. There are moments and chapters where you want to know more and would hate to leave the story but overall, the book focuses more on thinking than thrilling and rushing. So be aware while it is well paced it is not fast paced! 

This is sometimes broken, which I feel is due to the way this novel came into life: as an online story in which chapters were published one at a time and Glukhovsky incorporated ideas, comments, and criticisms. The most notable for me was towards the end, when Artyom and Ulman discuss the meaning of life - after all, it slowed the story down very close towards the climax. 

Despite this, the climax is chef kiss worthy and gives you whiplash. I remember until this day, that this is one of the few books - if not the only - where the ending was so unexpected and leaves you with a cold and slightly miserable feeling of "what have you done". 

This is also where Glukhovsky's colder and descriptive writing comes into play. The emotional and moral trauma is not discussed here, what Artyom thinks about this is no longer mentioned. Instead, the reader is left alone with their "what have we done" thoughts and has to sort them out. 

"Metro 2033" had been translated from Russian into English. Overall, this translation worked, and I enjoyed that the stations kept their Russian names as it added to the atmosphere. Despite this, there are a few careless mistakes: double "and"s as well as one line that was "there are people and there are people". 

In the end, "Metro 2033" is a book that you have to be open to reading. It is not an everyday apocalypse story filled with action. It has action elements. Neither is it a horror story full of creepy beings, but it has horror elements. For me, it is a story that looks at the end of the world and adds a human face - no matter if pretty or ugly - to it. Despite a few minor flukes, I enjoy reading, and re-reading it and the world that it builds and plays in. 

I also have the feeling that I am going to re-re-read this again in some time. 

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky
 published  2010 by Gollancz
 seriesMЕТРО  #1 
 pages    458 
 ISBN13 9780575086258 
 translated from Russian byNatasha Randall 
 original titleМетро 2033 from 2002/2005
trigger warnings:graphic violence, racism, mentions of cannibalism
 Goodreads:Add to shelf     


  1. I have always been a fan of apocalyptic/dystopian literature, though I'm much pickier about it now ... with the current state of the world. It's a little too close to reality, if you ask me.

    1. I admit I am also a bit picky but this one worked out for me but I get your point, you should have seen my face when I noticed that part 2 deals with a pandemic ^^

  2. not been much of a reader of this genre though i do enjoy the ones i read... this one sounds intersting

  3. Great review. I do like the sound of it. Love that it's not too much a thriller or horror.

    1. It's a good mix and I enjoyed that aspect as well. Thank you!

  4. I really like apocalyptic/dystopian books.


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