|“||Dear Muscovites and guests to our capital! The Moscow metro is a form of transportation which involves a heightened level of danger.||„|
— Opening novel quote.
Metro 2033 (Russian: Метро 2033), by Russian journalist/author Dmitry Glukhovsky, tells the story of a young man named Artyom who traverses the dangers of his apocalyptic world to save it from the new threat from the north. The book describes the consequences of an atomic war: its only survivors strive for existence in the mazes of the Moscow metro system some two decades after the nuclear Holocaust. The novel contains elements of science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction and dystopia, in which Russia's 'present-day' society is meticulously analysed and described.
In 2009, Metro 2034 was published. Although set in the same world, it is not a direct sequel to Metro 2033 and does not feature the same protagonist. Glukhovsky later wrote another book - Metro 2035 - which is set 2 years after the first novel and continues the story of Artyom.
After escorting a caravan to a member of the VDNKh Commonwealth, Artyom meets a man: Bourbon. In exchange for a hefty amount of cartridges and an assault rifle, Artyom promises to help Bourbon getting through several tunnels. Eventually, Artyom's travels with Bourbon come to a tragic end, when Bourbon seemingly slips into insanity and dies. Luckily for Artyom, a mysterious stranger arrives; Khan. Helping Artyom retrieve Bourbon's equipment, Artyom discovers that Bourbon never planned to pay him at all, and probably planned on killing him. After this, Khan and Artyom plan a route to Artyom's ultimate goal, Polis. They first need to gather force to travel through a strange tunnel. Eventually, Artyom goes to a fork. He could keep travelling with Khan, or he could begin travelling with the rest of the people, relying purely on numbers to fend off the tunnel's monsters. Reluctantly, he opts to go with Khan and ends up making the right decision. After making their way through the perilous tunnel, Khan and Artyom reached Kitai Gorod, where they become separated during an attack by an infamous enemy, the Fourth Reich. While fleeing the station, Artyom comes across an old man and helps him, who in turn helps Artyom get to his next destination, Kuznetsky Most. After another run-in with the Fourth Reich, Artyom is apprehended for murdering a station guard. As he is about to be executed, he is rescued by the Revolutionaries. While not under the Red Line banner, these communists are much more associated with Marxist ideals.
Artyom is eventually dropped off at Paveletskaya and befriends a man named Mark. Mark acquires a rat, for betting in a rat race, and makes a wager against the station chief that if their rat wins the next race, both Artyom and Mark will receive visas, for which they will need to travel through Hanseatic League. If they lose, then the chief would make them shovel manure for a year on the Paveletskaya-Ring. Unfortunately, Mark's rat loses the bet, and Artyom and Mark are sentenced to a one year term of shovelling manure. After five days of latrine-cleaning, Artyom manages to escape the station and heads into an unknown tunnel. After wandering for some time he sits down, contemplating whether to continue his journey. He is approached by a strange man in a robe, named Brother Timothy, who offers to take him to the Watchtower. The Watchtower seemed to be a monastery of sorts and offers Artyom shelter. Artyom eventually tires of the fundamentalist teachings about God, escapes the station, and again begins his journey to Polis. After entering Serphukhovskaya and briefly checking his direction, Artyom again dives into the darkness of the tunnels. Artyom arrives at Polyanka and overhears a discussion about Metro-2, a mysterious subway system meant to connect major government buildings in the case of disaster. Artyom sits and talks with these men for quite some time, and finally hears something he needed to hear: "It may happen something happens to you that forces you to perform specific actions and make specific decisions, keeping in mind you have free will, and you can do this or that. But if you make the right decision, then the things that happen to you are no longer just random events". This inspires Artyom, and he resumes his trek to Polis, and finally arrives there. He is welcomed by the guard's commander and informs the man that he has a message for Melnik. He is told to wait a day, and he does just that, spending his time exploring Polis. During this time, he meets a young man and local 'Brahmin', Daniel. As it turns out, Daniel is well informed of Polis affairs and even has information on Artyom's next mission: the Library.
Artyom wakes up the next day, and eventually finds a stalker. This stalker is Melnik, and he asks Artyom for whatever message he is carrying. Melnik informs Artyom that there is a council meeting that day, to discuss the situation outside of Polis. At this council, Artyom explains the situation at VDNKh, Hunter's mission, and his own journey across the Metro. After the hearing, the council determines that there is no way that they could assist VDNKh in their fight against the dark ones. Fortunately, after, a sect of the Polis Council offers to help Artyom, and send him to the Great Library on the the surface- the very air of which is deadly. Joining Artyom is Melnik, a second stalker named Ten, and the young Brahmin Daniel. If Artyom is able to locate a very old and extremely powerful book, then the Brahmin will help Artyom and his home station, VDNKh. The four head to the surface and get to the library with no problems, but things go downhill quickly. They disturb several librarians, forcing Melnik and his partner, Ten, to stay behind so Artyom and Daniel can progress further through the library. Daniel is unfortunately killed by a librarian, and Artyom returns to Melnik with one thing; a map, taken from the dead Brahmin's body, to a legendary location named D-6. Due to the fact that Ten has been wounded, Melnik tells Artyom to head to Smolenskaya via the surface, alone. The task is daunting, to say the least, but Artyom makes his way across the surface, encountering various creatures and hardly making it to the station, only to be rescued at the last second.
It is here that Artyom and Melnik formulate their plan to help VDNKh, by discovering the entrance to D-6 and launching pre-war missiles on the lair of the dark ones. They begin their journey by travelling to Kievskaya, a mysterious station where people disappear under mysterious circumstances. Melnik makes inquiries about a certain Tretyak, and afterwards, they go on a patrol with the security commander, Anton. They discuss several things, namely the strange disappearances of the station's residents, and the conditions of the adjacent station, Park Pobedy. The tunnel leading to Park Pobedy was collapsed, and there is no way in or out. Artyom then discovers that Anton was a former member of the RVA. They then return to the station, and meet Tretyak, another "missile man". As Artyom has no passport, Melnik and Tretyak venture to Mayakovskaya to look for an entrance to D-6. After one night, Artyom receives a message from Melnik telling him that Tretyak had been killed and that he would be back to the station in a day. During that time, however, Oleg, Anton's child, disappears. Anton is devastated, but Artyom finds the child's music-maker next to a previously unseen hatch in the tunnel's ceiling, and the duo takes it to what seems to be Park Pobedy. They are both knocked unconscious by savage cannibals of the Great Worm Cult and taken hostage. There, they discover that Park Pobedy's residents are alive, but terribly deformed, and completely brainwashed. They worship a strange deity, eschew technology and have turned to cannibalism. About to feast on Anton and Artyom, things seem grim, but much to the duo's fortune, Melnik and a team of stalkers enter the station with highly advanced weaponry and ballistic shields. They rescue Anton, Oleg and Artyom, exit Park Pobedy along with two cannibal hostages (a clansman and one of their High Priests), and begin the final part of their journey to D-6.
Entering the secret Metro 2 line under the regular Metro, the group continued along the lines towards D-6. The clansman goes insane when the high priest (who lived before the war) reveals that the Great Worm is made up, and Melnik is forced to kill him. They pass through a station containing drawings of the Great Worm - the High Priest refuses to go on, claiming he is afraid of what is in the Kremlin. He commits suicide, sticking himself with a poison blow dart he was concealing. The group move on and reach the station under the Kremlin. Suddenly, a huge entity enters the station, covering the ground. The group cower on top of an abandoned train. The entity seems to be drawing them towards it. To combat it, Melnik gets them to sing songs, but a Stalker calmly walks into it and is devoured. Then, Oleg jumps in - as soon as he does, Anton regains consciousness and goes into a rage over his son's death. Melnik orders the group to throw the flamethrower into the mass and he fires on it. It explodes and drives the mass away. Anton, having fallen into depression, glumly says he will help launch the missiles. The group leave the cursed station.
After arriving at D6, the group splits up: Artyom and a soldier named Ulman are to travel to the surface and designate the lair of the dark ones for the missile strike while Melnik, Anton, and the other soldiers head to the command centre to activate the missile launchers. Artyom begins to feel homesick and eventually asks Ulman if he can visit VDNKh before leaving to the surface. Ulman gives him a place and a time and allows him to return to his home station. Artyom finds the station to be in ruins, and like he had seen in his visions, with many dead and almost everyone evacuated. Luckily, Sukhoi is still alive and the two enjoy a hearty reunion. After discussing current and past events, Artyom eventually leaves and heads to the surface. Ulman isn't there yet, and a demon threatens Artyom, so he takes shelter in a currency exchange booth. After Ulman and a new soldier arrive in a re-purposed fire truck, Artyom climbs on board and the trio travel to Ostankino Tower. The three are forced to use the stairs, but this is the extent of their difficulties. In delirium of climbing several hundred sets of stairs Artyom, almost cynically, wonders why they're trying so hard to save the metro. He contemplates that what they're doing is in effect securing not only the future of VDNKh and Polis but also the darker or weaker sides of humanity's survivors - including the Fourth Reich, Great Worm Cult. This, in effect, accumulates in him realizing that they are working to save life in the Metro, despite all its flaws. They eventually reach a suitable height, and Artyom can't help but wonder about the dark one's true intentions as he watches their ant-like behaviour.
As Ulman announces that the missiles are on their way Artyom finds himself in a repeat of his ever continuing visions. It is in this final vision that Artyom confronts a dark one who boldly announces that Artyom is their chosen one. In an instant, all of Artyom's previous doubts are laid to rest as an answer finds its way to him. In this realization, he connects with the figure and understands the dark ones true goals - peace, to reunite with humanity. In their own way, the dark ones convey their frustration at the humans that guard their stations with such paranoia, their desire for an emissary to help see past their mutations, and their realizations that humanity is on a path of self-destruction. Artyom realizes how he had been selected by them to be their partner, their messenger to help them spread their message of peace, and in a glorious moment realizes how much hope there is left for humanity to rebuild.
It is then, that the first of the four missiles strikes the very heart of the gardens. Artyom watches helplessly as the dark ones are all annihilated by the blast and the sound of their voices that brought Artyom so much hope and joy were forever extinguished along with them. Ulman loudly celebrates and mocks the dark ones as the next missiles arrive. Metro 2033 ends with Artyom, stricken mad with grief, removing his gas mask and silently leaving down the stairs of the tower for home, for the metro.
Epilogue: The Gospel According to ArtyomEdit
In the epilogue to Metro 2033 Artyom describes his time after Ostankino Tower and the fate of the Dark Ones. Once returning to VDNKh he was welcomed like a hero as if he was "coming down from the heavens in a shiny chariot". Artyom thought of himself as a murderer and that he wished himself being dead, that a monster would eat him or that he could hang himself from a tree. Artyom wishes that he could tell the inhabitants of the Metro the truth about the Dark Ones, that they were there to help, that they wanted peace. He believed that they would laugh in the face of the truth or that he had been indoctrinated by the Dark Ones into believing them.
Artyom describes his past in a little more detail, about the time when he, Zhenya (named Eugine in the game) and Vitalik the Spliynter went to the botanical gardens and opened the airlock. Where as in the original novel the events happen very quickly and they are scared back into the metro, the new epilogue goes into detail about what really happened. While wandering the surface, Artyom is cornered by wild, mutated dogs. His shotgun not working, he tells the others to go. He is saved by a dark one who scares the dogs away, some of which start to uncontrollably convulse. The dark one pities Artyom, he sympathizes with him. The dark one shows him visions of his mother (similar to the scene in the video game level Dead City). The dark one then parts from Artyom leaving the words "You are the First" in Artyom's mind. The brief, non-hostile interaction with the dark one inoculates Artyom, giving him a barrier against the dark ones' messages.
After the events at Ostankino Artyom, out of guilt, returns to the botanical gardens regularly. No mutants occupy the former dark ones' home, only soot and ash. During one such trip, Artyom sees a lone dark one. Whether or not an illusion, Artyom runs towards it, taking his mask and gloves off. The dark one is small, roughly half the height of Artyom. Artyom tries to communicate with it, he touches the dark ones head with an ungloved hand. Artyom sees emptiness in the dark one's eyes and understands that he is alone in this world as well (similar as vision at the end of level Ashes in Metro Last Light video game).
The novel first appeared online in 2002, but was first being written when Glukhovsky was no older than 16. First called "Underground", this version consisted only of 13 of the story's eventual 20 chapters, and ended rather abruptly with Artyom's death from a stray bullet. Underground was a rather unique story in terms of maintaining a satisfyingly depressing vibe to it, but also structurally, including references to music to which each chapter was intended to be listened to. Underground didn't manage to be published however, as the publishers Glukhovsky approached either stated that the story's ending was too "edgy" or the overall premise was simply not inspiring enough. Once posted on the internet however, it became an interactive experiment, drawing in thousands of readers from around Russia.
In 2005 it was reworked, expanded, and printed by an established publisher as Metro 2033, quickly becoming a nationwide bestseller.
In 2007, Glukhovsky was awarded the Encouragement Award of the European Science Fiction Society in the prestigious Eurocon contest in Copenhagen for his novel Metro 2033.
By 2009, over 400,000 copies of Metro 2033 had been sold in Russia alone. Online readers outnumber paperback readers by five times in terms of numbers. Foreign book rights have been sold to more than 20 countries.
The FPS video game Metro 2033 by THQ was released worldwide out in March 16, 2010 for PC and Xbox 360. As of November 2010, Glukhovsky was in talks with Hollywood-based studios and producers to sell the film rights. In September 2012, MGM picked up the screen rights to Metro 2033, setting F. Scott Frazier to write the script. Mark Johnson is producing via his Gran Via Productions.
Despite astounding success, Metro 2033 was not without its criticisms. For starters the book was criticized as having a sort of 'aimless' and 'empty' quality as an indirect result of a lack of large-scale world building, not that some feel that some aspects are described in far too much detail. Many complaints are about Artyom's tendency to stumble his way into danger, see or experience how dangerous it was, and then often get saved by a coincidence - which puts a lot of pressure on the finale. By the end, some feel, that the rules of the fiction's universe haven't been established well enough to get into the story, or expanded universe.
To perhaps an opposite extent, some readers and critics did not approve of all the time spent on themes of morality, religious bashing, and man's fate when the book begins to slow down near the half-way point. Similarly, though few criticize the actual ending, some critics found it to be too much of a shift from the previous vibe and it's final conclusion too jarring and too abrupt to leave the greatest of impacts.
Another common complaint English readers have is that the novel has been translated rather poorly. Some sentences are difficult to understand, and words are used that liberally stretch their meaning - leaving roughly 3 - 5% of the novel more than a little confusing though all the copy-editing and blind translations. English readers have also made comments as to how difficult it is to read the maps of the metro presented on the insides of the front and back covers with station names contributing heavily to why many readers couldn't follow where Artyom's journey had led him on the map.
- While being quite original, Metro 2033 owes a lot of its finer genre points to the post-apocalyptic series that came before it. While inspiration of Fallout's Master remain subtle through the creature of the Kremlin, other references to that of Roadside Picnic (the story the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are closely based on) are more blatant.