Metro 2003, by Dmitry Glukhosky, is about going underground in Moscow. The claustrophic landscape is filled with the dark and the dirt of the campsites and the fear of the murderous creatures in the dark down the tunnel. Each station brings its own philosophical tale.
At this point there is no sense of this being based in the future. This dystopia with its guns could be now. What we know is that the outside is controlled by these creatures -so apart from those in the metro – not many humans are probably still alive. So the stations are are small self sufficient independent communities.
Our lead character is Artyom, a young man with no real knowledge of life before this. Then a man called Hunter appears who sees something within him and inspires him on his own journey through the various stations and groups in the Moscow metro.
So the story becomes a journey through the tunnels and stations. Artyom meets characters on the way and strange stuff happens in the tunnels. At one point a psychological terror occurs for unknown reasons.
Further on in his journey he encounters stations that present different scenarios – far right wing control, communists, practising christians, all tinged with philosophical debate, although one is life threatening This lends itself to a deep exploration of what and how it means to exist in a post-apocalyptic world where rules of society are rewritten and basic needs have to be met first.
There we have the soul of the novel. A near impossible journey through with a variety of dangerous and life-threatening challenges thrown at him, suddenly meeting people who help and or who hinder his journey and need attention. I enjoyed the story telling, however at times it felt a little constructed in how each station was a unique challenge.
A brief journey above ground
Being underground it is expectedly claustrophobic, dank and dark. You are times left feeling, dirty, cold and damp. Artyom is constantly figuring out the most efficient way to reach his desired destination of Polis, through the underground. This takes a left turn when he ends up over ground and, for a moment, the excitement factor takes an upward twist. Here Artyom does actually face real zombies.
Back underground Artyom again eventually faces certain death only to be saved at the very last moment. By this point, late in the novel, I was too running out steam. There is much psychological fear factor and plenty philosophical encounters. Artyom’s ambivalence to the politics and religion of the stations does not help the reader to engage. But this is surely important with the talk of the fourth reich reaching its tentacles into Russian.
A late twist is an encounter with a group at a station that has a fake religion and an ensuing philosophical debate about the purpose of faith. Ultimately the repeated walking in to the pitch black tunnels loses struggles to keep up the dark horror.