Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book of Choice: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

After a nuclear war, the surface of the earth of blighted and deadly for anyone who goes there. Survivors have gathered in the Moscow metro system. The stations are defended against the mutants that live in the surface, against animals and against other survivors – humans are just as ready to fight each other as they always were. There are alliances between stations and each alliance tries to keep control of their territory – travelling between the stations of different alliances is difficult at best. It's made even harder by the fact that the tunnels are unsafe, not just because of the mutants and bandits, but also because very strange things happen in the tunnels once the light from the station is left behind. Not everyone who goes in will come back.

I loved this book right from the start. I like subways, urban exploration and post-apocalyptic stories and Metro 2033 combines everything, with a good measure of philosophy thrown in. The edition I have contains a map of the metro where you can look up the different stations and follow the characters on their way, which makes the whole thing even more real. Just seeing the warning signs on that map (mutants, radiation, mental danger ect.) is enough to creep me out. And speaking of creeped out: I won't be able to look at the ruby stars in the Kremlin towers ever again without a shudder. I didn't see the ending coming at all and it adds a whole new dimension to the story, it makes you realize that much of what you assumed over the course of the story was wrong.

Some people dare to climb up to the surface and they are called Stalker. That's a detail I like because I'm a huge fan of the movie Stalker and it's a nod to acknowledge the influence the movie had on the book, I'd say. Metro 2033 would make an awesome setting for an RPG. It's been turned into a computer game (like Stalker was, with the same engine I think), a very impressive one from what I have seen. But I would recommend reading the book before you play the game.

Oh, and something I thought about only the second time I read the book: people tell each other all kinds of wild stories about what happened before the nuclear war, including stories of a demon-summoning Lenin - maybe those are not wild stories. Maybe it's all true. It certainly seems possible in the darkness of the tunnels, walking from one station to the next.

I would recommend looking up the stations mentioned in the book online to see how they look now. Moscow has a beautiful metro system (I haven't been there unfortunately) and it's fun to see the places as they look now and imagining them as they are described in the book then.

Russian fantasy/science fiction is popular in Germany right now, thanks to Night Watch and I'm enjoying the chance to take a look at this very different take on the genres. I hope it lasts for a while and I hope there will be translations of more authors. So far, all the books I got my hands on were not only very readable, but also suggested very interesting concepts and philosophical questions that I found myself wondering about even when the book was over. I love that extra dimension in scifi and fantasy (which is why I like Stanislav Lem, among other things) and it's all too often missing from all those trilogies cranked out by authors these days.

26th book for the Library Challenge and 5th book for the Science Fiction challenge

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