4 out of 5 Stars!
I picked this book up a couple years ago when my husband and I were traveling. It’s always fun to find books that take place in a foreign country, and this one is set in the Moscow Metro after an apocalyptic event. I’m game!
The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend.
More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Rusted railways lead into emptiness. The ether is void and the airwaves echo to a soulless howling where previously the frequencies were full of news from Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires. Man has handed over stewardship of the earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. Man’s time is over.
A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro – the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. It is humanity’s last refuge. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters – or the simple need to repulse an enemy incursion. It is a world without a tomorrow, with no room for dreams, plans, hopes. Feelings have given way to instinct – the most important of which is survival. Survival at any price. VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line. It was one of the Metro’s best stations and still remains secure. But now a new and terrible threat has appeared.
Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro, to the legendary Polis, to alert everyone to the awful danger and to get help. He holds the future of his native station in his hands, the whole Metro – and maybe the whole of humanity.
I admit this book was a bit of a struggle for me. Originally written in Russian, the English translation was good, but just a little bit dry for my taste (and also with just enough translation errors to be distracting). It probably didn’t help that I had trouble keeping track of the foreign metro station names and keeping all of the characters straight (who knew there were so many Russian names beginning with the letter A?).
Although I really had no idea what was going on through half of this book, I still really enjoyed it! It’s a story of exploration and discovery as our main character, Artyom, travels through the metro from one station to the next toward Polis, one of the largest and most powerful human cities still remaining. Each metro station has it’s own ideologies, religions, cultures, and political structure, making much of the story seem scattered but also intriguing. Artyom encounters communists, born-again Christians, rival gangs, cannibals, revolutionaries, the list goes on. Each group gives Artyom insight into their own sphere of existence within the metro, stretching and molding his world view. Although the story meanders, the ending is amazing, tying all of the disconnected interactions into a nice, neat little bow within the last ten pages or so. I didn’t realize I would like this book as much as I did until that last chapter.
Glukhovsky does an amazing job creating this horrible and fascinating subterranean world, which is both unreal and entirely believable. Character encounter terrible monsters and mind-bending illusions within the darkness of the subway tunnels. Some would describe the incidents as magic while other would use scientific explanations. The reader is jolted back and forth, leaving us questioning whether this book is truly science fiction, fantasy, or a mix of the two. Either way, the violence and evil in this novel feel all too real.
Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars! Although it’s quite long and seems to meander, this is a great post-apocalyptic novel, perfect for any science fiction and fantasy fans looking for a thick book to sink their teeth into 🙂