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Literature: Metro 2033

"Dear Muscovites and guests to our capital!
The Moscow metro is a form of transportation which involves a heightened level of danger."
A notice in the metro

Metro 2033 is a novel written by Dmitry A. Glukhovsky, and set in the Moscow Metro system twenty years after a devastating nuclear war. First appeared as a Web Serial Novel in 2002. The first print edition came in 2005. It went on to become a best seller in Russia. The story follows the 20-year-old Artyom, as a promise to a mysterious stranger forces him to leave the relative safety of his home station, ("ВДНХ"), and find his ways through the dangerous Metro.

Various factions - including The Fourth Reich, The Red Line, and The Gemeinschaft der Ringstationen - inhabit the stations. That is, the stations that have not yet succumbed to diseases, tent fires, cave-ins or mysterious mass deaths. The tunnels between the stations are populated by rats, mutants and unexplainable but very lethal phenomena. Oh, and don't even think about going up to the surface.

In 2010, the Ukrainian game developer 4A Games created a loose Video Game adaptation of the novel, known eponymously as Metro 2033. Much like the original novel, the game has also received a sequel.


This novel features the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Miller/Melnik, Hunter, Khan and Ace.
  • After the End: Like, The End. Apparently, even the afterlife got blown up.
    • Khan sums it up in this quote: "It appears that the devastation we brought upon ourselves was complete. Heaven, hell, and purgatory were atomised as well. So when a soul leaves the body, it has nowhere to go, and must remain here, in the metro. A harsh, but... Not undeserved atonement for our sins, wouldn't you agree?"
  • All Just a Dream: A rather nasty one, where Hunter saves Artyom from being hanged by the Fourth Reich... Aaaand then Artyom wakes up leaning against a door in one of their cells.
  • And Man Grew Proud : Artyom's adoptive father sums it up in this paragraph on page 37 of the book : "How long will you last on mushrooms, multivitamins and pork? Surrender, Homo sapiens! You are no longer the king of nature! You've been dethroned! No, you don't have to die instantly, nobody will insist on that. Crawl a little more in agony, choking on your own excrement... But know this, Homo sapiens: you are obsolete!"
  • Anthropic Principle: Discussed in the second half of chapter 11. Artyom states that storybooks are nothing like real life, in that everything happens randomly. One of the hallucinatory two guys in the station states that if you know what you're doing, events can be made to happen in a logical fashion. re-visited mid-way through chapter 19.
  • Anyone Can Die Even a 10 year old child, and by a Blob Monster that is
  • Ascended Extra: Hunter, in Metro 2034.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What does the party say about headless mutants?" (Two-headed mutants in the video game)
    • When asked of a Trotskyist Commissar, it results in him thinking carefully about his answer. When asked of a Christian minister, people give Artyom horrified looks.
  • Artistic License - Geography: Whilst many of the stations in the Moscow Metro are deep enough to shelter in during nuclear war (in fact, sections of Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line were deep sunk for this purpose), many of the stations were constructed using a "cut and cover" technique, which would probably collapse in the event of a nuclear blast. For instance, the Communist stations on the Red Line are all pre-Cold War, and are not nearly deep enough, nor are the three Nazi stations.
    • One of the expanded universe novels, Британияnote , features Scottish survivors of the Great War living in the Glasgow subway. The Glasgow subway is not sunk deep enoughnote  to defend against even conventional strikes note , it isn't nearly large enough to support any population in the way the Moscow Metronote  can. Whilst this error is excusable for the sake of narrative, it is still somewhat perplexing, as a bit of research shows that the ground beneath Glasgow is lousy with abandoned mineshafts, which could well be deep enough to shelter in the event of nuclear war.
  • Asshole Victim: Bourbon, who, in the novel, planned to kill Artyom.
  • As You Know: Most of the first chapter consists of people telling each other things they already know (and hanging lampshades on that fact).
  • Badass Bookworm: Daniel and, to a certain extent, Artyom himself.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Multiple times. Justified in that The Dark Ones were protecting Artyom for the duration of his journey, using their telepathic powers to send people to his rescue.
  • Blob Monster: There's... something, beneath the Kremlin, born out of a biological attack, which induces incredible levels of euphoria in its victims. It gets to the point that walking right into the seething, malevolent blob starts looking like a great idea. It's only described as a shapeless mass.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The guy who did the English translation got the literal vocabulary and most of the syntax right, but much of the cultural translation is done rather poorly.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Artyom.
  • Brown Note: During any excursion onto the surface, one rule above all prevails: Don't look at the Kremlin.note 
  • Cat Scare: The first scene of the book.
  • The Chosen One: Deconstructed with Artyom.
  • The Cloud Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Khan is a very... odd man, believing he's the reincarnation of Genghis Khan, and being the source of most of our info on how spiritually wrong the Metro is. A lot of the things he says sound crazy, but he's probably right. Or is he?!
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Although granted, it's more "You're Coming With Us Whether You Like It Or Not Since You're Unconcious From Almost Being Hanged".
  • Contemplating Our Navels: The preferred past time of all Metro inhabitants, including stalkers, merchants, and cannibalistic cultists!
  • Contrived Coincidence: Fleeing some mutants, Artyom enters a flat that is heavily implied to be where he lived before the war. To the book's credit, it's left very vague and even Artyom notes that it's too unlikely to be true.
  • Crapsack World
  • Cult: Many of them, but the Great Worm cultists are… remarkable.
  • Cut-and-Paste Translation: Occasionally obvious. Several idioms, a well as the swearing is translated literally.
  • Dark Secret: Artyom and his friend are responsible for opening an old airlock in the Botanic Garden station (Which failed to close) to look at the real sky. The Dark Ones supposedly pour in through it and Artyom confides this secret in Hunter.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Zhenya.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In Metro 2034 Melnik reveals Artyom to have gone insane for a short period of time after the events of 2033. Apparently, he got better and even married in the span of one year, but all we have in Melnik's word on it - and he doesn't even say Artyom's name. Of course, we all remember how communication in the metro is fallible…
    • In Metro 2033, Anton, after his son Oleg dies
  • Determinator: Artyom. Although his resolve fails multiple times, he can't bring himself to give up on his goal.
  • Deus ex Machina: Artyom's rescue from the Nazis by Communists. Lampshaded "if the Trotskyists had been just a day later, or a day earlier, Artyom would have died".
  • Doom Magnet: Artyom.
  • Downer Ending: Right when the missiles are to be launched at the Dark Ones, Artyom suddenly realizes that all his dreams and nightmares he had were simply the Dark Ones trying to contact him. They were simply trying to explain to the humans that all they wanted was peace and that all the deaths they caused were from accidental Mind Rape in their attempts to convey this. But Artyom can understand them. All the Dark Ones look to Artyom as the final hope. Then the missiles fall.
  • Easing Into the Adventure - The first three chapters, before Artyom leaves VDNKh.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Artyom kills the Nazi.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Rusakov, who is introduced as "the handsome man in leather" and is referred as such during every single sentence he appears in (with also: "His handsome masculine face", "his handsome, manly face" and "a beautiful brace face and a strong chin").
  • From Bad to Worse: Pretty much constantly.
  • Genre Blindness: Sure, Artyom, go ahead and wander off among the bookshelves while Daniel ties his shoelaces. It's not like the two of you are alone in an extremely creepy, extremely dangerous, and extremely monster-infested library.
  • Hermit Guru: Khan
  • Heroic BSOD: When Artyom sees a boy who looks exactly like Anton's dead son Oleg
  • Heroic Sacrifice The aforementioned Oleg jumps into the Kremlin biomass, which causes Artyom, Anton, and the Stalkers they`re with to snap out of their trance and blast it with an IED.
  • Hollywood Satanism
  • Hope Spot: Horrifying example in the novel. A huge portion of the final chapter revolves around Artyom finding hope, understanding and reasons to fight to for the world at large. The missiles launched from a nearby base then destroy the Dark Ones, causing Artyom to lose hope, remove his gas mask and sink into complete despair.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Only gets worse. By the end of the book, a mother is willing to sell her son for 20 bullets and, while Artyom is gagging at the thought, Ulman just shrugs and says she's no different from the others trying to support themselves.
  • The Hunter: Hunter and the Order he belongs to. Any danger should be eliminated by any means necessary.
  • If I Do Not Return: "If I Don't Come Back" is the very title of Chapter 3, the disappearance of Hunter sparking the plot.
  • La Résistance: "The First International Red Fighting Brigade of the Moscow Metropolitan in the name of Ernesto Che Guevara", that split from the Reds because they were a bit too crazy. They are still being supplied with food, ammo and gas for their motorized draisine by the Red line though.
  • Lighter and Softer: several sequel novels that add details about what's going on beyond big cities. It's still a postapocalypse, there are still no civilization except in isolated spots, but hell, its the surface! You can see the sun, the sky, rain, snow! You can breathe the air and walk without being attacked by some monster, mutant or dinosaur! You don't get that depressing feeling that humanity is obsolete anymore! And one novel even gives us a peaceful village of Tolkien fans/Elf-wannabes in the middle of pristine, uncontaminated wilderness.
    • When the protagonist of said novel first encounters these "Elves", he wonders if they are savages who would want to skin people alive. No, they are not. It's a perfectly nice Wacky Wayside Tribe living a happy pastoral life.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Oh yes. The Metro is sprinkled with all sorts of weird phenomena, but the narration usually presents different explanations for each of them, and whether the cause is supernatural or not is often left ambiguous. Is the state of the Kremlin the result of a biological weapon or trapped demons? Is the huge object Artyom sees in a parallel tunnel the Great Worm or a giant drilling vehicle? Is the insanity-inducing noise in the tunnels caused by spirits in the pipes or harmonic oscillations?
  • Meaningful Name: Artyom is the Russian masculine form of the Greek name Artemisios, relating to the Greek goddess of the hunt. She obviously had to have excellent aim, as Artyom himself is said to have by Hunter... but two of the possible Greek cognate words for "Artemis" can also be read as "safe" or "butcher".
    • Other source of this name is Greek artemos (of perfect health) which pretty well fits the fact that Artyom is a good and sensitive man and thus capable of being directly contacted by the Dark Ones
  • Mercy Kill: Artyom is forced to do this to Daniel, after the latter is fatally injured by a librarian.
  • Mirror Universe: the novel Noon Void. In this AU Moscow is alive and well... but the metro became a Death World.
  • Moscow Metro
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Much of the Russian cultural specific dialogue, phrases, and nuances were translated rather literally into English. This results in funny occasions when characters will ask if they have noodles on their earsnote .
  • Nerves of Steel: Dark Ones can only communicate with humans via telepathy, that's why they follow and try to protect Artyom, as he is the first person to actually communicate with them in any way and survive. Everybody else was reduced into a drooling retard and died soon after, as seen in the Exhibition's hospital. This protection is perceived as a gift, pure badassity or some kind of a natural immunity to anomalies by Artyom's companions.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Artyom should've better stayed at VDNKh.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: All three flavors are used.
    • Special points go to a scene near the end. Artyom thinks he can hear an underground river and opens a maintenance door at the side of the tunnel to take a look at a tunnel running parallel to the one he was in. Then, in the darkness, a huge, train-like gray thing rushes past along the tracks, with enough force and pressure to make his ears hurt and pop. He wisely slams the door shut. Any more than that, we're never told. It's implied that it was the monstrous worm god that the cannibalistic cultist were praying to. The confession that their high priest made ten minutes earlier that he had made the god up all on his own for no reason than to get control over the savages does NOT help to calm you down. One wonders what else lurks there...
  • Nuclear Nasty: the surface world is made of this. Looks like in this verse, hard radiation actually does produce monsters, mutants and dinosaurs, 1950s style. And bioweapons produce Blob Monsters.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: The people of Metro live on a monotonous diet of mushrooms and pork (even 'shroom tea!). Any kind of normal crops are (logically) extinct and most wildlife apparently went out with a blast too... Even the measly mushrooms which feed both humans and their livestock have to be grown on a substrate of fresh feces, all because of a lack of proper soil. Bon appetite. And for that matter, quality bullets are rare too - no wonder they've become the currency.
    • One of the crazy Cults inhabiting the underground decided to skip the whole "grow mushrooms and raise pigs" part, when it comes to hunger. A bleak Scavenger World indeed...
    • The Metro 2034 book states that the garrison unit of the Sevastopolskaya station regularly receives small batches of cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes for soldiers, albeit sickly looking and wilted (As well as copious amounts of ammunition, weapons and medical supplies). Justified since this exact station provides a significant amount of electricity for those who can pay for it and is constantly under the siege of mutants from the surface. None of the access tunnels can be blocked due to the need of frequent maintenance of hydroelectric generators near underground rivers. An attempt to clean out adjacent station and close the airlocks failed due to something that killed a group of grizzled professionals and left no trace of their bodies or equipment. The radio operator only heard one of the soldiers chanting a simple kiddie prayer before all communication was lost.
  • Practical Currency: Bullets are used as currency. Practical, but also means that combat involves shooting money.
  • Precision F-Strike: Occurs a number of times, sometimes out of nowhere. Some of these are due to translation issues.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Everybody can potentially become one: Dmitry Glukhovsky has created the Metro 2033 Universe project, so anybody can submit their novel set in the Metro (not limited to Moscow anymore - the most popular ones not written by Dmitry himself are set in Petersburg) and if Dmitry accepts it, it is then released in Russia and becomes canon. However, due to the series' unexceptional popularity, few works become known outside Russia.
  • Put on a Bus: Artyom in Metro 2034. Melnik mentions him only in passing. The Artyom we see in that book is a different one.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: Massively averted. Survivors live in squalid conditions and the metro is a maze of crumpled concrete and rusty pipes. Even most firearms are improvised and only few can afford a still operating prewar automatic weapon. This is only 20 years After the End.
  • Religion Is Wrong: Or at least "organized religion is batshit insane", with Artyom running away in fear even of the most sympathetic one. Hunter also views atheism in a positive light, making men fight for their survival instead of giving up, and Mikhail states outright that he's an atheist.
    • In a purely practical sense, religion may have been right once, but since the Great Fire destroyed heaven, hell, and purgatory, if God ever existed, he is deader than disco now.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: Artyom spends a good deal of the novel between embracing and discarding new beliefs.
  • Rookie Red Ranger: Artyom, who leaves his station for the first time and through his adventure meets all sort of people more experienced than him. His naivety is very emphasized.
  • Scam Religion: Both subverted and followed straight with the Great Worm cultists. The creator of the religion says he was outright lying to his followers, just to spread his hate against machines… but then Artyom sees something big moving in the tunnels, implied to be said Great Worm. Or a tunnel drill.
  • Scary Amoral Religion: The Great Worm cult once again. Eating people is not okay… Unless it's the enemy, then it's a feast. It's also okay to kidnap children to indoctrinate them.
  • Scavenger World: Self-explanatory.
  • Sinister Subway: Well, duh.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Grab the popcorn and just watch as Artyom goes from a Naïve Newcomer to Nietzsche Wannabe.
  • Survivor Guilt: Artyom all the time, but especially with Oleg's death.
  • Tactful Translation: Averted with the sections dealing with mat, sometimes resulting in moments where characters would suddenly say "Fuck you!" for no obvious reason.
  • Talkative Loon: Bourbon before dying.
  • A Tankard of Moose Urine: The ubiquitous "home-brew" - murky, frequently dangerous to drink and "goes down like sandpaper".
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Russian Nazis are an unfortunate Truth in Television. Present Day Russia has one of the largest concentrations of Neo-Nazi groups, focusing on Russian ultranationalism instead of German ultranationalism. They still retain the Swastika and the "stylistic" elements of Nazis. Chalk it up to Russian irony why Russians would recreate the one ideology they were instrumental in wiping out and that persecuted them.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Men protect the stations, women stay home taking care of the kids. The only three females ever named in the first novel are incredibly minor characters, being Zhenya's little sister, a wife who brings her husband beer, and a rat.
  • The Undead: Well, maybe. Some characters claim parts of the subway is haunted, others explain it as the result of hallucinogenic gases.
    • Dark Ones are frequently compared to ghouls.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Results in C for Artyom.
  • Was Once a Man: It is hinted that Dark ones and Librarians are mutated humans. Librarians are depicted as quasi-sentient creatures that hunt and move in packs of two or more individuals. Also, they are intelligent enough to imitate human speech with frightening accuracy, though whether they understand what they say or not is unknown.
    • Dark ones: "...remember, six months ago we managed to take one of them captive?" "I remember", spoke up Pyotr Andreevich. "He sat in our lock-up for two weeks, wouldn't drink our water, wouldn't eat our food and then croaked". "You didn't interrogate him?", asked the man (Hunter). "They didn't understand anything... They spoke plain Russian... They'd beat him and nothing... He would growl once in a while... Then he gave out the loudest howl when he died, woke the whole station up..."
    • Also What Measure Is a Non-Human? and Uncanny Valley.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Rats?: One of Artyom's main fears is of rats, since rats overran the station where he lived as a boy, killing his mother in the process (with him only escaping thanks to her and his to-be adoptive father). He gets a bit better over the course of the book however.
  • You Will Know What to Do: The *magical* superpowers Artyom has to use to find the special book. He doesn't.
The Master and MargaritaRussian LiteratureMidnight World
The Metamorphosis of Prime IntellectLiterature of the 2000sMiddlesex
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