Metro (Russian: Метро) is a series of novels and video games, started in 2005 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky's novel Metro 2033. The novel quickly became popular, and even managed to find an audience outside Russia, being translated into 34 different languages. Glukhovsky has since gone on to write two sequels.
The series takes place in the 2030s, twenty years after an apocalyptic nuclear war devastated the world. With the surface contaminated by radiation, the residents of Moscow have no choice but to live in the city's subway system. They have little in the way of supplies or technology, and must make do with what they have, enduring radiation, mutants, and their own fellow man.
The main entries in the Metro literature series:
- Metro 2033 (2005)
- Metro 2034 (2009)
- Metro 2035 (2015)
In addition, dozens of spin-offs taking place in the same universe have been written by other authors.
Ukrainian game developer 4A Games has developed a video game adaptation of the series, which currently consists of three main games:
- Metro 2033 (2010)
- Metro: Last Light (2013)
- Metro Redux (2014): Updated rerelease compilation of Metro 2033 and Last Light with improved graphics and features.
- Metro Exodus (2019)
- Metro 2033 (2011) - A Board Game based on the first novel
- Metro 2033 Britannia Comic Prologue (2012) - A Comic Book based onthe prologue to Britannia
- Metro Last Light (2013) - A Comic Book set between Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light
- After the End: The series takes place twenty or so years after a nuclear war rendered most of the surface world uninhabitable.
- Artistic License Ė Geography: 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.
- Broad Strokes: As Glukhovsky is also involved in writing the plots for the game adaptations, events from the games are implied to have happened in the novels, but the specifics are vague and occasionally contradictory. Metro 2035 refers to elements of Last Light, and Metro Exodus follows up on some elements of 2035. Both media are careful to avoid Continuity Lockout though - each mediumís version is self-sufficient, and the details donít always line up, but certain things are clearer or more developed if youíve seen both.
- Crapsack World: Oh boy howdy, you'd better believe it. One for the ages, and on multiple levels. Consider:
- Even if all the supernatural and more "conventional" SF elements (mutants, psionics) were taken out, you'd still have mass extinction, an uninhabitable surface and a post-apocalyptic society of only a few thousand people driven underground...the members of which apparently have learned nothing from the great devastation and go right back to killing, raping and enslaving each other over ideology, religion and profit. Totalitarian hellholes, a power block preaching unrestricted cut-throat post-apocalyptic capitalism, outlaws prowling the tunnels and ruling some outlying stations, crazed cults lurking in forgotten service areas...and only a few stations being relatively calm, somewhat egalitarian places, which still have rather harsh laws and atmosphere. By itself, that is a pretty grim picture.
- Now add to that the "classic" SF/survival horror stuff such as mutants of all sizes which turn many of the tunnels into potential deathtraps, making travel by armed caravan necessary...and even then, the mortality rate is rather high (besides, getting chewed up by some monstrosity is a much more powerful primal fear than catching an outlaw's bullet). There's a reason, beyond outlaws and enemy "nations" raids', that tunnel entrances are fortified and constantly manned. And that's not the only front to worry about, if you're especially unlucky: your station's gate/airlock to the surface might have been damaged and breached at some point, creating an opening through which horrors from the surface can enter your station. On the upper platform level. Which is usually where the living quarters are...
- Now add to that the actual overarching plot from the book, the threat by the Dark Ones. Yes, at the very end of the novel they actually turn out to be benevolent and the entire thing has been a huge misunderstanding, or incapability of communication on their part. They wish humanity NO harm. But to the average Metro denizen during the events of the book, they do appear as an incomprehensible, utterly terrifying, inhuman force, much worse than the "common" mutants, because in contrast to those the Dark Ones are clearly sentient, evoke supernatural dread and, on close contact, severe insanity in humans, and seem to slowly, and purposefully, advance along one Metro line, threatening to engulf Artyom's station. The utter terror the VDNKH inhabitants feel is quite understandable.
- And as if all that were not enough, add to that all the truly weird supernatural stuff going on, such as the mysterious tunnel noises; the "soul cacophony" from the pipes; unexplained temporal and spatial anomalies; sudden attacks of extreme anxiety, or vertigo, or plain insanity, while travelling through some of the tunnels, with some humans suffering these and others, who travel in the same group, being unaffected; people simply disappearing without a single trace, leaving neither blood or body (parts) nor equipment, clothing, nothing at all behind, with these disappearances occuring in tunnels which have been shown to be clean, well-lit and perfectly safe (by Metro standards, at least) only a few days prior; the weird, but horrifying death-sentence effect of the Kremlin's stars up on the surface, and its ambiguous nature (we never learn for certain whether it is tied to the Blob Monster in the Kremlin basement or is some other unrelated, but possibly symbiotic, force); and quite a few instances of similar fun stuff. Totalling all of that up, and considering the fact that many denizens of the Metro are armed at all times, eating one's gun is bound to seem an easier, less painful and less psychically stressful solution for quite a few of the inhabitants than facing the Metro in all its "glory" every single day.
- Death World: The surface. In this frozen hellscape, if the mutants don't kill you, then the radioactive air will. If that doesn't kill you either, then something bizarre, supernatural, and inexplicable will.
- Gaia's Lament: Played with. In the earliest installments, the world is still pretty much in the grasp of nuclear winter. Later in the series, "nuclear spring" has come, there is some thaw, and rain becomes a thing. Wetlands start spreading, and life begins to actually thrive again. Of course, the life-forms that are popping up are mostly horrendous mutants, and the new life-rich swamps are, if anything, even more hostile and endemic to human life than the sterile, irradiated wastelands that preceded them. But hey, you can't win 'em all.
- Background conversations and the Expanded Universe mention settlements away from Moscow where things are better, the air is breathable, crops grow in the ground and radiation count is low, making this trope Downplayed.
- Great Offscreen War: The nuclear war of 2013. Not much is known about it, except that it probably started between two Middle Eastern countries and eventually ended with the United States and Russia duking it out.
- Hate Crimes Are a Special Kind of Evil: Of the all the factions in post-apocalyptic Moscow, the ones that just about everyone hates and despises with equal measure are the Fourth Reich who are, naturally, Nazis. Their main goal is to purge anyone with mutations or deformities (such as short height), whom they immediately brand a "lesser race" and either enslave or exterminate them, but the books also state that they still kill non-whites and non-Russians. The game Metro: Last Light also indicates that they torment and beat their own people if they aren't violent or cruel enough.
- Humans Are Bastards: Despite the apocalypse, the Metro inhabitants are still perfectly willing to fight each other or sell each other out for politics or profit.
- I'm a Humanitarian: A fairly common occurrence in the novels, the original Metro 2033 and Towards the Light to name a few.
- 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?
- Mirror Universe: The novel Noon Void. In this AU Moscow is alive and well... but the metro became a Death World.
- Mundanger: The Dark Ones, the Mutants, the nuclear fallout, the weird psychic anomalies and the odd Eldritch Abomination or two are legitimate, potentially existential threat to the Metro's inhabitants, but equally worrisome are things like cave-ins, epidemics, floods, fires, swarms of devouring rats or simply man's inhumanity to man.
- N+1 Sequel Title: The two sequels to the original book have the numbers 2034 and 2035 respectively.
- Nuclear Mutant: 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...
- Otherworldly Communication Failure: The Dark Ones are universally feared by the denizens of the Metro as terrifying boogeymen that can fry the brains of humans simply by approaching them. As Artyom learns, however, none of this is intentional on the Dark Ones' part. They mean no harm: in fact, they want to coexist, but unfortunately their Psychic Powers are so potent that human minds can't handle it. Each time the Dark Ones reach out to try to telepathically communicate with a human, it drives the human to madness.
- Practical Currency: Bullets are used as currency. Practical, but also means that combat involves shooting money.
- It's also stated that every bullet spent on goodies is a bullet not used to kill someone.
- Reality Is Out to Lunch: Since the nuclear apocalypse, there have been some strange events that occur, which can only be described as supernatural. "Ghosts" can be seen, strange sounds heard, and unusual anomalies and mysteries abound both above and below ground.
- Scavenger World: Much of the Metro economy involves scavenging pre-war technology or supplies, usually from the surface or abandoned areas.
- Suddenly Speaking: Inverted. Artyom was a fully speaking character in Metro 2033 book, but was retconned as a Heroic Mime after the game came out, and never spoke since. It depends on which Artyom you're referring to. The Canon Foreigner Artyom Popov from Metro 2034 is and has always been a fully voiced character.