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Literature / Metro 2033

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"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. It first appeared as a Web Serial Novel in 2002, with the first print edition released in 2005. It went on to become a best seller in Russia, and helped establish a successful franchise. 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 way through the dangerous Metro.

The book is set in the Moscow Metro system twenty years after a devastating nuclear war. 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.

The novel was followed by two sequels, Metro 2034 and Metro 2035.

In 2010, the Ukrainian game developer 4A Games created a loose Video Game adaptation of the novel. The game has also received a sequel, which is not an adaptation of either sequel novel.

This novel features the following tropes:

  • 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
  • Apocalyptic Log: As Artyom discovers at the newspaper/snack/etc. kiosk outside his native metro station. The woman who'd been employed at the kiosk chronologues her own death by radiation poisoning (or something worse), and fills the log with Hope Spots that each hit home brutally considering the reader knows from the get-go that she died right there.
  • 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 the elder of a group of Jehovah's Witnesses, 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.
  • 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.
  • Brown Note: During any excursion onto the surface, one rule above all prevails: Don't look at the Kremlin.note 
  • 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 Unconscious From Almost Being Hanged".
  • Contemplating Our Navels: The preferred pastime 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.
  • Covered in Gunge: After being assigned to a year of cleaning the latrines in Hanza, Artyom, who's crossed the Despair Event Horizon in disgust and loathing after only three days, falls into a wheelbarrow of shit. He uses this to his advantage to escape their territory.
  • Cult: Many of them, but the Great Worm cultists are… remarkable.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Location: The Kremlin, maybe. The Kremlin remains perfectly intact despite the bombs having demolished nearly all of Russia, and there is a rule among stalkers to never look at its stars. Artyom reads a book describing the stars of the Kremlin being used to bind demons. Later, he foregoes the rules and looks at its stars, passing out shortly afterward.note 
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Artyom kills the Nazi.
  • 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.
  • Hanging Around: The Fourth Reich condemn Artyom to death in this manner, only for him to be rescued following an ambush. Though Artyom does dangle a little before his rescuers get to him.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: 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 "half an hour") 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.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Hunter and the Order he belongs to. Any danger should be eliminated by any means necessary.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The entire human race had this after the war. Pretty much everyone mourns the near-complete destruction of the world. Does it stop them from murdering each other for its remains? Of course not.
  • 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.
  • Light Is Not Good: As if the Surface isn't dangerous enough thanks to the mutants, the combination of both living in the Metro's darkness for decades and (likely) a lack of ozone has made the sun's rays harmful to the people living there. Blindness is always a possibility during daylight.
  • 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.
  • 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").
  • 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: Things would have been better if Artyom had 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...
  • Precision F-Strike: Occurs a number of times, sometimes out of nowhere. Some of these are due to translation issues.
  • Putting on the Reich: In-Universe as even with the narrator's extremely limited education (and his visceral shock and awe when he meets some people of Asian and African descent), he considers it to be this (not to mention too stupid for words) when he meets some fascists in the metro who are obsessed with Hitler despite the massive and deliberate ignorance required to be pro-Hitler and ethnically Slavic at the same time.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: 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 a 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Grab the popcorn and just watch as Artyom goes from a Naďve Newcomer to Nietzsche Wannabe.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While Artyom is the only person we follow and other characters pop in and out depending on how his travels are going, he's also absolutely, down to the end of the book, never the hero, seemingly existing to magically insulate others from harm while they're the ones that take action to defeat whatever is currently threatening to kill them (though the ending heavily implies that others' willingness to kill all non-humans is not automatically a good thing).
  • 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 are haunted, others explain it as the result of hallucinogenic gases.
    • Dark Ones are frequently compared to ghouls.
  • 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..."
  • 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 Bastard!: You wanted them to defeat the horrifying inhuman monsters and live in peace? Well, turns out those monsters were only antagonistic for... reasons, and you're a horrible person for wanting the VDNKh residents to not die.
  • You Will Know What to Do: The *magical* superpowers Artyom has to use to find the special book. He doesn't.