The snowy season inspires romantic thoughts of hot chocolate and fire-side snuggling for many of us, but for me the crisp blankets of white outside bring to mind only one thing: nuclear winter. So for this issue, I’ll be revisiting a personal favorite in societal collapse fiction, “Metro 2033.”
“Metro 2033” is a post-apocalyptic novel from Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The story takes place in the Moscow Metro system where the last survivors have sought shelter 20 years after a global nuclear holocaust has left the surface highly irradiated and inhabited by mutated versions of the once local wildlife. The most dangerous of these creatures are known as the “Dark Ones,” humanoid beings with telekinetic powers that threaten to replace homo sapiens as the dominant species on Earth – homo novus – “New Man.”
The plot begins when the Dark Ones’ attacks into the Metro have increased in frequency and aggression and the safety of its occupants at its different stations is jeopardized. Artyom, a young man working as a security officer at the station where the Dark Ones’ attacks have become most prevalent, is tasked with traveling to the central Metro where the last remnants of the Russian military reside to request reinforcements before the Dark Ones’ are able to invade the entirety of the underground.
The story follows the traditional literary setup of “The Hero’s Quest” with modern themes of political and existential philosophy as well as the value of life. Drawing from Russian history of World War II, control of the Metro has been divided between different factions, most notably the communist “Red Line” and Neo-Nazi purists, the “Fourth Reich,” who engage in constant skirmishes for control of the Metro. As the narrative progresses, Artyom encounters zealots of both ideologies whose desire to fight with each other in the wake of the otherworldly threat of the Dark Ones provides a provocative commentary on man’s self destructive nature. This has both the reader and Artyom question whether or not humanity should be wiped from existence especially given that this kind of bloodthirsty nature was what caused the bombs to fall in the first place.
Through Artyom’s travel, the author presents various examples of human history repeating itself in spite of a calamitous event such as nuclear holocaust. The Metro and the functional condition of its stations dictate the stages of human societal evolution present from the cannibalistic savages of metro stations without light or water to the feudalistic class system of others.
The resulting product is a highlight reel of human development and survival, making for a stellar read.