Metro 2033 is a very difficult book for me to review, and this is because while it had several features that I loved, it also had several that I disliked. What this does is put me in a very difficult position of trying to weigh up whether the good things can outweigh the bad or vice versa, and that has been a very difficult decison. Either way, I would still say Metro 2033 is worth reading, but be warned it is not an easy read.
Metro 2033 follows the last surviving Russian people who have exiled into the Russian underground train system - the Metro - after a nuclear catastrophe has ravaged and poisoned the land above them. In the metro they have to deal with not just the occasional mutant, but also extremist groups of humans, keeping themselves fed, and keeping out of trouble.
The biggest thing that this book has going for it is how interesting the world is. I found it very interesting how some of the most dangerous things that lead character Artyom encounters are not the mutants, but his fellow humans. It provokes some powerful thoughts on what we become in extreme situations. When the game of survival gets serious, there's no limit to the atrocities a person will commit to stay alive. Additionally, author Dmitry Glukhovsky has clearly put a huge amount of thought into what his future looks like. There is so much history, and so many cultures living in the tunnels - each one is thought out to the last detail, despite the fact that few are significantly spotlighted. This is a testament to how dedicated Glukhovsky is to this book and it's wonderful to see.
Additionally, Glukhovsky has also put a lot of thought into his characters. Despite the fact that Artyom is the only character that stays in the book from start to finish, he may well be one of the least interesting. This is due to Glukhovsky bringing in a new character almost every chapter, developing them and then abandoning them for a new one and so on. However because we only get a small amount of time with each character introduced, it makes them far more interesting leaving some unanswered questions and a desire for more. The stand-out character of the whole book for me was Khan, a man who believes he is the reincarnation of Genghis Khan and has some very intriguing dialogue throughout the book.
While Glukhovsky's world-building and character work is absolutely outstanding, as I said in the first paragraph I did have a few problems with the book as well, and these problems actually made the book quite hard for me to finish. First, while Glukhovsky's future was beautifully thought out, it was also a very sad and depressing future that by the end of the book was genuinely getting me down a little. This I have no doubt was intended as the book has very strong anti-nuclear, pro-environment messages throughout. The whole thing reads as a severe warning that if we send our nuclear warheads to action the outcome could be more disastrous than any previous war. While this is a message that I strongly agree with, and I love the fact that the book has a message and isn't meaningless, by the end of the book I couldn't help but feel a sense of hopelessness of our impending doom.
Also, the book did seem to drag on a little by the end. While it was interesting to see the cultures of Glukhovsky's creation, by the time I was around 3/4 of the way through the book, I really just wanted it to end. This may be due to the aforementioned depressing feeling that accompanies Glukhovsky's future, but it wasn't helped by the huge word count of the book. Metro 2033 is deceivingly long. While at first glance the book appears a fairly average length, when you open the book and see the size of the text and the very filled pages you will be able to understand that the book is not going to be a quick, nor an easy read.