It’s the year 2034. From the events that started and ended in VDNKh station not even a year has passed. The Dark Ones once considered as a deadly threat, are gone for good, killed by Artyom and his allies.
On the other side of the Metro, the inhabitants of Sebastopolskaya Station are fighting for survival against new threats that constantly invade them. The fate of the station depends on weapon supplies, which suddenly cut short, along with missing caravans and communication.
To solve the mystery and to bring back the stability of supplies, a small group is sent: young Ahmed, old, unfulfilled chronicler Homer and Hunter – once lost among the dark ones, now found but with a rather uncertain identity… Their small group is extended with Sasha, the daughter of a banished station-master.
Who really is Hunter? Does he return an affection that Sasha feels for him? What secrets are hidden in the dark Metro tunnels? And do the unlikely heroes manage to save the remaining humanity who survived the catastrophe?
The long awaited follow-up to Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 is finally here. Well, technically it was released a few years ago so maybe it’s truer to say that it’s finally been translated from Glukhovsky’s native Russian into English. Now, Metro 2034 has left me in a strange position. In the best interest of the readers (and the book itself), I feel I have to point out to potential readers that this isn’t a direct sequel to the story in Metro 2033. Rather it is a story set within the world of the Metro which Glukhovsky created in the first book. This distinction has to made early because anyone looking for a straight sequel (featuring Artyom) will find themselves disappointed that the events of the previous book are mostly only alluded to here, and I honestly feel that knowing this is an important factor to your enjoyment of this book.
This is a new story set within the network of stations located in the Metro beneath what was formerly Moscow. We follow a former Metro driver, turned historian and storyteller, called Homer as he embarks on a journey through the Metro to find out why the various scouts and merchants that leave his station have started to vanish without a trace. He is led by Hunter (one of the few returning characters from the previous book), a man who was lost and believed to have been killed at the hands of the Dark Ones; creatures who had previously been seen as a threat to the entire Metro station. Along the way they meet a young girl called Sasha and uncover a secret that could mean the end of human civilisation as they know it.
Once again Glukhovsky brings his world to life with his descriptive and often thought provoking prose. We are treated to a tour of the strange world and even shown areas which didn’t appear in the previous story. And whilst the writing style is different, in that it doesn’t follow only one character, the fact that he has chosen to look at the world through the eyes of the older Homer (who remembers the world before the Nuclear blasts decimated Russia) and the younger Sasha (a girl who’s father was exiled from the Metro) means that we get to see the Metro from their different view points. In Homer’s case, with a nostalgic gleam, and in Sasha’s case, with the wonderment of someone who has trouble understanding just how huge the Metro is when compared to her own limited experience.
Unfortunately, things start to go a little downhill after that. Whilst it is enjoyable to watch Homer work his way through the Metro and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the disappearances of his friends, the story – especially the mystery that threatens the Metro – is quite tame and so the urgency of the first book is sorely lacking. On the plus side, Homer’s philosophical musings on the nature of things such as art, memory and a person’s own worth are interesting and in a few cases, will gave you genuine food for thought about humanity’s legacy. Sasha’s story gives us a slight hint towards the mystical nature of things in the Metro (especially when she runs into an intriguing but roguish musician called Leonid, who seems to be able to bewitch people with the beauty of his music) but they unfortunately aren’t given enough time to blossom and so never quite grip the imagination as much as the previous book.
All of this isn’t helped by the fact that the main focal point of their stories is Hunter, or at least it should have been. I genuinely felt that he was the most interesting character in the book, we see that he is no longer the head strong and confident man we met in the last book and the reason for this change is slowly revealed as the reason for his disappearance is explained and the effects of his lost time cause him to make decisions that could ultimately doom himself and everyone around him. To me, he is the enigma at the centre of the book, possibly more so than the strange occurrences of Homer’s station, and he just isn’t utilised as well as he could have been. He is a violent man, and it is both exciting and almost frightening to see him give in to his bloodlust during the action sequences of the book. However, the internal battle within himself, which can be seen by both Homer and Sasha, could really have benefited and been so much more affecting if we could have seen things from Hunter’s point of view once in a while.
I know it’s sounds like I’m being harsh but the simple truth is, this is a good apocalyptic story which ultimately suffers from the fact that it has a great predecessor and it’s hard to separate the two. So, in a strange move I’ve rarely taken before with a review, I’m going to offer advice to the people who want to check out this book. That advice is this, for anyone who has read Metro 2033, accept early on that this is a separate story from Metro 2033 that doesn’t give you the closure you may have been expecting, but does expand on an awesomely realised world. For anyone who is new to the series, I would suggest reading this before Metro 2033, it won’t spoil the story of the original but will give you a taste for the world Glukhovsky has created.
So why should you read this book:
- The Metro universe is still one of the best realised apocalyptic settings around
- Tense action sequences
- Philosophical musings that will make you think.
What’s not to like:
- The mystery and threat of this story in no way rivals the urgency of the first book.
- Hunter, a great character who doesn’t get to shine.
Though not the sequel that many (myself included) will have been waiting for, this is another tale of life within the Metro stations below Moscow that helps to open up the world a bit more. Though the story and characters aren’t quite as strong as the previous entry, they, along with Glukhovsky’s descriptions of the Metro itself and the musings on some important aspects of modern (and also apocalyptic) life, manage to make this an enjoyable read. If nothing else, this will satisfy your Metro cravings until Metro 2035 is released, which will apparently once again follow Artyom (this time during the experiences which we saw in the game Metro: Last Light).