Metro 2033 (Метро 2033) tells the story of the 40,000 survivors who escaped to the subway tunnels of the Metro beneath Moscow when nuclear conflict escalated to war between Russia and the United States in 2018. For the survivors, life went on, in a fashion. Precious ammunition counts as currency in the Metro, where people live day-to-day cultivating mushrooms, tending to pigs, and defending their home stations from mutated creatures and hostile invaders from other stations on the line. Now, a new threat has arrived: Dark Ones – neither creature nor man but some strange psychic being in-between – have started to encroach on VDNKh Station. Artyom, who was only five years old when the missiles struck, and who remembers the surface world only as a vague dream, is entrusted with a dangerous mission to destroy the Dark Ones. But that means leaving VDNKh, making his way through the warring factions of the Metro, and confronting the horrors on the surface. Along the way, he will discover a secret about the Dark Ones that could change the course of humanity forever.
My ‘Metro 2033’ collection of novels.
First published online by young Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovsky in 2002, Metro 2033 was followed by Metro 2034 in 2009, and Metro 2035 in 2015. A videogame adaptation of the first book came in 2010 from developer 4A Games, which, admittedly, was my introduction to the series, with a follow-up sequel in 2013. [If you are only familiar with the game/s, but you liked the world presented there, and if you’re dedicated enough to make it through some dense Russian fiction, I recommend the books.]
While the author was born and the books themselves take place well after the Cold War, all three include critical – at times even damning – observations on communism and fascism. These two ideologies are on display throughout the books as the primary warring factions, the Reds and the Fourth Reich. A third group, Hansa, is a free trade coalition, while the sub-stations that comprise Polis at the center of the Metro map represent a kind of intellectual oligarchy. Artyom’s interactions with all of these small nation-states (nation-stations?) form the backdrop of the Metro’s bleak survivalist landscape.
I’ve just finished reading the third book, but I could almost go back and re-read all three of them again right away. Not because they’re great masterpieces, but because I simply felt for this story, both on the page and beyond it. I’ve seen a lot of frightening similarities to the “old Moscow” told in these books to the current world in which we live, and I hope we don’t make the same mistakes the killers and the survivors in these books do.
The first book is definitely a freshman work; Glukhovsky wrote it when he was only eighteen. The reader – especially a non-Russian-reading one – will feel the lack of a professional editor. The text is also incredibly dense, with long passages of history and exposition. But, the world and the characters of the Metro are so damn compelling, and the situation so close to the reality we’re experiencing today, that I was willing to forgive the writerly missteps, and just enjoyed being swept along Artyom’s journey through this speculative-future-Moscow and its subterranean tunnels.
The second book (Metro 2034) is more polished, with fewer characters and tighter story arcs; the third (Metro 2035) even more so. There’s something about that first book, though, that really spoke to me. The characters feel like people one could actually meet in this bleak, nihilistic situation. Each man (the cast is overwhelmingly dominated by men) has his own story. Some of them, like the Marxist Revolutionaries, we glimpse only for a few pages; others, like the young Brahmin who befriends Artyom in the sprawling Library station, we grow to care about. They all have their own goals, fears, and conflicts, and create a greater world with their individual stories.
These books are not short. My edition of Metro 2033 clocks in at 460 pages; Metro 2034 runs 283 pages; Metro 2035 is a whopping 496 pages. A professional editor would, no doubt, carve out a lot of the characters and scenes, for reasons of time and space. But I’m glad they got to stay intact in the author’s vision. The books would definitely feel lesser for their loss.
I’ve always enjoyed speculative and science fiction, though most of my long-standing favorites are farther flung in time than the world of Metro 2033. And, much of my pleasure reading over the last few years has centered firmly around detective fiction. But I had a great time reading these books; I’m glad that the recent bundle sale of the games prompted me to look up the story that inspired them, and I’m grateful to have read a young author’s journey through a world of his own making.
Glukhovsky published the first book online, on his personal website, for free. No editor, no publisher; the book distribution came three years later, after it had already been read by thousands of people in Russia and overseas. It gives me hope that there are still people – “regular” readers – who are willing to take a chance on something new, something different, something personal that doesn’t necessarily have the stamp of a big-name publishing company on it. Hope for me as a writer…and for me as a person in the real world who doesn’t want to live someplace like the Metro.
What have you been reading lately?
If any of you have read these books, let me know! I’m dying to talk about them with somebody. 🙂
As of 10:22pm ET, Thursday, March 12, 2015, I finished the content pass edit of my pseudo-novel, the homoerotic space opera western From Hell: A Love Story.
Closed chapter folders in Scrivener = Finished content edit!
I started my Borderlands story of “How the Commando Got His Turret” in July 2013. It’s grown and changed quite a bit over the course of the last year-and-a-half, I think – I know – for the better. I took chapters out, I redesigned scenes, I added and deleted and deleted some more. The original version of this story ran about 112,000 words. This edited version? A little over 83,600 words, as Scrivener will tell you:
Over the course of the latest edit, I cut or reworked a tad less than 30,000 words. I’m sure a professional editor would have helped me work the story even tighter, but, since I can’t sell this story, I wanted to keep my costs down as much as possible. Still, I think that’s pretty good, for a first-timer.
Just because I’m so far happy with this content edit does not mean even my truncated version of the self-publishing process is over, though. I still have the interior line edit, the cover (front, spine, and back), the administrative logistics like ISBN details and credits, the dedication, the compile, and the submission process. But, right now, I’m riding too pleasant a wave from finishing that tough rewrite to think about all of that yet to hurdle.
I could spend a long time talking about why I chose to publish this particular story, how all the ups and downs of my life over the last two years pushed me to try and better myself as a writer, but the honest truth is that I just wanted to see if I could do it. I love this story, no doubt, and its flawed Byronic hero is one of the most fun I’ve written yet. But it is fanfiction, and for that reason alone I can’t get too attached to the men and women on its pages, at least not to the extent I might do for a cast of my own true creating.
I’m not finished-finished, yet. But, looking back on the last six months or so of editing this story, I’m glad I did it. It is a better story than it was, even if some people might disagree. I took to heart a lot of commentary I got from that earlier version, too. So, you know, it pays to tell a writer what you think of their story, because you never know how you might change a book. I’m happy with it, though. And, I’m still as in love with these characters and this world as when I’d started, something I’d feared would fade as I picked apart their conflicts and arguments and make-up moments.
Was it a difficult process? You bet. I
can’t I don’t want to count how many times I thought about giving up and tossing the whole thing out the window. Because this is a fanfiction story for a niche fandom, and I’m on the edge of that niche. Because anyone who’d be interested in this story in the first place has probably already read the first draft and won’t want to read an edit. Because it’s a story loaded with bloody violence, graphic sex, drug use and abuse, and foul language that sometimes made me, as the writer, pause to consider if I really wanted to go there. But, the one piece of advice I’ve always believed in, and that I’ve always shared with other writers around me, is to finish whatever story they’re writing. Writing “The End” on a story – even if that end is a crap and totally seat-of-the-pants conclusion – is a real accomplishment. Anybody – ANYBODY – can start a story. A writer finishes them. I viewed completing this edit as completing the story for a second time. Because, with all of those changes I’d made, it did feel a lot like a second story. And getting to write “The End” on this one made me feel so good.
Have you ever edited one of your own stories? Did you make a lot of changes? How did those changes make you feel? What would you recommend for others editing their work?
The title of today’s post comes from the age-old question: which came first? But, it’s not what came first that concerns me this time around, but what’s coming next. For me, it’s…NaNoWriMo 2014!
I know, I know: NaNoWriMo – or, National Novel Writing Month, that month-long free-write extravaganza, for those of you unfamiliar with that strange pseudo-acronym – isn’t really a test of my ability, as I’ve competed and “won” this not-competition five times, now. But, I just came off a few finished stories, and I want to give my brain a bit of a rest for a month. I still want to write, though, because I love the rush that comes with putting new ideas to paper. Since my proposed murder mystery/police procedural/love triangle story demands a more precise plot than my free-wheeling NaNo ways, I’ve decided to shelve ex-Detective-Sergeant Stenhall and the rest for a little while and instead write a yippee-kai-yay loosey-goosey continuation (of sorts) of my recently-completed Borderlands story. It focuses mostly on a group of original misfit characters that I’ve been itching to use for a long time, now, and even just my story prep has gotten me excited about writing this one.
So, for the next five weekly updates, I’ll likely be talking about word count and progress and stress-writing crap, as that’s usually what takes over my brain during NaNo. If you are participating this year, as well, why don’t you join me? Feel free to list your NaNoWriMo user ID in the comments section, here. I’m happy to have a friend in NaNo madness! My username is bonusparts.
For those of you not interested at all in my NaNo endeavors, I’ll leave you with this collage of photos from my recent trip to Japan, where I road lots of trains, ate lots of sushi, got sunburnt at my little nephews’ undoukai, visited the Suntory brewery factory, drank some great Japanese craft beer, and watched some little ninjas chase after a samurai at Toei Film Studios.
What are your plans – writing or otherwise – for the rest of 2014?
Some quick new fiction below. Request follows.
She tilted her mouth to his ear, her words clinging and winding around his brain like sticky spider’s silk: “Get rid of him.”
Axton turned and took a single step toward Hal, who slid back a step of equal measure, still warning, “She’s controlling you. But you can fight her-”
“Get out,” Axton told him through his teeth. Taking another step, he curled his fingers into a fist, forcing his arm to stay at his side. Don’t go for the gun, he thought. Don’t go for the gun–
“Axton,” Hal began.
Widow followed a beat after, the threatening prompt of her voice thumping with his blood: “Axton.”
“Get out!” Axton shouted, and he lunged at Hal, fist leading the way.
Hal sidestepped, hair flapping. Squaring his shoulders, he turned on his side, to make a smaller target. But Axton was faster, knew the tricks, and grabbed Hal by the front of his jacket, yanking him in for a sharp knee to the gut.
Hal doubled over but didn’t drop. Axton felt something hard – a fist – slam into his belly. Hearing himself grunt, he fought again against his survival instinct.
–not the gun not the gun not the gun–
An “action” scene from my latest venture. I’m trying hard to make these better with each permutation of my writing. There’s more, of course, but that would be spoiling things, wouldn’t it?
For those of you who write action, care to share your thoughts? Tips? Critique? I’m open to suggestions!