The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct and the half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind, but the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory.
Man has handed over stewardship of the Earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on Earth, living in the Moscow Metro - the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters, or the need to repulse enemy incursion.
VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line, one of the Metro's best stations and secure. But a new and terrible threat has appeared. Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro to alert everyone to the danger and to get help. He holds the future of his station in his hands, the whole Metro - and maybe the whole of humanity.
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Eh. I made it to the end.
- Keith Wilson
Almost gave up, glad I finished
Overall I am glad that I listened to this book. There were some points when I was second-guessing my selection and not enjoying the story due to some elements of the writing. As an example, the author at times rambles off into characters' daydreams or deeper thoughts, which, while interesting, are not always particularly consistent or believable for the character in question.
For example, some of the lines of thought explored by the main character seem far too sophisticated for the level of education and experience he is described as having, and seem to come through more as the author's own opinions on those subjects rather than the idle daydreams of a young man. The same occurs with some of the dialog of other secondary characters, wherein they are presented in one manner, then suddenly they are espousing a point of view that does not seem consistent with what had been presented beforehand.
Those complaints aside, there are some genuinely unique and memorable scenes in the book, and the story finished strong, which made up for my complaints. I am glad that I did not give up on the story and ask for a replacement book (which I was close to doing, about half way through).
The author's use of Russian location names, while adding to authenticity, is very difficult to follow in an audio-only format for a listener who is not familiar with the language. Many of the metro station names are very similar and often mentioned in relation to each other in quick succession (e.g., sentences along the lines of 'first they went to station A, then from there to station B, and from there made their way to Station C,') which can make it difficult to follow. This likely is not an issue in print form.
Also, the author has a strange habit of using second-person phrasing when describing the experiences of the protagonist, which will bother the English grammar nerds out there (e.g., a scene in which Artyom enters a dark area, and the narration states something along the lines of 'it is so dark that you cannot see anything').
Artyom is the main protagonist and also is the most realistic in terms of being a flawed character. Rupert Degas' performance of all the characters was varied and impressive, and the accents applied were very convincing to a listener with little exposure beyond the Hollywood version of a Russian accent. It was seldom difficult to tell which character was which as the performer gave each their own unique tones, inflections, and mannerisms.
There is a technical error early in one of the chapters wherein the brief "music" clip that bookends each chapter plays again, overlapping with the narrator's audio. I believe it was around chapter 10 or 12 when it occurred.
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