Picture the scene: humanity has once again illustrated its immeasurable stupidity by wiping out all life on Earth with a nuclear Armageddon. Those bloody bombs sure know how to ruin a perfectly viable ecosystem! Some twenty years later and it's now 2033 and we're living in the Moscow Metro System, perhaps the only place on Earth where human life still exists. Being reasonably safe from the perils of fatal radiation doses and the intense sunlight that would surely blind any tunnel-dwelling eyeball, our pitiful species continues to exist in the dark, deep, dank tunnels, living on a diet of pork and mushrooms.
In our absence, in the skeletal remains of our once glorious metropolises, radiation borne creatures of unfathomable shape, and indistinguishable origin have begun to thrive, inheriting the surface of our planet and ensuring that mankind will never again dominate the planet they once commanded with immense authority.
In the subways, our race is once again split around separate ideologies and beliefs, with individual stations becoming mini-countries built on hard-line political ideals or simple commerce and trade agreements. Even in these cramped, limited conditions our race still manages to kick the hell out of each other, rather than band together for the greater good. Now, only the bare necessities of life matter any more, and AK-47 bullets are the only accepted currency. They too are a necessity, for in the tunnels between stations, unexplained dangers and death lurk in the abandoned side rooms and drainage systems. Humanity is pitiful.
The story centres around a young Russian, Artyom, who is tasked with a seemingly simple task of reaching the centre of the Metro system to warn of the perilous creatures encroaching on his station. What I loved about the book was just how succinctly it was written. An obvious artefact of a Russian-to-English translation, the book conveyed every sentence in a matter-of-fact manner and it wasn't dripping with metaphor or emotion, this book turned out to be a very refreshing read. Furthermore, it kept me entertained throughout and I dissolved the 450-odd pages in almost record time for such a slow reader. Although some aspects were predictable (the hero is almost never convincingly imperilled - you always know he'll get out of a scrape), the book was not as repetitive as I predicted and the ending and segments of life on the surface were simply beautiful. The author's writing style also portrays the naivety of a human being raised in such a small and predictable world with shocking clarity.
The book made me wonder whether or not I would actually like to be close to an Underground station when the bombs rained down. The only guaranteable thing in life seems to be the propensity for the human race to irrevocably destroy itself under any circumstances.