Those Damn Russians (And Fie Upon Thee, TekSavvy! Part 2)

April 1, 2012 § Leave a comment


Week 13: Metro 2033, Dmitry Glukhovsky

Oh goodness, lots of things happened this week, but as you can surmise from the title of this update, one of those things was not my place getting internet. I continue to live in an internet-less bubble that grows tighter and tighter every day. What’s really bothering me is not that I can’t waste time browsing the sites that I used to browse (although I really miss imgur), but that this is beginning to cut into things like checking my email, job hunting, maintaining my blog, and doing things like checking the fracking weather.

May I point out that the weather, in Toronto in March, makes no sense.

Here’s an update to my internet story: Check the intro here, but we were told that the technician couldn’t work because he didn’t have authorization on Tuesday. That is annoying, but acceptable. Hey, these things happen. I mean, we were raging, but it was ok. We survived. The crumbs that we could get scrounging from the tables of coffee-shops and my roommate’s smartphone wireless plan were enough. We agreed that he would come back on Friday and everything was satisfactory. I want to say wonderful, but it won’t be wonderful until memes rain from heaven like mana.

On Thursday, we received an email from TekSavvy that said we missed an appointment on Tuesday. We raged at them with the fire of a thousand suns because we met both techs. In response to our reasonable complaint that “you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, Customer Service Representative”, they promised to kick it up to “escalation”. Oh, and my rage was ignited further because they a) couldn’t tell us what time the contractor “didn’t” come, and b) we clearly, clearly interacted with the tech. They billed us for missing an appointment without a receipt or anything from our end. It was the tech’s word against ours, and we only got our word IN because the roommate complained. What. The. Hell. McDonald’s has better customer service than that.

In any case, they rescheduled for next Thursday and said that the tech might be there on Friday. As you can guess, they didn’t show.

Oh, and the $100 off the activation fee we were going to get waived for activating in March? They could not guarantee us that we would get it off if we activated in April, despite taking our money for March and having it be their problem we weren’t activated in March. This is just added to the fact that one of the techs they contracted out lied to us and them to rip us off for $35.

Up. Theirs.

Like this, but with more pompadour

Second, Metro 2033.

I was actually introduced to this story from the video game which is, conveniently, also titled Metro 2033. The game had some problems but created the best atmosphere of any video game I’ve ever played. It was the little things that got me, like when you check your map, your character actually pulls out a paper map to look at. If you can’t see it because it’s too dark, then your character will light his lighter. You were not only experiencing what the character experienced, you were the character. Frankly, the game lacks a little bit (and seriously, screw the level where you have to sneak between the warring fascists and communists), but if you play it on easy and just have experience it, it’s an amazing adventure that is scary, challenging, and exciting at the same time.

In any case, the story is that there is some sort of world-ending nuclear war and what’s left of humanity now lives huddled in the darkness of the Moscow metro. There, they eke out a horrid existence among the darkness and the mutant horrors that live in the nightmare of the subways. The setting is incredibly interesting, but the book falls into a predictable problem: the setting is more interesting than the story. I wanted to care about the characters and what would happen to them, but I couldn’t. Not only did they die too fast, the ones that didn’t were blank slates used to explore the world the author made. Artyom, the main character, just experiences the world without really interacting with it. A sequel would be phenomenal, one where the author could explore deeper character interactions without needing to build his world.

Plus, a story that took place in Toronto's subway system would be short, only allow 5 people to read it at a time, and constantly interrupt itself with service disruptions.

There are two things that I find interesting about this book. First, it was translated from Russian, and some of the intricacies of the Russian language don’t really…make it through. Here’s a conversation, with the tags edited out:

Damnation! How you frightened me, you tyrant!”

Please forgive him. He’s with me and…He’s nervous.

Just what did you see there, that you shouted out?

‘It was a dream…I had a nightmare.”

A dream?! Well you young people are impressionable.” (Page 431)

You tyrant? Well, I guess so. See, languages are tricky things at the best of times, and when you’re writing fiction it’s even worse. I think I’d come down hard and say that the translator went too close to the source material and didn’t localize as much as she should have. It makes description wonderful and eery, but the conversations stilted and weird.

But that said, I still sympathize with the difficulty of the translator’s job. Here’s an example of how hard languages can be from my German instruction book:

Der Kinder lieben die Eltern”

That means, without context, either “the parents love the children” or “the children love the parents”. With the words that I gave you, it’s impossible to tell the difference. Sure, it’s a simple example, but the problems this presents are introduced in Chapter 2. We didn’t even get to complex verbs before we learned how hard word order can be, and apparently, Russian is a particularly difficult language to learn. I feel her pain.

Because the Germans never caused anyone any problems, ever.

And speaking of Russian, the book is very Russian. The author moralizes a lot in this story, and while it seems preachy at points, it really helps the reader understand this came from a different society. One where authority isn’t to be trusted but isn’t to be challenged either, and one where hope is always in short supply. Hell, the book ends with a great success that might have just ruined everything forever. “Even in success, failure” could be the motto of the Russian state for the past hundred years or so. 2018 is going to be very weird for Russia for a couple of reasons.

Oh, and ladies? Don’t bother reading this book. Not only are there only two (2) times a woman even speaks in the book, they are both old ladies who either 1) criticize the main character or 2) offer to prostitute out their grandson to said character. It’s…not exactly written with a female audience in mind.

Unless this is you. Then this is exactly the book you want.

The difference between the author’s society, style, and theme from my work and the books I usually read was refreshing, even if the story was a little weak as a story. One complaint is that the author talks too much without saying enough (a complaint that I think applies to my work as well), but in the end, it was an interesting read that opened the door to a world of different experiences.

Oh, and if I had to read how the AK-47 is a “machine gun” one more time, I was going to scream. Look, writers out there, a machine gun is different from an assault rifle, and for the love of God and all that is holy, a “clip” is not a “magazine”.

I’m still waiting to write about the Hunger Games, but I don’t want to make this post too long (haha! Post!). My thumbnail sketch is that it’s really quite good and that you should see it. There are problems with it, but my final grade rolls around a B+ to an A- in Canadian terms, so that’s pretty good.

Finally, what with my lack of internet I haven’t seen an amusing picture of a cat in like, a month. It burns far more than it ought to, and I wish I knew why. I wouldn’t want to turn…catatonic?

Woop woop woop

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