Caves in SF

Okay, I had not noticed any specific trend toward caves appearing in SFF. But here’s a post from The Book Smugglers discussing recent caves and caverns in SFF novels.

Is caving the new shiny thing in speculative fiction? Three books—a novel and two novellas—I read recently are Science Fiction thrillers featuring caving. Heck, it truly works as a horror hook for me, as I can’t imagine anything scarier than spelunking in the dark, pretty much alone and in an inhospitable environment, be said environment another planet, an artefact from another civilization or an outworld prison.       

It’s probably just coincidence, but hey, I actually like caves quite a bit. Our science teacher waaaaaaay back in grade school took us caving a bunch. We spent the night in a cave once. Very neat. I went along on a bat census in college, also neat, we were counting various species of bats, but I fear I don’t recall which species or how many we found.

Anyway, let me see:

In The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (published last April), a young, inexperienced caver takes on a very very well paid job in a new, unexplored cave system on a different planet. …While she continues with the mission, Gyre slowly starts to realise that the mission is not so straightforward, Em may be lying to her, the cave is not so safe, and there are things in the dark.      

Oh, that sounds fun, it really does. I will add, though, that the horror aspect of the story seems to come to the forefront a bit more if you read the Amazon description, so that’s something to note. Here’s the full joint review by the Book Smugglers.

Walking to Aldebaran is a new novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky (out on May 28) … A probe is sent to explore a strange (possibly alien) artifact in the outskirts of the galaxy (the trip of a lifetime! Literally!) and Gary is part of the mission. But Things Go Wrong (as per usual) when a new mission is sent down to the artifact and Gary finds himself alone, walking and walking and walking those dark entrails. And as you probably guessed it, there are things in the dark.

One more:

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan (out this week) is a thing of beauty. Bee is a queer latinx who together with her lover, Chela, is trapped in the hell-ish caverns of a prison planet Colel-Cab that has been created specifically for people like them: murderous telepaths. But Bee doesn’t remember what she has done, or why. She doesn’t even know how long it has been that they are have been there. She only knows she loves Chela and that Chela is always looking out for her. But then someone from the outside manages to reach out to Bee, and she realises the only thing in the dark is her.

Goodness, that sounds awful. Way too creepy for me. Don’t care if Ana loved it, that last line triggered a definite No No No! response from me.

Meanwhile, my favorite cave adventure in fiction is actually in a murder mystery: When Lindsay is lost in the cave in Questionable Remains. This is a low-stress situation for the reader because, hey, mystery series, three guesses whether Lindsay survives. But the author does a great job handling the physical description of the cave, tying it into the main plot and the historical-interest plot, and making Lindsay’s emotional reactions perfectly believable. In fact, for the rest of the series, Lindsay carries a tiny flashlight on her keychain: light is life.

The only other cave I remember right now is from F. Paul Wilson’s The Healer. Ever read that one? The cave only appears right at the beginning, but wow, major consequences to going into that cave:

Steven Dalt should have died in that cave on the planet Kwashi. After all, as the natives say, of a thousand people attacked by the cave-dwelling alaret, one will not die. But Dalt is that one. He survives, but not without personal cost: he has picked up a passenger: an alien intelligence transferred itself from the alaret to take up residence in his brain. Steven Dalt will never be alone again.

Got a favorite cave in fiction? Or for that matter, in real life? Drop a mention in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Caves in SF”

  1. There must be so many caves in which people hide or take shelter from the rain, but I can only think of three at the moment. The Caves of Fire and Night from Wrede’s Enchanted Forest, the cave where Alethia shelters from the storm in Wrede’s Shadow Magic, and the partially submerged caves where Cassandra gets lost in Host’s Touchstone trilogy. Only one of which is maybe SF.

    I don’t recall reading about any spelunking at all.

  2. I have read at least one sf short story featuring spelunking, but I can’t remember title or author. And it was apparently KU, which means I returned it so it’s not in my list of stuff anymore.

    It was an alien planet, the protaganist had artificial legs, and maybe there was something about skullduggery over funding.

  3. I think most of the caves I can think of are fantasy, not SF. For sinister caves, maybe the one in Locke and Key?

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