The Caves of Drach
- Publishing details:
UK: Faber, 1977, in print until about 1981, h/b. ISBN 0-571-11037-1.
Our quartet of heroes is on holiday in Majorca when they hear of the disappearance
of a young boy in some local caves. They mount an expedition to find him, and find
a huge light and airy underground world populated by four-foot tall humanoids -
Cenobians, who live in an high-tech Utopia. They will not be allowed to return to
the surface unless they promise to keep the existence of the Cenobians secret -
but Morrey, realising that Cenobian technology could end famine and disease, refuses
An enjoyable read. Perhaps the portrayal of the Utopian underground world seems
rather old fashioned for a book written in the late seventies, but on the plus side
the Majorcan locale is vividly evoked.
'This one is OK for those of you who are parents of kids in the 11-14 age group;
for this is obviously the market it is machine-tooled for. Juvenile sf, it seems,
has changed about as much as the Dandy and Beano: here we have four
astronaut buddies who talk like Harry Wharton, Bob Cherry and co. in the Bunter
saga. We even have a bewhiskered ex-RAF type who goes on about 'That last little
dust-up with Jerry'. As to characterisation, The Caves of Drach compares
unfavourably with Frank Hampton's Dan Dare comic strip.
'On the other hand, Hugh Walters' basic plot is pretty good sf, when you think about
it; and it's sufficiently unpredictable. A multi-billionaire's grandson - spoiled,
of course - gets lost in the eponymous caves, which are situated in Majorca. The
multi-billionaire employs the four astronaut buddies (who are on holiday) to go
after the lost boy. They discover the boy, perfectly content in the middle of a
secret subterranean civilisation, which they refer to as 'the Inside World'. The
boy - like all the Outsiders who preceded him - has been drugged into forgetfulness
of the Surface World. The Inside World is run by dwarflike beings, age-old, and
virtually immortal, who probably originated in the stars and took refuge Inside
when the Terran Ice Age threatened. They own all things in common, have a highly-advanced
but perfectly static technology, are sexless, and are generally wise and content.
They like to learn about the Surface World from Outsiders; but, as they also like
to keep their world safe from the sickness and self-division at the Surface, they
do not allow newcomers to leave. They drug them into oblivious contentment.
'By the time the story is over, Chris Godfrey, leader of the astronaut buddies,
becomes - potentially, anyway - a bridge between the Inside World and the Surface.
Indeed, he may be the beginning of an ultimate bridge between Outside and Inside,
outer space and the subterranenean world. The Inside World is a trap; but only through
such a reconciliation between Ultimate Inside and ultimate Outside can the war,
wastage and division on the Surface be transcended ---
'All this is delicately hinted at, in very simple language. I quite enjoyed the
half of the book; and it could perhaps, really fire some 'juvenile' imaginations.'
Brian Griffin, Vector Magazine #82, Aug 1977