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Books about underground locations?
June 2, 2008 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books set in subterranean locations. Caves, sewers, underground cities, hollow earth, etc. Non-Fiction or fiction.

I've recently developed a fixation with everything related to life underground. I'm not too picky about the subject matter of the book, I prefer Sci-Fi or non-fiction topics, but really any recommendation is welcome. Anything goes as long as it takes place underground.

I wouldn't mind some movie suggestions either, I just prefer book choices as I have access to a wide selection of books for free.
posted by highfidelity to Media & Arts (57 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read Vonda McIntyre's book THE EXILE WAITING over and over again when I was a kid and would gladly take another pass if I didn't have two years of unread books on my shelf. SF (although it's barely a factor) and published in '75.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2008


Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere comes instantly to mind.
posted by nkknkk at 6:19 AM on June 2, 2008


The classic is Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
posted by j1950 at 6:22 AM on June 2, 2008


I seem to recall that Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive was mostly set underground.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:24 AM on June 2, 2008


Non-Fiction, The Mole People.
posted by effigy at 6:25 AM on June 2, 2008


Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface by David Standish is a very fun read.
posted by jammy at 6:25 AM on June 2, 2008


The City of Ember - it's more young adult, though, but at least it's a quick read. :) I believe there's a forthcoming movie, too.
posted by timetoevolve at 6:26 AM on June 2, 2008


Blind Descent by Nevada Barr.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2008


Tunnels might be the next Harry Potter.
posted by clearlydemon at 6:39 AM on June 2, 2008


Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky trilogy. (More fantasy than Sci-Fi.)

China Mieville's King Rat is in several ways an interesting counterpart to Gaiman's Neverwhere.

Several of Asimov's Foundation-related books feature Trantor, a planet where city covers the entire surface of the planet, and people rarely - if ever - see the sky.

Iain M. Banks' newest book, Matter, takes place mostly in a type of hollow world called a Shellworld.
posted by ubersturm at 6:41 AM on June 2, 2008


Non-Fiction, The Mole People.

There's a fictional book based on this called Reliquary. It's the sequel to Relic and if you're into Crichton-esque fiction, they're fantastic.
posted by Nelsormensch at 6:41 AM on June 2, 2008


Dark Universe the first novel by Daniel F Galouye, is one I remember reading many years ago. I believe it was nominated for a Hugo.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2008


I know you asked specifically about books, but the documentary Dark Days seems especially up your alley.
posted by buriedpaul at 6:54 AM on June 2, 2008


"Level 7" by Mordecai Roshwald -- a post-apocolyptic novel set underground.

"The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells. -- a key section takes place in an underground society. I've never heard anyone draw this parallel before, by I think Wells' novel influence a section of "Watership Down."
posted by grumblebee at 7:00 AM on June 2, 2008


Doesn't The Time Machine qualify?

Also, John Hodgman is preoccupied with mole-men, in The Areas of My Expertise and (I think) a video too. I'm having a Google issue, but let me know if you can't find it (and want to).
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2008


House of Leaves?
posted by notyou at 7:19 AM on June 2, 2008


The second Borrible book, The Borribles Go For Broke, by Michael de Larrabeiti takes place in part in an old river running underneath Wandsworth.

The first Borrible book is a pretty nasty satire of beloved children's book characters the Wombles, who live in burrows on Wimbledon Common.

And since all my references are fantasy books from my childhood, a second mention of Watership Down which deals with rabbits living underground in their warrens.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:21 AM on June 2, 2008


The Secret People by John Beynon Harris (aka John Wyndham.) (Great call on the Galouye novel, le morte de bea arthur -- I remember enjoying that one back in the day.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:29 AM on June 2, 2008


Peeps by Scott Westerfeld takes place partially underground.
posted by cider at 7:46 AM on June 2, 2008


Many of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft involve exploring vaulted caverns of unimaginable size below the surface of the earth. Stephen King wrote a short story "Jerusalem's Lot" (I think) in a similar vein about a man who discovers a world under his castle.

Also, House of Leaves.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:47 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another Iain M Banks one - the last third of Consider Phlebas takes place in a huge underground railway network.
posted by jontyjago at 7:51 AM on June 2, 2008


I should mention I'm perfectly fine with any genre other than Science Fiction also. Movies recommendations are welcome also, I just prefer books. My only real problem with underground movies is that it turns into me feeling like I'm just spending the whole time watching a black screen trying to figure out who is talking.

Level 7 sounds interesting, I also enjoy post-apocalyptic settings. Several of these books were on my list to read already (Mole People, Blind Descent, Reliquary) but I'm excited to have several more now.
posted by highfidelity at 7:58 AM on June 2, 2008


The Last Magician: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital features a colony of the homeless squatting in tunnels and underground quarries beneath the city of Sidney in Australia. Oyster by the same author is set in the opal mining fields of Australia where people sometimes live underground.
posted by tallus at 8:00 AM on June 2, 2008


Some London Underground non-fiction:
London's Disused Underground Stations and Abandoned Stations on London's Underground: A Photographic Record

and here's two website on the subject just for completeness, London Underground History and London's Abandoned Tube Stations

And a book on Las Vegas Beneath the Neon, which I've yet to buy but look good, here's a bldgblog post about it.
posted by Z303 at 8:09 AM on June 2, 2008


Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami spends ages in a complex underground area.
posted by Ms. Saint at 8:11 AM on June 2, 2008


Wow, my to read pile is going to get a whole lot bigger, I can't wait to dig into these.

Thanks and keep them coming!
posted by highfidelity at 8:15 AM on June 2, 2008


Steven Millhauser's Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer takes place in turn of the century Manhattan and features an enterprising entrepreneur who decides to take an inverse approach to the sky scraper.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 8:30 AM on June 2, 2008


253 is set on a London Underground train.
posted by jontyjago at 8:39 AM on June 2, 2008


Ted the Caver is one of my favorite things of all time.
posted by Jonsnews at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2008


Bone by George C. Chesbro is a thriller in which the tunnels under New York City play a significant role.
posted by maurice at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2008


Some movies:

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (2009)

Things to Come (H.G. Wells movie)

Unknown World (Scientists use a gigantic drilling machine for an expedition to the center of the earth.)

The Last Wave

Descent

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Beneath the Planet of the Apes
posted by grumblebee at 9:40 AM on June 2, 2008


Oh, you might also want to check out the following:

"Ace in the Hole" (a.k.a "The Big Carnival") -- Billy Wilder movie, based on the true story of Floyd Collins, a man trapped in a cave.

"Floyd Collins" -- a musical based on the same story. There's no movie version, but the original cast album is fantastic.
posted by grumblebee at 9:41 AM on June 2, 2008


Not a book, but Ted's Caving Page is a good read.
posted by Melsky at 9:46 AM on June 2, 2008


The definitive study of the imagery of the undergorund in literature is Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society and the Imagination by Rosalind Williams. You may be pleased to hear that MIT has just brought out a new edition with a new afterword. Scores of books and stories are discussed, mostly from the 19th century. You might find it interesting to get some critical insight into why you want to read about the underground ...

As jontyjago suggests, 253 by Geoff Ryman is excellent. It's non-linear fiction, 253 biographies of 253 train passengers, each 253 words long.
posted by WPW at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Set in the distant future, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is the horrifying first-hand account of a bureaucratic agent trapped deep within the subterranean bowels of a vast underground military complex."

yet another amazing novel by Stanislaw Lem
posted by jammy at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2008


I wouldn't call "Ace in the Hole" (which I just watched and highly recommend) based on the the story of Floyd Collins. In fact, the main character (played by Kirk Douglas) is an unscrupulous 1950's newspaper man who is quite aware of the media circus that was created around Floyd Collins thirty years previously and mentions him as the reason he quite purposefully creates his own media circus about a man in a similar situation trapped in a cave in New Mexico.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2008


Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel is set on an earth where everyone lives underground, and suffers from crippling agoraphobia if they should ever emerge. Actually, I don't think it's clear whether the cities are completely underground or are just opaquely domed modern cities that have expanded downward ... doesn't make much difference to the occupants, however.
posted by mumkin at 11:05 AM on June 2, 2008


R. A. Salvatore's "Homeland" from his Forgotten Realms trilogy is about one dark elf's attempt to escape the underworld. Parts of Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" qualify as well.
posted by of strange foe at 11:50 AM on June 2, 2008


Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" offers an overview of the underground's importance to various occult groups. Entertaining stuff.

Part of Chris Marker's short film, "La Jetee," takes place underground; watch it here (it's in Google video).
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2008


The Descent by Jeff Long is nearly all set in caves and the like.
The Day Before Midnight by Stephen Hunter has a several underground sections
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:40 PM on June 2, 2008


Death Line / Raw Meat takes place in the London Underground

I should add the novel Descent above isn't related to the film of the same name (although they have a similar premise)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:43 PM on June 2, 2008


How about The Silver Chair? The sixth book in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series?
posted by leibniz at 12:59 PM on June 2, 2008


and another: the film Delicatessen features the Troglodytes, a subterranean gang of militant vegetarians - great movie
posted by jammy at 1:10 PM on June 2, 2008


How about a book on legal philosophy? I kid you not: Peter Suber, The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Nine New Opinions (Routledge 1998). See the author's website: http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/cse.htm#pref
posted by davemack at 3:20 PM on June 2, 2008


You might want to check out this decidedly non-fiction website: The Sandhog Project.

From the site: "As you read this, urban miners, known as sandhogs, are 800 feet below Manhattan excavating 500 million-year old rock to provide fresh water to the city. The Sandhog Project is a multi-media site that explores the simultaneity and dependency of the above-ground city life and this subterranean world."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:58 PM on June 2, 2008


City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanDerMeer is not entirely subterranean but has some really cool parts that are (and some crazy mushroom characters).
posted by ch1x0r at 5:35 PM on June 2, 2008


A good part of the oddball Raw Shark Texts takes place underground.
posted by shothotbot at 8:23 PM on June 2, 2008


Sewer Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff; funny book, sci fi, and much of it takes place (surprise!) in a sewer.
posted by purenitrous at 8:45 PM on June 2, 2008


I wouldn't call "Ace in the Hole" (which I just watched and highly recommend) based on the the story of Floyd Collins. In fact, the main character (played by Kirk Douglas) is an unscrupulous 1950's newspaper man who is quite aware of the media circus that was created around Floyd Collins thirty years previously and mentions him as the reason he quite purposefully creates his own media circus about a man in a similar situation trapped in a cave in New Mexico.

It depends on how you define "based on." I didn't mean "it was the story of..." I meant "inspired by..."
posted by grumblebee at 8:47 PM on June 2, 2008


A little late to the party here, but I just got done watching the dystopian black comedy A Boy and His Dog, which fits what you're looking for pretty well. It's about a boy named Vic and his caustic talking dog Blood foraging for food and women in the ruins of post-World War IV Arizona. A good chunk of the story takes place in the subterranean city of Topeka, a strictly-ordered nightmare vision of 1950s suburbia swathed in a perpetual underground night.

You can watch the film for free here, or read the original short story by Harlan Ellison in any of his anthologies.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:28 AM on June 3, 2008


The closing section of Herbert Read's novel The Green Child is set in an utopian underground community.
posted by misteraitch at 2:24 AM on June 3, 2008


Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer

I wouldn't reccommend The City of Ember, it is very much a children's book.
posted by ninebelow at 2:36 AM on June 3, 2008


Sphere, by Michael Crichton. Takes place underwater.
posted by awenner at 8:46 AM on June 3, 2008


New York Underground
posted by timepiece at 7:50 AM on June 4, 2008


The Underground Man by Mick Jackson is about the Duke of Portland, who built a whole underground section to his stately home, including a ballroom and a railway, and lived down there.
posted by fedbybirds at 7:29 AM on June 21, 2008


Large parts of the Death Gate Cycle take place underground, under water, and in other such exotic locales.
posted by jeni at 9:22 AM on June 21, 2008


One of my favourite movies: Underground By Emir Kusturica.
posted by uauage at 2:01 AM on September 26, 2008


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