Marty was born on the Moon, in the Bubble. His knowledge of Earth comes from documentaries and history classes at school. Life in the Bubble is defined by limitations: on resources, on space. When Marty's best friend is sent to Earth unexpectedly, he befriends the loner, Steve, and the two begin to cause mischief to alleviate their boredom. Finding a key left in a crawler by mistake, they take the vehicle out onto the surface of the Moon. Their journey becomes more than idle exploration when they discover the diary of a man who went missing more than seventy years previously.
The Lotus Caves (1969) is by John Christopher, the same author of one of my favourite reads of last year, The Death of Grass. The latter is a dystopia for adults; The Lotus Caves is sci-fi for children. It will appeal to middle graders, the main characters being two twelve-year-old boys, the writing very accessible and the length short.
I found this book rather slow to start but the pace picks up quite nicely as soon as the boys take the crawler beyond the limits of where children of the Bubble are supposed to venture. This isn't one of Christopher's many dystopian works but he creates a wonderful creepiness as Marty begins to discover the truth about what resides in the Lotus Caves. It was difficult to get a full sense of any of the characters, but through the course of the novel Marty develops from a somewhat bland, easily-led boy into an intelligent free-thinker. Steve, on the other hand, who in the Bubble seems to be the independent one, if a tad reckless, is revealed to be weaker willed than his friend.
The novel shines in the last third. The vivid descriptions of the Lotus Caves and the unpleasant truth behind what the boys--and the missing man--call the Plant makes for interesting reading. The action is wrapped up a little quickly, and the beginning is a touch slow, but The Lotus Caves is a worthy addition to a middle-grader's sci-fi library, or as an introduction to the genre.
I'm pleased to discover there's meant to be a film version of this book released in 2010/11. It will certainly lend itself to adaptation. The phosphorescent world of the Lotus Caves reminds me a lot of the glowing world of Avatar's Pandora.