Death World / Literature

  • Most plant life on Cyteen, in C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union 'verse, is basically a cross between cottonwood and asbestos, and is full of alkaloid poisons and heavy metals to boot. Go outside the precip towers' envelope without protection and you die quick; get a smaller exposure and you die later from lung cancer. The animal life, at least, is slow and stupid. The original colonists started terraforming measures, which they pulled the plug on fast when an anti-aging drug was derived from local biology.
  • Ket in Animorphs: The Ellimist Chronicles. The surface is covered in lava and poisonous gases. The Ketran death penalty is applied by sending someone to the surface. An alien scouting party that lands on Ket wanders around for hours on the surface in environment suits, before one of their scouts accidentally crashes into a Floating Continent miles above the ground.
    • Several others in Animorphs. The Yeerk homeworld is described as positively hellish. The Hork-Bajir do not go into the lower parts of the equatorial canyon because of all the monsters that live there terrify them (Hork-Bajir being seven feet tall and having blades at every possible joint should give you an idea of how bad their monsters are). The sheer bio-diversity (the Yeerks say their are at best, 100 animal species on their planet. The Andalite home world has exactly two species of birds) of Earth terrifies the Yeerks and Andalites and the fact that the dominant species is humans baffles them. In fact, the Andalites developed morphing technology as an espionage tool and most users specialized in one animal. The thought of offensively weaponizing it never occurred to them until the humans got a hold of it and certainly wasn't practical given either side's bio-diversity.
  • Banshee, in John Steakley's Armor. The cold, windy, acidic atmosphere of the planet itself is instant death, even before the Hive Mind alien insects come into play. The main character's survival strategy is to become an utterly nihilistic schizophrenic.
  • The version of Mars portrayed in the Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs qualifies. Due to an ecological catastrophe in the distant past, the planet is a near-desert, with an atmosphere that is only breathable because of an eons-old "atmosphere factory" that almost no one knows how to fix if it breaks. Just about every type of fauna is carnivorous, and they're all huge. To make matters worse, in order to keep their populations under control, the various humanoid natives have a culture the causes them to exist in a constant state of perpetual warfare, consider assassination and kidnapping to be respectable and honorable professions, and fight duels at the drop of a hat. And the non-humanoid natives make many Always Chaotic Evil races seem friendly.
    • Among those humanoid natives, one individual in a thousand dies a natural death. 98 percent are killed violently, and the remaining two percent voluntarily go on a last pilgrimage down a sacred river where they are eaten, or sometimes enslaved.
    • Then there's the various hidden enclaves of practically any sort of monster you could imagine, including but not limited to 15-foot tall carnivorous apes with six limbs, giant lions, and hounds with ten limbs and three rows of teeth.
    • To get across just how tough the Green Men are, they like to camp in any old ruins they happen to find. Those same ruins that might be the lair of some bunch you really don't want to have met.
  • Bas-Lag, the setting used in China Miéville's novels is pretty inhospitable on the whole, but it also contains at least two of its own Death Worlds. The most notable is the Cacotopic Stain where getting eaten by giant caterpillar men is the least of your worries. Death itself probably isn't very high up on the list of bad things that can happen to you. To wit: a large number of people are collectively turned into a giant amoeba, just by coming near to the Stain. This is not the worst place on Bas-Lag. The worst place has giant, nigh invincible, soul sucking moths halfway down the food chain.
  • The eponymous planet in the Stephen King short story Beachworld was covered in a sort of living sand that hypnotized people and worked its way into any machinery.
  • In David Brin's short novel, Bios, the planet undergoing colonization is completely and entirely toxic to earth-life. While things like the rock the planet is made out of tend to be okay, everything else is going to kill you. This is theorized to be the case that the planet had a naturally higher Arsenic content than Earth and lacked the similar Carbon levels, meaning that all life and life-derivatives are Arsenic-based lifeforms, and thus highly poisonous.
  • Speaking of bios: in the other eponymous work, a novel by Robert Charles Wilson, the planet Isis embodies the trope. It's the sole planet on which extraterrestrial life has been discovered in the setting, and, to look at, is very much like the Earth: well within the habitable zone of its star, with diverse biomes, water-rich, with carbon-based biochemistry - more or less a paradise unspoiled by man. It will also kill you the moment you leave your cosy multilayered, hermetically sealed suit or wholly sealed ground station-fortress. Every single microorganism on the planet is a lethal pathogen to humans, with the Isian biosphere munching on Terrestrial biology as an appetizer for breakfast. Oh, it has several species of large carnivores (who'll eat you), and a species of near-sentient, aggressive subterranean creatures -something like a primate analogue- who'll club you to death (and then eat you), but really, they're not your worst problem (they'll kill you fast, at least). The few milliliters of air you breathe if your suit is breached or the drop of water that enters your mouth is. The reason for this utter lethality is actually justified in-story. Explanation 
  • The world created by the release of ice-nine in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle certainly qualifies.
  • In Sergey Sukhinov's Chronicles of the 21st Century, Venus is described this way. Besides the Real Life reasons of scorching heat, poisonous gases, acidic rains, and low visibility, there are also strange non-carbon-based plants that form a lush forest on a certain plateau. Some of these plants behave in a very plant-like manner, able to uproot and move on their own. They can also defend themselves if necessary and even hunt for food. Even though humans are inedible to the plants, it's usually too late for the poor saps (no pun intended) who end up a tree's lunch before being spat out. Additionally, due to many atmospheric factors, it's almost impossible to solve murders outside the domed city.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
    • The Land has the Sarangrave Flat. It is a seemingly typical swamp, perfectly natural and good like all things in the Land. However it also the home of all deadly and poisonous things.
    • In the Second Chronicles the whole land becomes this under the power of the Sunbane. Every five days randomly the Land gets a years worth of Drought, Rain, Disease, or Fertitily. The people need to use the Sunbane which causes it to survive.
  • The underground prison world of Piers Anthony's Chthon and its sequel Phthor is a hellish nightmare world. The animals are all deadly and implacable. All the water sources are inhabited by monsters that will either eat you (if you're lucky), or turn you into a distorted zombie component of itself (if you're considerably less so). Native diseases can cause you to suffocate in gallons of your own mucus. The only way out is to either buy your freedom with a gem—only available inside a scalding, unapproachable geothermal vent—or a weeks-long trek through an even worse part of the world.
  • Pournelle created a bunch for his CoDominium series; most of them were forcibly populated by people the CoDominium wanted to summarily execute without being accused of genocide, and were unpleasantly surprised when they survived anyway.
    • Tanith is an uber-Hungry Jungle with your expected assortment of lethal critters and horrible diseases. People only go there to grow the drugs Earth uses to keep the lower classes stoned.
    • Frystaat is an uber-Thirsty Desert with twice Earth's gravity, blinding ultraviolet sunlight, sandstorms of industrial-grade abrasives half the year, is so hot humans can only live at the poles, and the native life is hunted with anti-tank weapons. All the Afrikaners came here by choice, so they wouldn't have to deal with the CoDominium for a while. The convict-transportees that followed them became a slave caste, and after a few centuries, the population is considered a race of Super Soldiers.
    • Fulson's World is an entire planet of Alaska - precious metals under a permanent snow cap.
    • And the War World series is essentially a thought experiment between him and Larry Niven summed up as, "Under Mundane Dogma, exactly how horrible can we make a planet where humans can breathe the air?":
      • Tidally locked with a deep space gas giant bigger than Jupiter.
      • It rotates like Mercury - "days" can and do last years, in which the Sun rises about halfway, reverses its course, then sets on the same horizon.
      • Tidally-induced earthquakes galore. An entire planet of Southern Nevada canyons with Andes-style rocky peaks.
      • The only temperate area is in the equatorial zone, which is kind of like northern Scotland. Due to the thin atmosphere the only near-comfortable area is a single deep rift valley in the equatorial area.
      • And all the indigenous life is exactly as horrible, as indicated by names such as "shark's fin," "hangman bush," "land gator," "dragon" and "wireweed".
      • If you're wondering exactly why anyone chose to live here? Most didn't - they were deported there by the CoDominium - and as even bureaucrats had enough heart not to send hippies to hell, most of those deportees were violent criminals. The only people who came there with technology was a Path of Inspiration kooky enough to pay to come.
      "It's not precisely a niche for life. More like a loophole."
  • The Culture:
    • The homeworld of the Idirans is described as one of the nastiest places in the galaxy. The Idirans are naturally incredible badasses and biologically immortal without needing genetic engineering or cybernetics, thanks to hefty pressure from the other monstrous species of their homeworld and its unhealthy background radiation.
    • Another featured "death world" is quite literally so. The native civilization wiped themselves out long long ago and it is now left as a memorial of sorts, protected by an Energy Being which is dangerously selective about who can visit the surface. Apparently there are many worlds like this, though most people are smart enough to stay away from them and their protectors.
  • The Death Gate Cycle:
    • The Labyrinth originally existed as a prison for an entire race, but over time it acquired malevolent sentience and turned into one of these.
    • Abarrach also qualifies, as it is essentially the inside of a volcano with no sunlight to provide energy, combining the worst aspects of sulfuric atmosphere with killing cold and dark. All of the non-magical people died off long ago, and even the demigod Sartan struggle to survive. They have to use all of their godlike powers just to survive, essentially bringing them down to normal.
  • An After the End United States has become this in the Long-Running Book Series Deathlands. Literal acid rain, clouds of radioactive and chemical junk, pyrotoxin smogs, fetid strontium swamps, 200-mph winds, kill-crazed mutant monsters and the general fact that most Humans Are Bastards in this Crapsack World.
  • The origin of the phrase is probably the science fiction novel (and subsequent trilogy) Deathworld, by Harry Harrison, which predated Dune by more than five years. The planet Pyrrus has very harsh environmental characteristics: twice Earth gravity, very high tectonic activity, a 42° axial tilt, and the occasional 30-meter tides. Life could only survive by cooperating temporarily during crises, so every single living thing (plant, animal, microbe...) is psychic. Not just that, but the high radioactivity causes them to mutate and evolve very rapidly. When humanity settles on the planet, they accidentally piss off the local wildlife during an earthquake, causing every living thing to treat humanity as a continuous "natural disaster," driven by one mutual psychic mandate: "KILL THE ENEMY!". By the start of the story, the escalating war has remade everything into dedicated living war machines (tree roots are now venom fanged Combat Tentacles, etc.). The Pyrran's induction course for new residents is designed to instil in them the fact that everything is out to kill them: even sitting down can get you a "Game Over".
  • The Russian Shared Universe Death Zone has localized variant of this in the form of the Five Zones, which formed at the sites of cataclysmic explosions (the result of a failed wormhole experiment) that wipe out several major cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Zones are surrounded by bubble-like gravity barriers. At the center of each Zone is a perpetual vortex that links each Zone with the mysterious extradimensional Node. Rampant nanotechnology (originally designed to terraform Mars) is ubiquitous in the Zones, and anything infected by it turns into a mechanical zombie of different kinds. Any vehicle turns into a dangerous version of itself armed to the teeth (e.g. tractors with plasma guns) and behave largely like animals. Any human that gets infected and doesn't receive treatment soon is turned into a "staltech", a mechanical zombie that lumbers through the Zone with an unknown goal and attacks any human (or sometimes another zombie) it sees. Despite this, a good number of people still come to the Zones in search of fortune and adventure, as finding and selling Artifacts is a lucrative business, even though these artifacts refuse to work outside the Zones' anomalous field. Most do not survive. Those that do are called stalkers. Making it a year in a Zone automatically makes you elite (the Zones have been around for only a few years, but many characters treat it as if they have been there for decades if not centuries). Add to those difficulties various anomalies, such as an anti-gravity field that lifts you up and, after you glide out of it, normal gravity takes over, and you plummet to your death. The world outside the Zone is the same, but inside definitely fits the trope.
    • Also anyone infected with the "scorgs" (rogue nanotech) can be saved, but only by a trained specialist who converts infected areas into usable implants. As with all Zone tech, it stops working a short distance from the Zone, and many of these implants replace vital bodily functions. This means that, for most, leaving the Zone is a death sentence, but then most stalkers can't imagine living in the Big World anymore.
  • The alternate Earth of the Destroyermen series. The series takes place mainly in the islands of southeast Asia (the Phillipines, Borneo, Malaysia, etc.), so you're in the Ring of Fire, meaning there's occasional earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The dinosaurs never went extinct on this Earth, so on land, you've got carnivorous dinosaurs and other reptiles with too many teeth, including an intelligent human-sized lizard species called the Grik that serves as the series' Big Bad. One island has a sapient amphibian race that doesn't take kindly to intruders. Another has a kudzu-like plant that reproduces by sprouting roots inside critters that get scratched by it. At sea, there are any number of voracious predatory fish species (the most prevalent being basically piranhas IN SALTWATER!), "mountain fish" that can eat ships, and hurricanes that can be worse than those on Earth. The alternate Earth isn't so horrible as to prevent organized societies, however.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • XXXX, or Fourecks, the Discworld equivalent of Australia. When Death asked his library for information about dangerous creatures, he got buried in Dangerous Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Fish, Jellyfish, Insects, Spiders, Crustaceans, Grasses, Trees, Mosses and Lichens of Terror Incognita that went at least as far as "Volume 29c Part Three." When he asked about creatures that weren't dangerous, he received a simple slip of paper that read "Some of the sheep."
    • In The Science of Discworld, the UU wizards quickly conclude that Earth is a Death World, as the ridiculously-spherical planet keeps getting hit by rocks, frozen, or otherwise decimated every few million years. One of the wizards proposed something that could survive the various impact-related shenanigans that make planets such a bloody dangerous place to stay: a heavily armoured mile-wide limpet that ate whales.
    • There's places on the Disc where the magic is so strong and so wild that if you go to sleep you probably won't wake up the same shape. Then there's places like the (long-since-destroyed; thank you, Rincewind) Temple of the Sender of Eight, which was within a few days ride of the most populous region on the whole central continent.
  • David Drake has used this more than once:
    • There are the eponomyous Seas of Venus wherein the plants and animals are all varying degrees of dangerous ranging from "inclement" to "you just got killed so thoroughly, your parents are retroactively dead." (This is based on the novella "Clash by Night" by Henry Kuttner writing as Lawrence O'Donnell.)
    • Redliners. Burned-out, over-wrought veterans with more than a few ill deeds on their consciences are sent along to safeguard a group of purely-civilian colonists on a new world. They were warned that the planet had dangerous wildlife, but it turns out to be an enemy base gone wrong, of sorts — the entire biosphere is a weapons system that evolves itself in response to the defenses (proactive and otherwise) that the protagonists devise. See When Trees Attack for examples.
    • The world of Bellevue in The General series Drake co-wrote with S.M. Stirling is only partially terraformed and the native fauna is highly dangerous.
    • There is a scene in The Jungle where men die in their sleep because fast-growing plants grew into their bodies. The vampire honeysuckle attack is another prime bit.
    • Cross the Stars also has a sleepers killed by fast-growing plants scene, as well as the ocean world Tethys, where practically all the sea life large enough to see is carnivorous, and one species can grow to 40 metres long.
  • Frank Herbert's Dune: Arrakis and Salusa Secundus might be the Trope Maker for many. As of the first novel, only about half of those born on Salusa live past puberty. Salusa Secundus is the home world for the feared Imperial Sardukar. One of the reasons they are so feared and elite is that simply surviving long enough to be recruited makes you a badass by default.
    • And of course Arrakis is one massive desert full of Sand Worms that will probably eat you if dehydration or the Fremen (whose women and children are a match for Sardaukar) don't kill you first. At least until Leto II terraforms it, only to change it back 4000 years later because without the worms there is no natural source of Spice.
  • The titular Edge in The Edge Chronicles, hoo boy. This one has several regions, and they all offer different flavors of death. The Deepwoods are crawling with things that can and will kill you horribly, it's telling enough that one of the very first creatures our hero encounters in the first book is a giant worm that floats and whose venom will inflate you like a balloon until you explode. The Mire is a huge toxic wasteland which also crawls with predators and bandits, and where every step puts one at risk of sinking into a cesspool of chemical waste. And the beautiful, beckoning Twilight Woods? They won't kill you outright, no. That's the path to a living death. And what about the Edgelands? A place wreathed in deep mist, where you can barely see an inch in front of you, and a single step can either send you tumbling down off the cliff into nowhere, or wandering off into the Twilight Woods (see above). And most of the cities are not much better, either - Undertown is the very definition of a Wretched Hive, and Sanctaphrax is ridden with plots, conspiracies and power struggles.
  • Lusitania in the Ender's Game series has exactly six native species thanks to a genetically engineered disease called the descolada by the human settlers ("ungluing" in Portuguese). Humans are not part of the descolada's artificial ecology, so it kills them.
  • H. Beam Piper's Four Day Planet has Fenris, generally considered the second worst place to live in the Milky Way. It has ludicrous temperature extremes, and a vast array of downright unpleasant wildlife (that is also lethally poisonous to eat, although if you were dumb enough to eat a tread-snail, you had it coming). The economy is based around whaling a gargantuan sea monster that has to be hunted using military-grade ammunition, and while the beastie is being cut up, the people doing the cutting have to have support fire from machine-gunners to make sure everything else in the ocean doesn't get itself a meal. (The worst place to live is Flourine-Tainted Niflheim, The Planetary Hell, which has an atmosphere made of inordinately reactive fluorine; it's not an example, since the only thing actively trying to kill you is the air...okay, that is pretty unpleasant).
  • While technically not a Death World per se, Henders Island from Fragment fits this trope so beautifully it just has to be included. The entire island's ecology is a vast biological orgy of violence made up of a mix of killer mantis shrimp on steroids and acid excreting Ediacaran fauna. The average survival time for a non-native creature on the island? Two minutes. The average survival time of a native animal is only slightly longer. Everything eats everything. Even tiger-sized creatures are regularly eaten and killed by swarms of badger, rat, and wasp-like creatures. Cannibalism is rampant. Even the "trees", which mostly turn out to be giant killer mantis shrimps as well, want to suck your blood. And they have vertical biting mouths. This fauna is so good at killing that even single celled organisms not native to the island cannot survive here except deep underground. In fact, there are only two species on the island that won't kill you in horrible, nasty ways the moment they see you. And one of those two can still kill you if you tick them off enough. It's actually explicit that should even one insect-sized organism somehow escape from the island, all life on five continents would be wiped out within the span of forty years.
  • C. S. Friedman has used this more than once.
    • In the In Conquest Born universe, Azea's fresh water is often contaminated by parasites; its animal life is not tameable and very dangerous; its plant life is poisonous to humans if not prepared carefully; and the atmosphere has occasional poisonous deathwinds. The planet was settled by refugees who had nowhere else to go, and they had to use genetic engineering on themselves to survive since they didn't have the resources for terraforming.
    • The Coldfire Trilogy features Gerald Tarrant spending several human lifetimes to build a Death World ecology in his lands with careful planning and study, as well as at least one example of others trying the same stunt minus the careful planning and study. As the others are mostly adolescents, Hilarity Ensues. And the planet itself in that trilogy is already a Death World (at least for humans). Tarrant just made his bit of it even more extreme.
    • And in The Madness Season, the Tyr homeworld is a paradise — two months out of the year. The rest of the year, its extreme ellipsoidal orbit causes the entire planetary surface to either become a hellacious volcano landscape or an icebound crust of death. Any animal that wants to survive is forced underground, where they eat each other for the rest of the year.
    • Also from The Madness Season, the planet Yuang, which is covered with continual toxic clouds and chemical firestorms, and whose atmosphere is laced with poisons so deadly that any contact with it all causes death or severe neurological damage. It's stated that no human could survive there, without help and continuous supplies from other planets.
  • Christopher Anvil wrote a novella titled The Gentle Earth. The invading aliens came from a very moist world that basically lacked weather or tectonic movement. They thought concepts such as "winter" were human superstitions ... until they experienced blizzards. Before that they learned they'd parked their headquarters in an area nicknamed "Tornado Alley".... note 
  • Simon R. Green:
    • His Nightside books have the Nightside, which pretty blatantly follows this trope. John Taylor, private detective, even warns against going there an annoying amount of times in the first book, Something From the Nightside. Considering, though, that the girl he was warning, Joanna Barrett, was an illusion to draw him into the Nightside, his warnings didn't do much good but to inform the reader.
    • In his Deathstalker series the planet Shandrakor fits under this. Everything is trying to eat everything else, even the vegetation. The fact that they're also constantly rutting due to their extremely shortened life expectancies makes it even worse.
  • Antarctica in Green Antarctica. The good news: it's no longer covered in two miles of ice! The bad news is that the climate is still very harsh, especially in winter. The animals are a mix of the worst from Eocene Australia and South America. Actual drop bears? Check. Actual killer rabbits that swarm in mating season? Check. Carnivorous kangaroos with blades on their feet? Check. Monstrous gorillas that practice rape? Check. And all of that pales before the nightmare of the human inhabitants, the Tsalal, who practice just about every horrible thing you can imagine. Cannibalism is probably their least horrifying trait.
  • Deathship Earth, the bad future in Norman Spinrad's Anvilicious He Walked Among Us, where global warming has forced the remnants of the human race into domes improvised from shopping malls, recycling their wastes. The rest of the planet is a scorched wilderness, apparently inhabited only by a half-rat, half-cockroach scavenger species.
  • David Weber's Honor Harrington is full of Death Worlds:
    • Grayson has so much heavy metals the atmosphere can get lethal at times.
    • The prison planet nicknamed Hell, which isn't all THAT bad a place (there are several parts of the temperate regions which are considered excellent places for a beach vacation), except for the subtly different biochemistry of the local flora and fauna. 'All of it is instantly poisonous for humans to eat—besides one native equivalent of the potato. That tuber merely leaves those who eat it with the (treatable) equivalent of brain damage — and then you'll still die of vitamin deficiencies.
    • On one world, originally called Kuan Yin (who is the Chinese goddess of mercy, which later was renamed New Potsdam and became the homeworld of the Andermani Empire, the native bacteria eat chlorophyll, which caused the original colonists to starve by destroying all their crops.
    • On another, San Martin, the gravity is about 2.5 ''g'' and air is so dense that humans could live only on mountaintops, lest they get an oxygen poisoning.
    • Even two of the three habitable planets from the heroine's home system aren't particularly healthy. Gryphon(a local equivalent of Scotland) has a really vicious climate and most of its land is mountainous; while Sphinx, the sort-of-Ireland (Honor's birthplace, that is) is a heavyworld (1.6 g) with a year thirty-six months long, extremely cold (it's actually only habitable due to an extremely active carbon cycle) and lots of pretty nasty wildlife.
  • Brian Aldiss's novel Hothouse (AKA The Long Afternoon of Earth) involves a distant future, where Earth has become tidally locked with the Sun (which has also expanded), so that one side constantly faces the scorching heat, while the other remains in perpetual darkness. The sun-facing side has become the titular hothouse, with giant plants constantly vying for supremacy and most of the animal kingdom dying off. Plants are now extremely dangerous to each other and the remaining animals (humans included). Humanity is facing extinction. Humans are now a fifth of normal size and live on the giant trees. They constantly have to be wary of the Man Eating Plants, and the four remaining species of insects, which have become Big Creepy-Crawlies. There are also Flymen, who periodically come and try to take human babies. It's revealed that they are humans mutated by cosmic radiation and rendered sterile; that's why they capture babies. Not much is known about the Nightside, except that it is very cold and that there is a race of baboon-descended people called Sharp-furs living there. Oh, and Earth is destroyed by giant solar flares at the end with life beaming itself to faraway stars.
  • Alan Dean Foster:
    • Many of the planets in the Humanx Commonwealth books are Death Worlds. Two notables are Prism in Sentenced to Prism, where near everything is silica based (critters with frickin' lazerbeams), and the lush (and hungry) jungle of Midworld from the eponymous book as well as the Pip and Flinx vehicle Mid-Flinx.
    • Earth itself is considered a Death World in his series The Damned, by a coalition of alien races whose worlds all have low gravity, low tectonics, practically no axial tilt (preventing violent weather) and few true predators. The average unskilled couch-potato human is more than a match for their trained soldiers. Trained Earth military personnel, especially special-operations types, are essentially incarnate demigods of death by alien standards.
  • As if the Deadly Game the Capital created in The Hunger Games wasn't enough, the designers make sure the arena is just as dangerous as the contestants: traps (deadly gas, forest fires), environmental disasters (volcanoes, tidal waves), horrible beasts (which range from Wolf Man muttations to flesh-eating squirrels)...
  • The planet Moros from Douglas Hill's Last Legionary series. The extremely hostile nature of the planet is the reason the Legionaries of Moros are so capable and therefore so in demand as mercenaries.
  • In the Lensman novels by E. E. “Doc” Smith, there are more than a few such worlds. The worst of the lot is Trenco. The entire atmosphere liquifies at night and vaporizes again within a minute of dawn. The calmest winds are only about half the speed of sound; the bad ones are much worse. Sheet lightning is constant. The ultra-powerful magnetic field interacts with the magnetic-field-amplifying substances in the atmosphere and the sheet lightning to generate space warps that prevent light from traveling in a straight line for more than a few yards. Every living thing is mobile and carnivorous (one scene has a plant being eaten, the plant eater being eaten by a carnivore, and the carnivore being eaten by the original plant, all at once! Then the whole lot gets swallowed by the planet's largest predator), not to mention spawned from microscopic spores that pervade the gaseous atmosphere so that any foray requires a serious delousing afterwards to prevent internal contamination. And yet everyone wants to come here...because the plants here are the only source of the series' most Fantastic Drug: thionite. Bandits want to harvest the plants, process them into the drug, and sell them to a crazed market. So the Galactic Patrol are here to stop them, and because of the wacko atmosphere, only races with ESP, like Rigellians, can operate effectively here.
    • Valeria, homeworld of the Dutch-descended, vaguely Boer-inspired Valerian Marines, probably also qualifies. In the original novels we don't learn much more about it than it being hot, humid and having roughly thrice-Earth-standard gravity. A much later RPG sourcebook elaborates: it's also heavy on volcanic activity, hence full of noxious fumes and harsh weather, as well as singularly hostile wildlife. The Galactic Patrol has a major hostile environments training camp there.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:
    • The Dead Marshes.
    • The Old Forest and the Barrowlands.
    • The goblin tunnels of the Misty Mountains (giants! goblins!).
    • Mirkwood, full of giant spiders and poisonous squirrels.
    • Most of the parts of Mordor the heroes have to go through to get to Mount Doom.
    • In The First Age there are the Mountains of Terror. Not a lot of detail is given but it seems unpleasant.
  • Anne McCaffrey:
    • The planet Kolnar from McCaffrey and S.M. Stirling's The City Who Fought. A volcanic, radioactive, heavy gravity nightmare world, in orbit around a sun with a spectral category of blinding. Colonized by a particularly nasty group of prisoners, they evolved into nigh-unkillable superhumans. It's no help that said natives have a nuclear war once every generation — and they get their weapons-grade nuclear material by hunting a creature best described as a jet-propelled submarine with fangs. And that's one of the nice critters on the planet.
    • McCaffrey's Dinosaur Planet is likewise an extremely active ecology, complete with a mix of toxic alien life and adapted prehistoric Earth life. There are even insect swarms which eat Dinosaurs bones and all.
    • The Red Star from McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series is an extreme Death World, and Threadfall temporarily converts whole swathes of Pern itself into a deathtrap.
  • In Stephen King's novella and movie The Mist, much of New England becomes a Death World of savage alien beasts.
  • Treated as Truth In Fiction by Greg Bear in Moving Mars, where the prelude points out that an unprotected human on the surface of Mars, assuming she survived freezing and the near-vacuum, and had a supply of oxygen, she'd still be at risk from solar and cosmic radiation. And that's on what after Earth is the most hospitable planet in the Solar System.
  • The Myles Mountains in Murderess: the terrain there is almost barren, the rocks are jagged, and the ruthless Dark Ones live in tunnels dug therein. Hallwad, a native of Greywall’d (the world parallel to Earth that the Myles Mountains are in), realises Lu is not, as people native to Greywall’d know they should not come ‘a day’s walking worth of distance’ near them.
  • Literal deathworlds exist in the world of the Myst franchise, and play a role in the novels. These are linking books that teleport the user to places utterly inimical to life, such as a planet with a molten crust or the heart of a sun. There is a reason the D'ni make their initial assessment unknown/potentially deteriorated ages in a heat-resistant, airtight, radiation-proof spacesuit with a light-blocking faceplate that automatically pulls the user back after two seconds in the age, returning to a fireproof sealed decontamination cell. All of these safety precautions turn out to be necessary (and effective) the very first time such an assessment is made in The Book of Terahnee.
  • In Pat Kelleher's No Man's World trilogy, the 13th Pennine Fusilliers of WWI England are transported to the titular world. The place is so dangerous that the Fusilliers rarely leave the Somme trenches that were teleported with them. Almost all the plant and animal life see the humans as food, there's also a hostile race of hive-insect humanoids to deal with and to top it off there are Eldritch Abominations to contend with too. It's so bad, that even burying your dead in the wrong place can end up getting a lot of people killed.
  • The Outernet series has the planet Aaaaaaaargh, named after the first and last words said by anyone who visits it.
  • Neal Asher's The Polity novels feature two prominent Deathworlds: Masada, a low-oxygen world where just being outside without the proper gear is lethal enough, but it's inhabited by an ecology of nightmare creatures such as Hooders (giant millipedes armored like tanks, whose mouthparts literally disassemble you in tiny little pieces) ...and the planet Spatterjay, an aquatic Death World where nobody knows how to swim because if you hit the water, chances are you're never coming back. Most creatures and humans on Spatterjay are infected with a symbiotic virus that gives them superhuman strength and regeneration... so that the local wildlife can eat you for longer.
  • Planet of Adventure: One of worlds that was being worked in to make it livable for human was slowly making progress nicely. They seeded world with bacteria and viruses to turn ground to soil, then 1,000 years later seeded world with bugs and fungus. They planned to return and seed world with green life 300 years later and eventually animal life 100 years later. However, they lost records. So world was left alone for thousands of years after bug/fungus drop. Then one of spaceships crash landed on it, and descended into savagery after 4000 years. World was full of very big and dangerous bugs and fungus and humans are prey most times.
  • Marduk, in John Ringo and David Weber's Prince Roger series, where Everything Is Trying to Kill You, and advanced electronics eventually become so much junk even with regular maintenance, the environment is so hostile.
  • The homeworld of the Protectors of the Unborn in James White's Sector General qualifies, as the only sentient species there never sleeps and has evolved so that it needs to be continually attacked in order for vital hormones similar to adrenaline to flow through its body, in a similar way as we need to breathe...if it stops being attacked for more than five minutes or so, it will die. The organism is hermaphroditic, and the young are sentient and telepathic from within the womb, as they lose their intelligence when born, and being born sentient would mean instant death. Any world where a species like that evolves qualifies as a Death World.
  • Robert Silverberg has multiple examples:
    • Face of the Waters takes place on an aquatic example. The entire planet is water and a few floating "islands" of coral, inhabited by invincible rammerfish, mouths that can swallow islands whole, orifice-invading eels, and worse. The only actual land is the Face of the Waters, a hunk of bare psychic-radioactive rock that possesses whoever comes near it. The humans face all this with Bronze Age level technology, since there's no metal or trade on the planet.
    • This trope could have been very easily instead named Planet Of Death, after his 1960 novel. With such wonderful things upon the 'Let me eat you first' carnivorous flora-covered landscape like quicksand-like pits that are actually incredibly intense forms of acid and razor-toothed, flesh-eating birds, this is a place where literally everything that you see has one thought on its mind: it wants to eat you.. After the heavily-armed explorers are wiped out to all but the last two men, they have the following conversation before they get the hell outta there:
    Man #1: There's just one more thing. The rules say that we have to give the planet a name before we leave. We haven't done that yet.
    Man #2: That's easy. We just call it the "Planet of Death".
  • The islands from "Sixth Of The Dusk", especially the Father island, Patji. Every single animal is lethal, violently defensive of its territory, and most of the times psychic. Even the tiniest insects can kill with just one bite, and the plants are only slightly better. Most of them can't actually kill you, thought there are exceptions, but they tend to hide insects that can.
  • The aptly-named planet Amnesia in Space Voyages. Not only does its noxious atmosphere cause you to lose your memory and potentially die, there are also Blackrobians lurking at every corner waiting to turn any unsuspecting visitor into one of their own.
  • This is revealed to be the fate of the legendary human homeworld of "Dirt" in The Stainless Steel Rat 'verse, due to changing orbit.
  • Star Carrier:
    • Haris, the fourth planet out from Eta Boötis, at least for humans. It has 1.85 gravity, seas and rain composed of aqueous sulfuric acid, air composed of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbonyl sulfide, among others; there's also surface temperatures ranging from 30-60°C, and sand dollar-like native critters that think humans in emergency suits are crunchy and good with ketchup (regardless of whether they actually are).
    • Most extraterrestrial bodies are Death Worlds (it's just that Haris is the only one really described in detail). Of all the planets shown, Earth and Osiris are the only ones where humans can survive unprotected, and Osiris' native life is inedible due to Mirror Chemistry.
  • Star Wars has seen just about every variant on the theme in the Expanded Universe and Legends.
    • Haruun Kal may take the cake. The majority of the planet's "surface" is uninhabitable due to hugely toxic clouds, limiting humans to one giant mesa. This mesa is covered in thick jungle and dotted with dozens or hundreds of active volcanoes, which spew more toxic gas. Most of the animals, from the big cats and wolves down to the monkeys, are carnivorous and good at it — the only major herbivores are grassers (easily the size of a minivan and named for their habit of eating clearings in the jungle) and ankkox (gigantic tortoises with armored tail-maces). The locals' equivalent of sheepdogs are giant armored predators with hide thick enough to shrug off a lightsaber, which may kill you. There's the usual mix of incredibly deadly and disgusting parasites and fungi, some of which can eat through any metal circuits, even inside a gun or, say, your aircar. Which will — wait for it — kill you. Even the plants are sturdy and tend to be covered in thorns. If you chew Thyssel Bark, you increase your likelihood of contracting fever wasps which will, if not caught, send you into gibbering madness by literally eating your brain before the eggs they've laid in your head hatch. And even if nothing biological kills you, the volcanic gases, lava, and "death hollows" (low points where toxic gases pool) still might. The Korun, humans native to Haruun Kal, are all Force-sensitive presumably because anyone not Force-sensitive died very quickly. The Haruun Kal equivalent of the death penalty is tan pel'trokal, translating to "jungle justice", where you're left naked and unarmed in the middle of the wild jungle. Of course, because of the nature of the story set there, the humans living there manage to be worse. Haruun Kal's other claim to fame, besides making a good sporting attempt at everyone's life, is that it's Mace Windu's homeworld.
    • Sullust is another Lethal Lava Land, but one that managed to evolve an ecology and native sapient species. The planet used to be okay, but at one point the Sullustan corporate government decided to abandon all environmental regulations and just transfer the entire population to space stations.
      • Duro is a similar case but in this case the conditions were entirely the result of industrialization; the planet was temperate and pretty normal before the Duros went crazy with industrialization and collapsed the ecosystem entirely. Eventually the government gave up and moved everyone to orbital stations or the colonies.
    • Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld, which barely appears in the movies long after it had made many Legends appearances, is one of these: (Quoted from Wookieepedia, the Other Other Wiki) "The prevalent ecology could be politely described as a "layered deathtrap", as the dangers presented by local wildlife increased as one descended toward the forest floor."
    • Kessel is actually more of a really big asteroid instead of a real planet. It's a Penal Colony where people sentenced by Imperials go to serve their term, however long that takes. Huge plants (of the factory type, not the living type) constantly refine rock into gas so you don't need a space suit, but the atmosphere is still very thin and unbreathable, meaning you do need a mask. Inside dwellings, Corran mentions that there's enough atmosphere to breathe, but a reek of burned plastic makes him reach for the mask again. Inside the mines there is mostly working air support, but the crystals that are mined there are extremely reactive to any light, so all convicts/slaves have to work in total darkness. And only the guards are given nightvision devices, so it makes guarding easier. And the stuff they're mining? It's produced by gigantic energy-eating spiders.
    • Korriban, the Sith Homeworld. That alone should be enough to qualify, but then you have to add in the arid landscape, Volcanoes, and Jedi-eating ... things. If that wasn't bad enough, the planet is also basically a necropolis, filled with the tombs of the Dark Lords of the Sith who once ruled the planet. And the spirits of the Dark Lords haven't entirely crossed over...
    • Despayre, a world featuring in Death Star, has an ecology explicitly like this, with there being approximately no lifeforms which don't have thorns or spikes or poison or something. It's made worse by the fact that it's a Penal Colony full of all the convicts that the Empire thinks are worse and less redeemable than the ones they send to Kessel — Kessel crooks can serve their term and get shipped back out. Sometimes that's murderers and pirates. Sometimes it's political prisoners. Despayre's convicts do have a chance to be shipped up to work on the Death Star, but knowing the Empire they're not going to be freed after. And then it's used to test the Death Star's superlaser. Without evacuating the population. Or the guards.
    • The Expanded Universe expands on many film-featured planets, such as Felucia, covered by fungal jungles home to numerous varieties of carnivorous plants, hostile natives, jungle rancors, and a titanic sarlacc. Dagobah gets all sorts of aggressive fauna and flora (giant swamp slugs, horribly poisonous amphibians, perambulating carnivorous spider-like tree saplings...) and in Galaxy of Fear: The Hunger gets the addition of the descendants of a stranded survey team, who had become more resistant to disease and better warned about the animals and Man Eating Plants than their parents, while developing a taste for cannibalism for want of anything else to eat. Yavin IV, becomes populated by such charming native fauna as aquatic gundarks, all-devouring swarms of piranha beetles, highly poisonous crystal snakes... and of course there are the Massassi temples that hold the spirits of evil Sith Lords.
    • Gorse is a tidally-locked planet that has one side perpetually baked in sunlight, but is hot enough to melt unshielded durasteel. The dark side of the planet is more habitable (although incredibly dark and damp), but as a result of it playing gravity well tug-of-war with its moon Cynda, suffers from frequent earthquakes that have the potential to make mining thorilide (and refining it, which involves dipping the crystals in acid pools) on the planet unsafe for flesh-and-blood workers. After the night side was completely exhausted of its thorilide reserves, they moved the mining operation to Cynda, to the relief of the miners, but the disappointment of tourists.
  • Tom Godwin loved this trope to bits. His best-known book, The Survivors (aka Space Prison) features a group of humans marooned on a world with an environment the aliens figure will kill them all in short order (high gravity, poisonous flora, rampaging "unicorns" and other beasts). It doesn't quite work out that way.
    • Another short story has the protagonists land on a paradise world. Unfortunately, shortly after landing their spaceship's engine blows up and other things mysteriously start wearing out very rapidly. It turns out the entire world's geology is based on diamonds, so diamond dust is everywhere.
  • Planet Hell in Joe and Jack Haldeman's There Is No Darkness.
  • George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging:
    • In Guardians, a misunderstanding leads to a war between colonists and an alien planet's ecology, as in Deathworld.
    • The seedship in The Plague Star also qualifies, at least until Tuf gains control of it.
  • The planet in Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky. It doesn't look too bad, at first. Swampy-jungly-foresty place, seems to have largish predators, but nothing TOO obnoxious for a high-school student. This is your pass-fail graded final exam in PLANETARY SURVIVAL. Live to reach the pickup point, and you get a PASS. And to make SURE you can't cheat and read up on specifics of the place, you're going in blind — the only guarantees we'll make is that you won't need a vacuum suit to survive the environment on the other side.
  • The Underland jungle. Scratch that, the entire Underland may count. Besides the humans have to deal with intelligent races of Rodents of Unusual Size and Big Creepy-Crawlies. There are also earthquakes, volcanoes, eyeless plesiosaurs, giant squid and the occasional plague outbreak. Good thing the humans have the bats on their side — otherwise they probably would have been goners long ago.
  • The Wood in Uprooted is a small-scale version. Living near it is incredibly dangerous; everything from aggressive wolves to pollen caught on a chance breeze can infect people and animals with The Corruption. Actually wandering into it requires considerable magical protection unless you want a swift death or something far worse.
  • Another case of "Biome the rest of the planet avoids" are the Pelagirs from Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books. Created by the Cataclysm at the end of the Mage Wars, the background mana has been high enough and erratic enough to do what other genres ascribe to radiation for the past two thousand years. It shows, even ignoring the intentionally magebuilt creatures running free from the end of the aformentioned magewars, with some of the most utterly benign areas having plants that try to feel those travelling nearby as if they were blind people or uproot themselves to flee when someone even thinks about setting a campfire. In the places where Red In Tooth And Claw(tm) prevails (the vast majority), it's even worse.
  • Earth in Waging Good by Robert Reed has an atmosphere pumped full of microscopic war machines, which enter the blood stream and violently explode in the head, viruses which infect pregnant women and turn the fetus into a living poison factory or Tyke Bomb, good ol' radiation, and chemical warfare agents.
    • The best way for the surviving inhabitants to improve their health? Eat the feces of the small number of people from the Moon sentenced to work on Earth in various reclamation projects, since they shed a certain number of their medical nanites (which remain viable for quite some time) in their feces.
  • In David Gerrold's The War Against the Chtorr book series, the Earth itself is turned into a Death World when mankind is forced into a fight to the death with an invading ecosystem brought from another planet. The fact that Chtorran life is naturally more competitive and voracious (coming from such a Death World) doesn't help Earth's chances of successfully resisting the invasion.
  • In the first section of War Against the Rulls by A. E. van Vogt, the protagonist is stranded on the planet Eristan II with an ezwal (a clawed, fanged, six-limbed, three-eyed, three-ton apex predator with a genius-level intellect and telepathy) after the starship carrying them is shot down. The ezwal sneers at the offer of aid made by the protagonist, who knows something about the planet, and goes off on its own. Less than an hour later it comes running back and practically begs for help.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Horus Rising, Space Marines founder on a planet they name "Murder". Inhabited by ferocious and incredibly fast aliens, and trees that summon storms. If a Marine had not been horrified by the way the aliens threw dead Marines on the trees to eat, and blown up some of them, thus discovering that they caused the storms, they would never have managed to escape. Keep in mind that each and every one of those Space Marines is a genetically engineered Super Soldier trained The Spartan Way and wearing Powered Armor. If they can't get off the planet alive, any normal person would probably be lucky to last five seconds.
    • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 novel 13th Legion, several of the worlds they are thrown on are death worlds, including a jungle world and an ice world. (Or is that two gangster worlds and a cowboy planet?)
    • Death World is also the name of an Imperial Guard (Catachan) novel by Steve Lyons. It takes place on a death world with a flavor of Genius Loci .
    • Pythos, in (appropriately enough) The Damnation of Pythos, goes so far as to have a completely impossible ecosystem with no herbivores, only predators, and ones that can threaten the Iron Hands at that. That the eventual settlers who arrive are so blasé about being eaten by the local horrible monsters is one of the most unsubtle hints that they're secretly Chaos-worshippers.
    • The term Death World is actually a classification in-universe, with the classic and first one being Catachan, which is a copy of Harry Harrison's. Usually these worlds serve as recruiting grounds for the toughest Imperial Guard regiments or Space Marine initiates.
  • In The Wheel of Time, we have both the Blight and the Aiel Waste.
  • The Zombie Knight has the dead continent of Exoltha. Covered in a Perpetual Storm, prowled by raging feldeaths, and with some imaginary property that makes its natural hazards affect even reapers, it's not a healthy place to visit. And Gohvis lives there.
  • In The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, the first world Demane and Isa end up in upon leaving the road through the Wildeeps in pursuit of the jukiere, or at least what they see of it, is a vulcano about to erupt. They quickly hightail it out of there.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DeathWorld/Literature