Follow TV Tropes


Hyperspace Is A Scary Place / Literature

Go To

Scary hyperspace in literature.

  • Alexis Carew: Darkspace is basically an ocean of dark matter, and that's all anyone really understands about it. Everything is slowed by it, from light to massive objects to minds: a man who goes "overboard" in darkspace and passes outside the protection of the ship's gallenium starts to feel like his brain and his limbs are becoming sluggish. It's rumored men who go overboard will often dump their air if the ship doesn't look like it's coming back for them, rather than wait and suffer the effects.
  • Advertisement:
  • In one of the expanded universe novels based on the Alien films, it's mentioned that the reason people enter cryogenic sleep during space travel is because being awake while a ship is traveling at faster-than-light speeds "does ugly things to your mind." It's also mentioned that, as part of their training, Colonial Marine recruits are required to stay awake during a brief FTL jump so they can experience it firsthand.
  • In the novels that describe C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, entry into "jumpspace" is psychologically traumatic for most humans, requiring them to drug themselves with tranquillisers for the passage. A few individuals are able to tolerate the transfer and remain conscious "in-jump". They are nicknamed "nightwalkers", a term that suggests the mixed feelings with which they are viewed. On the one hand, they make excellent navigators, and are able to react far faster when the ship comes out of jump than their doped-up crewmates. On the other, the rest of the crew wonder what nightwalkers get up to as they wander round the ship while everyone is asleep. Being a nightwalker is no picnic at first either, because time and space don't properly exist in jumpspace, which is why they're so rare: most sentient minds can't cope with the stress, which is why Hani and Mahendo'sat black out, and humans and stsho need tranq. It's harder on stsho: without tranq, they just die. Hani don't need precautions; the non-nightwalkers are just useless in jump (and they all shed horribly after). Methane-breathers, who knows. One of the scarier things about the kif is the hints that all animal life from their world are nightwalkers. Like Chanur's "pet" kif. And his "dinner". The kif had no problem doing this to captured humans. Kif don't need tranqs, so...
    • One of the shorter stories, "Port Eternity", tells the tale of a private yacht trapped in jumpspace by an anomaly, where all aboard, azi and born-men, have to become nightwalkers pretty quickly just in order to survive. And then they have to deal with the other things trapped by the anomaly...
    • It's not only your own ship in Jump; during a pivotal moment in the Chanur Novels, the knnn (who do whatever they want for their own reasons) come out of Jump with a captured ship right next to the Pride. The first indication of the Jump is when Tully (the human) starts screaming...
    • Advertisement:
    • In the back story of Rimrunners, N G ("No Good") Ramey was wrongly accused of being at fault in a fatal accident, and was denied tranquilizers during a jump as punishment.
    • Downbelow Station describes a scary incident involving an overloaded refugee ship, the Hanford, which has had an onboard riot; there were not nearly enough tranqs for those onboard during Jump.
  • While no spacecraft are involved in Robert A. Heinlein's —And He Built a Crooked House—, there is a spot in the tesseract home where the protagonists look past a fourth-dimensional corner and see — nothing. A space where nothing we can understand or perceive exists, not even blackness. The characters decide that permanently covering that particular window is probably a really good decorating idea.
  • Animorphs
    • Andalite ships are capable of traveling through Zero-Space, a horrible, totally blank, N-dimensional void. Ships passing through are usually safe, but in one book, Ax was catapulted into Zero-Space, and discovered the full effects of the void before being rescued. Not only was he swiftly dying from lack of oxygen, but the non-dimensional nature of Zero-Space forced him to see his own body from all directions, including inside, even as his hearts began to slow.
    • Advertisement:
    • Ax also mentions at one point that, when morphing into larger or smaller creatures, mass is taken or stored away temporarily as a balloon in Zero-Space to compensate for the size discrepancy. If the characters sharing terrified looks of their mass floating in the middle of nowhere isn't enough, Ax also mentions that there's a one-in-a-billion chance that an Andalite ship traveling through Zero-Space may run into the mass, which would then be incinerated by the ship's energy shields. Squick. Well, that was the theory... until Ax and the rest of the team were pulled into Z-space by a passing Andalite ship and experience what is described in the first bullet. Essentially they were pulled along in its "wake" instead of being incinerated. Both of the above examples are actually the same incident, which would have killed the team if not for Ax using his thought-speak to contact the Andalites on the ship and getting everyone beamed aboard in time.
    • And then there is the time that a Negative Space Wedgie creates a crazy patchwork world derived from the thoughts and memories of the two protagonists (and the antagonist). At the edge of the world is Z-space. One character reaches her arm out into Z-space, and it reverses in on itself and goes back the same way. It goes back to normal when she jerks her arm back in terror, but the experience left her badly shaken.
    • The Andalite Chronicles reveals that Z-space travel times between the same two points can vary. In particular, a late chapter has a Z-space rift form around the Sol System, which means that a trip to or from Earth that would normally take weeks or months would now take years. This rift dissipated by the end of the book, opening the way for the Yeerks' first invasion attempt.
  • The Apocalypse Troll by David Weber: The higher levels of hyperspace are described using adjectives such as "tortured", "twisted", "alien" and "inhospitable". Messing up a transition at such levels has a very high chance of disintegrating the entire ship into random energy.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Escape!": Powell and Donovan are dead during their hyperspace jump. But they are perfectly alive afterwards. The positronic computer that built the ship knew this, and even though their death was temporary, breaking the First Law unbalanced the computer, causing it to become a practical joker. The period of their deaths is made... interesting, with an advertisement for Cadaver's Coffins and lines to get into hell.
    • "The Mule": Traveling in hyperspace while being close to a big gravity source (like a planet) can kill you because the jumps are affected by gravity, which means your route will end in the wrong place if you don't correctly account for gravity sources. When Toran tries multiple Blind Jumps, he nearly kills them by ending up near a red giant star. Hours/days of calculations reduces the risk of ending up inside another star.
  • Vonda N. McIntyre's short story "Aztecs" (later incorporated into Superluminal) had a variation where the subjective measurement of time was affected; people conscious through the trip tended to die of old age. Passengers were thus kept in suspended animation for the trip to keep them safe. For the captain, however, the trick is to ensure the captain has no method of marking the passage of time. No clocks, and the captain has to have his heart removed and replaced with a quiet rotary pump, ensuring they have no heartbeat they can use to measure time with. Most captains keep the ashes of their own hearts to remind them of the permanency of this... hence the title of the original short story.
  • In The Bad Place, one character has uncontrolled subconscious teleportation abilities. It wouldn't be this trope, except that he frequently visits an alien planet where space lobsters are used to grow red diamonds. Not to mention, every time he jumps, he suffers a small Teleporter Accident.
  • Bas-Lag Cycle: In Perdido Street Station, the universe that the Weaver travels through is described like a spiders' web with strands going through more than just the three dimensions and connecting every aspect of existence. It is implied that the physical universe the main characters inhabit is only one facet of this meta-reality.
  • James Blish's "Common Time": A person travelling in "over-drive" experiences first experiences his mind (and therefore his perception of time) operating thousands of times faster than his body, and later his body operating vastly faster than his mind - both potentially fatal conditions. (Several earlier expeditions failed to return). It then gets weirder, and the whole thing is possibly kinky.
  • In the Broken Sky series, the space between the two worlds (that is, the Dominions and Kirin Taq) is shown to drive anyone not specially trained to live in it insane. Indeed, in one of the later books Kia loses her memory simply from seeing a glimpse of it after a failed jump between worlds.
  • Timothy Zahn's Cascade Point: Hyperspace shows you Alternate Universe versions of yourself. Implied to be very disturbing, as it's essentially showing you all the other paths your life could have taken. Up to and including "gaps" in the pattern... where your alternate self is dead. For that reason and many others, it's extremely disturbing to most people, to the point that everyone on a ship except the pilot is sedated through the experience.
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle stories have passengers and crew taking some sort of tranquillizer before a jump, because of the effect hyperspace has on the human nervous system. When Donal Graeme stages a daring raid against an enemy planet in Dorsai!, he uses multiple swift hyperspace jumps to simulate a huge armada attacking his enemy, even though it drives him and his crew to the edge of collapse, with each jump leaving them more and more in pain and disorientation.
  • A Colder War by Charles Stross. An American military team involved in a black ops project uses a Portal Network to travel from Afghanistan to Antarctica. They arrive older and dying of radiation poisoning, having apparently traveled via a place where time runs differently and the sun has gone nova.
  • In the Confederation of Valor series, Susumi Space requires very specific calculations in order to successfully traverse it. Making even a tiny small mistake can destroy a ship completely. Which is the initial reason why everyone is pissed at Presit in The Better Part of Valor: in looking for a big scoop, she follows the Navy warship Berganitan through a Susumi jump, risking not only her own ship and crew, but the Berganitan as well.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower series introduces Todash space, the space between the worlds, empty except for terrifying monstrosities. "Going Todash" is the act of teleporting between the worlds by passing through Todash darkness either through a door or one's own mind. If one does not make it through from Point A to Point B, it is safe to assume that they are suspended in Todash darkness forever. And they are not alone in that darkness.
  • The Diving Universe has perfectly safe and reasonable FTL. However, it also has Foldspace, which is far faster but also far more dangerous. The Fleet tried not to enter Foldspace except in the case of an emergency, because not every ship that goes in comes back out — and even if they do, there's no guarantee that they'll come out in the right place or time. After the Fleet passed into legend, Foldspace drives became Lost Technology — poorly understood by those who stumbled across them, and thus even more spectacularly dangerous to meddle with.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe has lots of stuff about the terrors of the Time Vortex the TARDIS travels through. The series itself, not so much.
  • Dragonlance has a very tragic example of this. In the Age of Dreams, the Wizard Conclave created five portals to link the five Towers of High Sorcery. Unfortunately, in creating an extraplanar means of rapid transit between them, they also unknowingly created a link to the Abyss. Takhisis, never one to miss an opportunity to come into the world, gave a black-robed mage a dream in which she told him that she was a beautiful woman trapped in another plane and that he was the only one who could save her. He fell for it completely. Ever wonder how the Third Dragon War that Huma fought in started? Well...
  • Dragonriders of Pern: Between, through which dragons and fire-lizards teleport, is "black, blacker, blackest", has no reference points, and is freezing cold. It's also the dragon method of suicide... intentional or otherwise. (Going between without a clear mental image of your intended destination is a one-way trip.) It also has no air. Dragons can hold their breaths for a surprisingly long time, but this is rather inconvenient for their human riders. Prolonged and repeated trips through between also terminate human pregnancies. The Weyrwoman Kylara took advantage of this by using trips through between as birth control. This also can save dragonriders battling Thread. In the first book, Dragonflight, F'lar avoids being eaten by a wad of Thread that hit his face by going between. The icy cold of between immediately kills the Threads. The series implies that this is the original use of between, a method fire-lizards evolved to help them survive threadfall. If the image of the destination is both clear enough and specific enough, it's possible to Time Travel via between, but this carries an additional danger of arriving in the wrong time period, or dying of asphyxiation and shock during a very long jump.
  • In Evgeny Filenko's Galactic Consul series, hyperspace (or "exometry", as it is referred in-universenote ) is considered a reliable and safe way to travel faster than light... but the (unresolved) Myth Arc of the series concerns the protagonist Kratov's gradual discovery that it is actually quite horrifying. In particular, his very first space flight involves his ship being shot down by something while in exometry — which flies in the face of every law of exometral physics as not just humanity, but much older sentient species understand them. Many years later, Kratov tracks down a former crewmate Stas who went insane while attempting an EVA to repair the ship — because. as it turns out, he had seen and even touched the alien being that was hunting them.
  • H. P. Lovecraft furnishes a surprisingly early example with The Dreams in the Witch House. The protagonist is led by a witch through a hyperspace dimension that evidently can be utilized to travel domestically, between planets, or to entirely separate (and utterly horrifying, naturally) dimensions. When in hyperspace, beings take on a different shape, geometry and space are totally different, and everything is permeated with a bizarre sound or rhythm, which may or may not directly connect to the void, at the center of which is the mad god Azathoth.
  • The Dresden Files has the Nevernever, an alternate dimension/spirit world that exists alongside our reality. The Nevernever's distances are non-linear and often connected to points in the real world, meaning that it's possible to go into it, walk five feet, and emerge a destination thousands of miles away. Unfortunately, the closest parts of the Nevernever to our world are the lands of Faerie, which are populated by all kinds of dangerous beasts and hostile sentient beings. It's also entirely possible that you will open a portal to the Nevernever and emerge beneath a lake of acid or inside a volcano.
    • This is later expanded upon. It turns out that the Ways aren't linked logically: they're linked conceptually. Ways which have been properly mapped are jealously, and zealously, guarded to ensure that their conceptual nature doesn't change — because if they do change without you noticing, suddenly you're off the edge of the map, and getting back isn't necessarily guaranteed. Furthermore, it's revealed in the twelfth book that Harry Dresden's mother, Margaret Le Fay, who was legendary for her mastery of the Ways (indeed, it was how she got her name), took it a step further by figuring out how to predict the changes in the Ways. She concealed this knowledge in a gem which is eventually passed onto Dresden himself, who immediately realises the significance.
  • The Dune universe has hyperspace only being successfully navigated by, well, Navigators, who are creatures so addicted to Spice that it's physically transformed them into something totally alien. The addiction gives them the ability to see into the future and plot a course that will bring them to their destination. One wonders how many ships were lost before they figured out the whole "Mutate the volunteer" aspect. According to the prequel series written by the son (Brian Herbert) of the author (Frank Herbert) of the original trilogies, a lot. Specifically, because of the anti-machine backlash happening during the Butlerian Jihad, Norma Cenva, the inventor of this new type of FTL (another, slower, type exists) is forbidden from installing computers into the ships to reduce the risk of Critical Existence Failure. Thus, the loss rate is 20%. One out of five ships never returns. Considering the armada's ships are mostly crewed by religious fanatics, they don't care. In Navigators of Dune, the newly-crowned Emperor Roderick sends a sizeable chunk of the Imperial forces aboard an EsconTran foldspace carrier to take the planet Korhal and punish Josef Venport for assassinating his brother Emperor Salvador. However, without a Navigator, the crew of the carrier makes a tiny miscalculation during the jump and pops out in the corona of Korhal's sun, being vaporized moments later.
  • Inverted in The Engines of Dawn. Hyperspace is so beautiful that a religion sprung up around it, believing it to be not just heaven, but the literal Body of God. In reality, that's how the Eldritch Abominations used as FTL engines communicate.
  • W. J. Stuart's novelization of Forbidden Planet has a scene where Doctor Ostrow looking out a viewplate into hyperspace, seeing nothing, under which is a suggestion of distorted stars rushing past at incredible speed. He turns off the 'plate fast.
  • It's similar, though toned down, in the Hyperspace of the Foreigner universe, where hyperspace causes muzzy-headedness. While this might not seem very bad, hyperspace journeys take a long time in the Foreigner Verse, so the unpleasantness gets amplified by social interactions and cabin fever.
  • In the novel Foundation and Empire, it is shown that traveling in hyperspace while being close to a big gravity source (like a planet) is harmful and possibly lethal.
  • The Gray Limbo in Julian May's Galactic Milieu Trilogy. A virtually addictive "nothing": there's nothing to see, but it's still hard to look away. This can drive a person mad. To top it off, upsilon field transition (a.k.a. jumping to hyperspace) is incredibly painful to intelligent beings, and becomes more so the faster you intend to travel once in the Limbo. So painful, the effective top speed of a craft is determined by how much pain a person can stand without going insane or dying. Humans top out at around 180df (light-years per twelve hours), with two notable exceptions: Jack Remillard, a bodiless brain, who tops out around 400df, and the main antagonist, who figures out a way to enter the Limbo in effectively naked skin just before his Heel–Face Turn, topping out at 18,000df, and then one of the primary causes of his Heel–Face Turn is being given a pain mitigator — whereupon he travels several billion light-years to another galaxy in seven hops. The Ships are a race of giant interplanetary beings who can be convinced to consume a passenger vessel and serve as spaceships through The Power of Love. One of them made the same several-billion-light-year journey in a single hop, although this was a desperation maneuver that killed the vehicle.
  • The Gap that Stephen R Donaldson's The Gap Cycle is named after isn't in itself more dangerous than regular space travel, but it does have some... unfortunate effects on the brains of a certain small percentage of humans that pass through it. This "Gap sickness" can manifest as just about any sort of mental illness, it is entirely incurable, and there is no way to predict who will contract it without actually sending them through the Gap and seeing who goes insane.
  • In L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Gravity Dreams, hyperspace not only requires a Training from Hell to be able to navigate through, it also has a god who wants some reassurance that he is a god.
  • Vladislav Krapivin's Great Crystal series has a few people able to move between the worlds Amber-style. A few of them learn the trick they call "direct transition". The traveler's personal space tears off the rest of continuum and soon pops up elsewhere — at a random place in random world, if he's out of ideas. It's mostly safe, but most avoid doing this, simply because before it comes the ability to percieve and understand that at an arm's length in any direction there's nothingness as complete as it gets — not even airless space. Those painting it with mental representations of possible entry points still feel the same. The boy who first in the books did it needed new pants after one of first jumps and another one passed out hard when moved forcibly by the first... upon losing cat-and-mouse they played with Secret Police in his Crapsaccharine World just for giggles — they weren't easily scared.
  • FTL travel in the Heechee Saga isn't dangerous in and of itself, but nobody knows how it actually works (all FTL ships were left behind by The Precursors, and they didn't leave any instruction manuals or maps). Further, the manner FTL functions leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing every FTL starship only has one pre-set destination, making travel a dangerous risk; there's no telling what you'll find on the other side and also no way of telling how long the trip will take, so you'd better pack as many supplies as you freaking can. There's multiple times mentioned where ships came back filled with the corpses of its crew because they ran out of food and water mid-jump... and others where they had to draw straws to see who would get to keep eating and breathing long enough to report back. Attempts at attempted course adjustment (using volunteers paid a large bonus in advance) have never been successful.
  • William Gibson's short story Hinterlands describes a point in space between Earth and Mars in which space ships radiating energy at "the broadcast frequency of the hydrogen atom" disappear. Sometimes they return, sometimes with some fragment of an alien culture. The alien artefact may be useless or invaluable. But the returning pilots are always dead on arrival or the strongest of them make it through a few weeks of catatonia or drooling madness before committing suicide.
  • While there is nothing inherently bad about the hypersphere in The History of the Galaxy, it's essentially an empty dimension (or anomaly, as the author prefers to call it). It's pitch black there. The only navigational tool that works in hypersphere is the mass-detector, which measures the "energy pressure" around the ship to determine what sort of objects lie in normal space. Early human hyperdrive-equipped ships were flying totally blind, and many were never heard from again (either they ended up in empty systems or materialized inside stellar bodies). All others ended up in random star systems with not enough power for a second jump, resulting in a lot of Lost Colonies. The first human ship to end up in hypersphere wasn't even equipped with a hyperdrive. It was humanity's first extrasolar vessel, the colony ship Alpha (also the largest ship ever built). Propelled by three powerful fusion drives, it was supposed to accelerate to .5c on its way to Alpha Centauri. The drives activate... and the sheer power tears a hole in space/time, sucking the ship into hypersphere.

    Additionally, hypersphere is an actual sphere (with the galaxy wrapping around it). At its center, the so-called 10th energy level, there is an energy imprint of the galaxy, around which orbit a number of planets, only one of which is habitable. No electronic device works there due to the "energy pressure" of the entire galaxy converging. However, the same pressure also enables some interesting abilities in living beings, many of these bordering on magical.

    Most civilian ships travel on the 1st or 2nd energy level, as their shielding can't handle the "energy pressure" at the deeper levels. Military ships routinely travel on the 3rd or 4th level, but only specially-built unmanned probes can hope to survive as deep as the 6th level. The only way to get to the 10th level is to travel along a "vertical" tension line leading from every star and let the "current" take the ship.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • Discussed:
      Ford: [Hyperspace is] unpleasantly like being drunk.
      Arthur: What's so unpleasant about being drunk?
      Ford: Ask a glass of water.
    • Teleportation is also dangerous:
      I teleported home one night
      With Ron and Sid and Meg.
      Ron stole Meggie's heart away
      And I got Sidney's leg.
    • As Arthur learns in Mostly Harmless, Hyperspace is even scarier than he suspected; as the resident of a Plural Zone, every time he traveled through it he ran the risk of being catapulted into an Alternate Universe.
    • Traveling through a Dark Matter sleeve, as Wowbagger's ship does in And Another Thing..., is even freakier, enhancing your emotions, and putting you in touch with aspects of yourself you never knew about. If Hyperspace is unpleasantly like being drunk, dark matter travel is unpleasantly like being knurd.
    • Using the Infinite Improbability Drive isn't so much dangerous as it is annoying, mainly because A) it requires tons of difficult math to figure out where you're going, and B) due to the Drive's nature, you aren't guaranteed to leave the jump as the species you start out as (it wears off, though).
  • Honor Harrington: People become violently ill from "crash translations" through layers of hyperspace, a place where it's possible to run into sharp gravity gradients that will very rapidly shred even the stoutest of ships. It is also dangerous to fight in Hyperspace because the ships weren't designed with hyperspace combat in mind, since the vast majority of combat happens in Realspace. Due to how the ships work (they create a super-dense wedge of gravity, open on the sides and ends, making the ships effectively immune to incoming fire from above or below due to the gravity wedge. So, they don't have any armor plating on the top and bottom of the ships, because the armor would be more effectively used on the vulnerable sides and ends of the ship. In a gravity wave, ships can't use wedges (any ship not generating Warshawski Sails inside a grav wave will get dismembered very quickly, and you can't have sails and wedges at the same time), so even the most heavily armored battleship can find itself getting torn to shreds by a more manueverable destroyer if the angles line up just wrong.
  • While not hyperspace per se, the dimension dwelt in by The Hounds of Tindalos (in stories by Frank Belknap Long and later H. P. Lovecraft) is a pretty nasty place to be, as if you travel through it, you set the Hound on you. And as they can enter the world through any angle, and will never stop; this is bad to say the least.
  • In Hyperspace Demons by Jonathan Moeller, hyperspace is inhabited by alien intelligences which can possess humans and grotesquely warp both their bodies and minds. Also, merely looking out into light of hyperspace can inflict madness.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space:
    • Blind Spot. Since hyperspace is non-Euclidian, a human observer's blind spot "enlarges" to blank out views of this non-space outside the ship. This normally means that view ports seem to disappear into the bulkheads, no big deal — although, in one tale, Beowulf Shaeffer makes the mistake of looking out past his ship's disintegrated hull into it and forgets how to see, even forgets he has eyes, until he can force his gaze back to his control panel. The blind spot has the unfortunate habit of getting bigger as time goes on in the minds of a sizable chunk of humanity. This eventually drives humans crazy; no commercial starship has windows in the bulkheads for fear that 40% of their passengers will be reduced to permanent, incurable insanity.
    • Niven's Hyperspace also has a "quantum property" that permanently removes from normal space anything that comes too close to a gravity source.
    • In later Ringworld books, things living in hyperspace were also mentioned. The reason that the things in hyperspace are visible is that it turns out that hyperspace is comprehensible near a large mass. It also appears that what's previously been destroying ships in hyperspace near massive objects is the things in hyperspace, which are ''eating them'. This makes Beowulf Shaeffer's wacky theory in "The Borderland of Sol" actually correct, as well as making it possible to save the Ringworld from Earth.
      • Which is a combination of Unreliable Narrator and re-retcon, later described as being a dubious claim at the least, and most likely an outright lie by the Protector discussing the hyperspace creatures.
  • Inverted in The Long Earth. Interdimensional travel is so safe and convenient, Datum Earth has a political and economic crisis as people leave it in massive quantities. Several sentient species mastered it back during the "pointy stick" level of technology: humans seem to have caught on unusually late in their development.
  • The Lost Fleet: Anytime the eponymous fleet enters jump space, the characters always get uneasy feelings and are only too relieved to get out. Jump space is considered so awful that to be thrown out into it is a fate only consigned to those convicted of treason. It doesn't help that there appear to be strange lights in jump space that no one has been able to explain or study, due to the way jumps work (i.e. no maneuvering in jump space). It's later stated that the longer one spends in jumpspace, the more unnerving it gets, to the point where two weeks in jumpspace is the maximum anyone has ever spent there and lived to tell the tale. In one of the later books, the Dancers recover the body of an ancient human explorer, one of the first people to attempt to navigate jumpspace, who spent years, if not centuries, in jumpspace before happening on a jump point and exiting in Dancer territory. People assume he must have died mere weeks into the ordeal and shudder at the thought. By the same token, the Dancers appear to be able to make extremely long jumps thought to be impossible and appear to be able to handle being in jumpspace for so long, but they do warn Alliance ships not to attempt the same jump, presumably, being aware that they can't handle it.
    • Currently, both the Alliance and the Syndics have a Portal Network of hypernet gates that work on the principle of quantum entanglement. While within a hyperspace bubble, a ship is, effectively, a non-entity in space, which many people don't like to think about, or the fact that there is literally nothing outside the bubble. There's also the fact that it's possible to sabotage a hypernet gate in such a way as to cause it to blow up in a nova-like explosion, destroying most things in the system. Luckily, Geary's people figure it out just in time and manage to come up with "patches" to make sure that the sabotages gates blow up in a much smaller explosion.
    • It probably doesn't help that the most widespread religion in both human polities that we've seen in any detail holds that anyone who dies in jumpspace is Barred from the Afterlife if their body is not returned to realspace for a proper funeral. When Captain Geary hears that the bodies of Space Navy officers executed for treason are disposed of in this fashion he's more than a little shocked, because in his time the very idea was considered blasphemous.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko has different examples of hyperspace:
    • In The Stars Are Cold Toys humans have invented the jump drive, which instantaneously transports a spacecraft 12+ light years in a given direction (the distance is always the same). The jump itself gives any human on the ship euphoria like nothing he or she has ever experiences (the main character compared it to death). At the same time, any alien either dies or goes completely insane during such jump (the aliens have their own, slower, means of FTL). However, two alien races are able to survive the jump with their sanity intact: the Counters (biological computers) and the Kualkua (symbiotic shapeshifters). The former manage this by putting themselves into a coma by mentally dividing by zero and causing an overflow error, and the latter by temporarily pulling the Kualkua collective consciousness out of that particular Kualkua. The sequel, Star Shadow, reveals that jump drive is a product of human belief, not actual science. That is why it only works for humans. There also exists a network of planets connected by Shadow Gates, with the side effect of the Gates reading you and putting you wherever they deem fit. Geometers have managed to combine both types of FTL travel into one: they take the ship into slow FTL hyperspace and then start jumping using the same method as humans. Apparently, this neither produces euphoria in humans nor is fatal to aliens and allows a ship to cross vast interstellar distances in a matter of hours. The protagonist realizes that, as soon as the Conclave finds out about this, Earth is screwed. He doesn't know yet that the system won't work without a human.
    • In A Lord from Planet Earth hyperspace behaves pretty normal for FTL flight. But if you happen to use a catapult (one-person emergency FTL device), you experience and contact God - the future collective consciousness of the sentient races.
    • In Line of Delirium hyperspace is pretty much Sci-Fi normal, except for several daredevil stunts pulled by the protagonists. Those are launching an escape pod from hyperspace into regular space (without any guarantee of entering regular space anywhere near a planet) and later holding an entire battleship hostage by threatening to leave hyperspace at light-speed. The protagonists leave the ship and drop into regular space; ship and crew manage to survive the light speed space entry, thus being propelled into the future by Einstein's laws. The first novel also mentions that there's always a chance your ship could randomly blow up in hyperspace, if its interphaser doesn't hold hyperspace outside the ship. This is likely more of a risk with privately-owned ships.
  • In C. S. Friedman's The Madness Season, humanity allows itself to be conquered/enslaved by a race who has mastered FTL, because the conquerors told (and presumably showed) us that FTL would drive us completely insane; so bad, we wouldn't be able to operate the ship and exit hyperspace. This race is immune to this, however, because they are a Hive Mind, and thus feel no fear of death, and thus cannot go insane. "Without us, you will never reach the stars. Surrender." We did.
    • Our protagonist later discovers that this is not fully the case; only that particular method of FTL would drive humans insane.
  • In The Mote in God's Eye, FTL travel via Alderson Drives confuses people and breaks computers, leaving them vulnerable for the first few seconds after jumping into a new star system.
  • Pavel Shumil takes the Zero-T-systems of the Strugatskys' Noon Universe and makes them actual 12D ways in our 4D space. At least one inhabitable planet found is actually a shifted Earth. As the coordinates slowly change, a protagonist is left behind.
  • Tom Godwin's The Nothing Equation is a very creepy version of this trope. The title should give you a clue about what makes it frightening.
  • Continua-craft in Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast don't directly show any scariness as travel is instantaneous. However there is a slight downside in that inventing one or even just working on the math required to invent one will get you murdered by demons. Well, actually hermaphroditic lobster-aliens who just happen to look like demons. They're protecting their turf: it's kind of complicated.
  • Greg Egan's Orthogonal trilogy applies this trope to orthogonal space, clusters of matter traveling along a different trajectory through time compared to regular matter. All matter acts as Antimatter in relation to orthogonal matter, which means that even orthogonal air is Made of Explodium. The trick is to go in exactly the opposite direction through time as the other matter—then the observer and the matter have Merlin Sickness respective to each other, but are otherwise perfectly safe to touch.
  • John Meaney's Pilot stories have mu-space, a fractal space which normal humans have to be sedated for travel through and which has all sorts of weird properties. The Pilots who can traverse it while conscious either have to have their eyes replaced with sockets for computer attachments, or naturally have weird eyes (the first of these is the result of a Pilot giving birth whilst in mu space, and the trait then spreads). The Pilots are implied to be drifting away from what we would recognise as a human perspective.
  • The Polity: In Brass Man, viewscreens are usually blanked out while ships are travelling through underspace, but Ian Cormac suddenly finds that he can see something there. Apparently it's part of his ascension to a higher plane of existence.
  • Terry Pratchett:
    • In the early novel The Dark Side of the Sun, ships travel through "interspace" in which all possibilities are true. Most ships are shielded against the trippy hallucinatory results.
    • In another book, Strata, an Elsewhere jump can move your body so far that it takes time for your soul to catch up:
      a few seconds of vertigo, a brief agony of despair. Soullag, it was called on little evidence. Certainly something in the human mind refused to travel faster than — it had been experimentally verified — 0.7 light-years per second, so that after even a short jump through Elsewhere-space there was a hollow black time before the rushing mental upwellllll—
  • In David Drake's RCN series, ships generate a bubble universe around themselves to travel through the "Matrix" (no relation) of fourth-dimensional space, outside the normal universe where the normal physical laws apply. Too much time spent in the Matrix takes a toll on the human brain, and crews start to see things that aren't there, though it's implied that in some cases they may be seeing into alternate realities rather than hallucinating. Entering and leaving the Matrix is also usually quite unpleasant, and unpleasant in an imaginatively different way each time. Except in What Distant Deeps, where Adele becomes omniscient during one extraction.
  • Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space doesn't have hyperspace per se, and space travel is constrained by currently understood laws of physics to the point even civilisations that have been spacefaring for millions of years stick to barely-slower-than-light travel. This hasn't stopped people trying to break the limits of spacetime via various hyper-technological means; problem is, when you tinker with causality the cosmos fights back against you very specifically. People who have attempted this have been retroactively erased from time (as in, having their life rearranged so they died before the current events unfolded). There is mention that large-scale attempts at FTL have caused entire civilizations to suffer this. We then get to see one particularly arrogant character try to one-up the universe and go faster than light to catch a character she has a rather extreme grudge against; in the resulting fiasco the forces of physics straight out murder one of the perpetrators. There's also the shadows, who exist in a different "brane" of reality. Releasing them is a very bad idea.
  • Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar books have a form of magical hyperspace, which happens to be filled with a race of precursors that even some Gods fear. Opening a rift is a really, really bad idea.
  • A. Bertram Chandler's Rim Worlds novels involve the Mannschenn Drive, which uses 'temporal precession'—essentially a hybrid of time machine and matter 'phasing', carrying all the worrying baggage of both those technologies. A serious accident will disintegrate the ship: lesser malfunctions can drop the ship into Another Dimension, or a random time period. (Really random: say, six billion years ahead of schedule.)
  • In Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who... series, FTL drive is pretty tame — some people react to it with temporary nausea, and there's always a lingering sense of unreality, but it's perfectly normal and safe. Singularity drive, on the other hand... involves "translating" between two linked, mapped nodes instantaneously by taking a mathematical jaunt through several realities, all of which inflict temporary body horrors on the poor passengers. The usual transit time is on the order of seconds. However, sometimes ships get stuck, at which the horrors can last for weeks. One notable example involved a brainship having to burn out dozens of powerful processors, put down a mutiny, and finish the translation using a handful of known good processors (including the graphics processor for the screens and a processor or two donated from the body of a cyborg), all while looping between two realities that turned your teeth to rotten mush in one and long stabbing needles in another.
  • Traveling through grimspace in The Sirantha Jax Series is considerably faster than the earlier method of Faster-Than-Light Travel, "straight space", but carries much higher dangers. A ship that enters grimspace without a crewman with the J-gene (a "jumper") cannot read the beacons placed by the Makers to guide ships to inhabitable star systems, and will likely be lost forever. Grimspace is hard on jumpers, too: it's a Fantastic Drug to them, and long-term Side-Effects Include... brain lesions that eventually result in jumpers jumping and becoming brain-dead on emergence, at which point their ship-mates usually Mercy Kill them. It's called "navigator burnout syndrome" or NBS, and it means jumpers rarely live to their 30s.
  • Stephen King's short story "The Jaunt" (in Skeleton Crew) features a family waiting to be instantaneously teleported ("Jaunted", in-universe) from Earth to Mars, in a process that first requires them to be gassed unconscious. The father tells his two children a bowdlerized version of how the technique came to be discovered and why the gas is needed, skipping over the gruesome semi-apocryphal account of the first man to make the trip awake. Unfortunately, the son hears enough to be curious about what the trip is like, so he holds his breath when the gas is administered. The father wakes up on the other end to witness his cackling white-haired son clawing his own eyes out: The physical trip is indeed instantaneous (or nearly so), but the mental journey… well… "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!!"
    • The interesting thing is that in this example, it's believed that hyperspace itself isn't scary but the fact that the mind is freed from the body. Essentially, the traveler's consciousness is devoid of any sensory input yet still self-aware. It's theorized that the human mind can't take the ultimate isolation caused by the Jaunt with no input and that the sense of time works differently with no physical sensation.
      • Worse than that, there's a mention of a man who'd set out to murder his wife by sending her through a Jaunt gate, and not entering a destination. His lawyers argued at his trial that no-one could actually prove the woman was dead, and the court promptly threw the book at him because the thought of her being lost forever in mid-Jaunt, alive, was so horrifying.
  • Cordwainer Smith's work documents a 20,000-year future history including various kinds of hyperspace travel:
    • In The Game of Rat and Dragon, ships travel via a kind of Jump drive and hyperspace is a non-issue. On the other hand, there are Horrible Things (humans think of them as dragons, and are terrified — this story was written before Our Dragons Are Different got up any steam) lurking in the darkness of space between the stars. They can be killed with intense light, but human reflexes aren't up to scratch. On the other hand, cats think of them as rats...
    • "Scanners Live in Vain" has long travel through normal space induce pain and suicidal urges in unmodified humans.
    • In The Colonel Came Back from Nothing at All, the eponymous Colonel has his mind taken to be a pet for something during the test of an experimental "planoform" drive.
    • Drunkboat has travel through space3 cause temporary insanity and coupled with inexplicable powers.
  • The British Sonic the Hedgehog novels had the Warps of Confusion (a.k.a. the Special Zone from Sonic 1) which Robotnik was able to tap into to teleport his ships around the planet. Anyone who's played the original game knows just how well those areas fit this trope.
  • In another of Drake's books, Starliner, ships travel through what's officially called "sponge space". Like RCN's Matrix, sponge space took a toll on the mind — it seems mostly a case of sensory deprivation — at least of those maintaining the drive systems out on the ship's hull. Informally, it's referred to as "the Cold," and Cold Crews get a bit warped from spending so much time out there. They're also hard to discipline: what can their officers do to punish them that's worse than their normal working environment?
  • The novel The Deacon's Tale, sets in the Sword of the Stars universe, reveals that traveling through Hiver gates is harmful to other races. The side effects can range from simple nausea to death by myocardial infarction. It's possible they're simply not calibrated for non-Hivers or that the Hivers have genetically modified themselves to survive the process.
  • In C. S. Friedman's This Alien Shore, hyperspace (called ainniq) is inhabited by creatures called sana. No one is quite sure what exactly a sana is, as they are imperceptible to human eyes, but common consensus is that the average human being has an extremely short life expectancy upon entering ainniq. There are people who can see sana and navigate starships to safety; the problem is, they also happen to be clinically insane.
  • Randall Garrett's "Time Fuze" has the first team to use the hyperdrive jump to Alpha Centauri only to find the star blowing up. When they try to get back to Earth, it turns out the drive makes suns blow up when it departs as well as when it arrives.
  • In The Tomorrow War, by Alexander Zorich, travelers in "X-matrix" suffer sensory deprivation. Only a mild annoyance for people who go through this regularly, yes. But less experienced travelers tend to hate it and are mentally destabilized for some time. May also be the reason of spaceship claustrophobia being a much worse problem than on submarines.
  • Philip José Farmer, in "The Unreasoning Mask", posits a means of FTL travel that doesn't harm the passengers, but is Very Bad for the universe: in fact it may have destroyed several earlier universes.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time has four different ways to travel long distances by magic. Three of them are basically different kinds of hyperspace (the fourth, simply called "Traveling", is truly instantaneous), and all of those are scary in different ways.
    • The "Ways", which is a sort of terrestrial hyperspace: mystic gates — usable by anyone — to Another Dimension, which handles distance differently and thus allows shortcuts between the gates. Unfortunately, the Ways have decayed into a lightless, crumbling world haunted by Machin Shin, a terrible ghost-like monster which even the minions of evil fear. It's unclear whether that's because they were built by male channellers, who were doomed to madness, or because there's a Waygate in Shadar Logoth, a particularly cursed city, and that city's evil infected the Ways. But either way, travel through the Ways has to be very quick.
    • Less scary is the void accessed by the "Skimming" technique, which allows a channeler to travel on a platform of their creation through an empty void and directly travel to any known destination they choose. There are problems, however: fall off the platform and you fall forever; the platform is created by your perception, so if you lose concentration, you fall; and creating exits from the void where you aren't supposed to is simply a Very Bad Idea.
    • Portal Stones are relics from an even earlier age than the Time of Myths. They can be used to take someone to alternate timelines where they might experience their lives if they made different choices, or to alternate timelines where reality itself works differently (including where time passes differently), or straight from one Portal Stone in your world to another. If you want to go a long distance quickly and don't know exactly how to go straight to the other Portal Stone you want, then the second method might be better than nothing, but accidentally experiencing other lives is traumatizing.
  • Jerry Oltion's Captains Table TOS novel Where Sea Meet Sky involves a part about an unshielded warp jump on a living creature with a biological warp drive.
  • In A Wrinkle in Time, tessering across the fifth dimension is a terrifying experience when done by Mrs. Which. When Meg's father does it...
  • In Xenocide, a highly advanced A.I. is able to move things instantly from any point in the universe to any other as long as it has a clear understanding of the objects/people it's moving, as well as their origin and destination points. It does this by moving them outside of the universe. The weirdest part is that if a person spends any noticeable length of time "outside", they can consciously or sub-consciously manifest anything their brain can imagine and bring it back into the real world with them... including people. Worse, if Jane is unable to keep all the data about the inanimate objects (living things naturally hold themselves together using philotes), the living things make it back among a chunk of matter that used to be a spaceship. God help you if your destination is the vacuum of space. Also, if Jane miscalculates the destination point, you can end up inside a solid object with no way out.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: