I read a short story, can’t remember if it was part of a larger narrative or just on its own.

It was about a crew that was taking a bunch of space tourists to a planet that had plants with seeds in glass-like structures that make certain sounds. The main character in this story feels connected to this planet because there’s a Valley of Sound, where there’s a large number of these glass plants that make all sounds imaginable. People can almost pick out a loved one’s voice for instance. I absolutely love this concept but can’t for the life of me remember what the story/book was called!

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F! You should check out the suggestions to see if there are any details you can edit into your question. For example, how long ago did you read this?
    – DavidW
    Apr 9, 2019 at 21:46
  • 2
    I thought for sure that this was going to be a Phantom Tollbooth question. Shows what I know. Apr 10, 2019 at 6:25
  • @kjw The answer here is not accepted so not a duplicate.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 15, 2020 at 15:25
  • @TheLethalCarrot Oh I thought as long as one had an accepted answer it could be considered duplicate. My mistake, thanks.
    – kjw
    Jan 15, 2020 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


"The Bells of Acheron", a short story by E. C. Tubb, first published in Science Fantasy, April 1957, available at the Internet Archive. Does any of these covers ring a bell?

"Laura!" I chased after her, caught her, slapped her face. Her eyes opened and shock twisted her mouth. I talked fast and loud, trying to drown the rising music, fighting the desire to concentrate and listen.

"It isn't real. It's illusion, all of it." I held her close to me, tightly so as to prevent any sudden movement. "Your husband?"

"You know?" Her eyes searched my face. "You do know. the rumors were true. The dead do live here, I know they do."

"No." I searched for words to destroy her dream. I had heard them all, a dozen times and more from Holman and others, but still they came hard. "It's a trick of the mind," I said. "You come here and you listen to all the sounds that ever were and from them you pick the ones you want most to hear. The prattle of a dead child, a husband's voice, the laughter and tears of those who are gone. The mind is a peculiar thing, Laura. It can take sounds and fit them with words and make them seem different to what they really are."

"I spoke to him," she said. "And he answered me. He is here, I know it."

"He is not here." I gripped her tighter as she tried to move, knowing that one false step and we would both topple into the valley. "You close your eyes and concentrate and you hear the voice you want to hear. You speak and it answers but all the time you are talking to yourself. You speak and your brain answers, picking words and tones from the sound of the Bells. It is an illusion, less real than a photograph or a recording. The words you hear are from your own memory."

"It was my husband," she insisted. "He was calling to me. I must go to him."

"You can't!" I sweated at the thought of what would happen if she broke away. "Listen to me. You heard his voice or thought that you did and, with your eyes closed, you began to walk toward the sound. But that sound came from the bushes." I shook her. "Do you understand? The bushes!"

She didn't understand.

"Silicon," I said "Leaves like razors. The valley is covered with they and the ground falls sharply away. Two more steps and you would have thrown yourself among them." I gripped her shoulders and turned her so as to face the valley. "There is a good reason why this place is out of bounds. Too many people act as you acted, believe as you believed." I pointed to where something white gleamed among the pale green vegetation. "We call this place the Valley of the Singing Bells," I said heavily. "A better name would be the Valley of Death."

For a long moment she stared at the bleached bones.

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