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This library Sci Fi book I read in the early eighties, in the UK. I think it was hardback, but I am not sure.

There is a planet with a massive, miles and miles high, mountain range. The range has a system of gigantic dark caverns that are home to really horrific looking bat-type creatures.

The bats are the source of a life-prolonging (I think) drug and are hunted for this drug. The hunters are various tribes of genetically blinded people who are more or less slaves. They live in the caverns in scattered villages, and they put their daily quota of bats onto something like transporter plates; in exchange a load of food appears.

The people are blind because (I think) the bat-things are so scary-looking, but also so everything can stay gloomy and dark to not disturb the bats at breeding times. They hunt in little gliders with long harpoons and are trained to fly them from an early age so they can hunt from their late teens onwards.

The protagonist is a girl approaching adulthood and her first hunt. However, she has eyes that work, although on her birthday it's traditional to remove them. Her father is often urging her to find a mate from the next village (I think they do this to avoid inbreeding), but she isn't ready yet.

The kids in her village play handball often, but they have bells inside the ball to hear it. They can't comprehend why she's so good at playing, because she can see the ball in the gloom.

I think some people on a quest (maybe for the source of the geriatric drug) visit this world, where one side of the mountains is always cold and dark because of the height. They somehow make contact with this girl, and she emerges into daylight on the sunny side of the mountains.

They notice she walks with her head erect and alert like a blind person listening for location clues, because that's how she first learned to walk. Then there is an adventure with this party, but I can't remember that part; the 'bat cave' is my main memory of the book.

My update: I've done some hard thinking on this one, a further memory, there are also peasant economy villages spread around the sunny side of the mountains, they are sighted, hard working farmers. They object a lot to growing all this food and have to watch it disappear into the mountains and all they get in return is weird dead giant bats which are loaded up for starships.

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    I have a very vague memory of maybe the same story (book, novella?) where these bat like creatures surround their prey with their wings which have lots of tiny teeth inside and eat them alive. One of the protagonists escapes the latter part by showing no fear. – Mark Schäfer Oct 1 at 6:21
  • That might be correct, very faint memories, or perhaps it was a short story first and then a novel/novella – DannyMcG Oct 1 at 10:21
  • And another memory: young members of the tribe would enter the caves and let themselves be wrapped by the bats as a rite of passage. – Mark Schäfer Oct 7 at 8:08

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