I have vague memories of a sci-fi story that involves "the whisper line" as a crucial plot device. The whisper line refers to 2 secret points in a highly oppressive prison institution between which it is possible for 2 inmates to hold a private conversation without anyone else's notice.

Sadly, all other plot details escape me.

I seem to remember these other features:

  • Darkness, silence, and the routine of life in the institution
  • The institution was submerged (subterranean?), possibly in a ravine, reserved for Jon Smith type dissidents
  • Long quiet struggle and shifting fate for a mostly limp and powerless protagonist
  • An unlikely bond between characters who grow to sympathise with each other in an almost animal sense (prior enemies drawn together in prison, I deduce)
  • Slow, unsensationalist observation of the dehumanising effects of authoritarianism

The vivid feeling I have of the last 2 makes me think this could be an Ursula Le Guin novella, but I'm fairly sure I've read all her material in the last 5 years or so and haven't been able to retrieve this.


The "whisper line" features in Alfred Bester's The Stars, My Destination. Gully Foyle has a Monte Cristo education in prison through whisper-line conversations with his teacher, Jizbella McQueen:

"...My God, this must be real! You're talking the gutter lingo. You must be real. Who are you?"

"Gully Foyle."

"But you're not in my cell. You're not even near. Men are in the north quadrant of Gouffre Martel. Women are in the south. I'm South-900. Where are you?


"You're a quarter of a mile away. How can we - Of course! It's the Whisper Line. I always thought that was a legend, but it's true. It's working now... It's a miracle."

"What's a miracle?"

"There's an acoustical freak in Gouffre Martel... they happen in underground caves... a freak of echoes, passages and whispering galleries. Old-timers call it the Whisper Line..."

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.