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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mark T. Sullivan’s novel Labyrinth, set in the year 2007, is a tale of love and greed, individuality and collectivity that parallels that of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Pardoner or that of the prospectors in B. Traven’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927). Its elements are simple: a young couple, both geologists, and their adolescent daughter, all three accomplished cave explorers; a young physicist turned murderer when the director of his laboratory attempts to steal credit for his discovery; the director’s partner, who continually belittles his brilliant young nephew; and a U.S. marshal whose obsession with his work threatens his marriage.

The individual circumstances of these people merge in the psychological and geological maze of caves located in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama known as the Labyrinth. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), anticipating a return to the moon, announces a series of what it describes as endurance tests for astronauts to be held in these caves. In actuality, the agency intends to conduct subsurface explorations of the moon in search of an ore discovered in one of the moon rocks from the 1969 landings that has been shown to have the property of superconductivity. The ability to harness this ore could solve the world’s energy crisis.

The U.S. marshal finds himself in the Labyrinth in pursuit of the murderer-physicist who has escaped from Eddyville Penitentiary with several other desperate inmates. The physicist, maddened by theft of his discovery of the superconductive moon ore and ravaged physically by uncontrolled exposure to radiation while performing his experiments, has escaped from prison to retrieve the moon rock he has hidden in the Labyrinth caves.

A series of cataclysmic events ensues including hostage-taking and murder. The physical and psychological states of all the principals change drastically, yet those who survive learn to place their faith in individual love rather than abstract achievement. The cave system itself becomes a massive body that consumes those who enter with a pulsating moon rock as its unstable heart—or its Minotaur.