Book Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

The Luminous Dead

Author: Caitlin Starling

Publication Date: 02 April 2019

Genre: Adult Fiction – Sci-Fi/Horror

Pages: 352

Publisher: Harper Voyager

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

I picked this one up after one of my bookstagram friends (@crofteereader) was raving about how incredible this debut novel was. She’s the kind of person that doesn’t pass out 5-star reviews lightly, so I immediately ordered a copy to check it out for myself.

Caitlin Starling’s novel in an utterly riveting and atmospheric debut that left me gasping for my breath. Gyre Price is a twenty something female whose mission in life is to get off the sh*thole of a planet she currently inhabits and track down her mother who abandoned her and her father for a garden planet. Gyre lied about the amount of experience that she had as a cave diver, so she could take part in an exploratory mission that was accompanied with a very large paycheck.

Given the amount of money that accompanied the job, Gyre expected to have a team alongside her during the cave exploration. Instead, Gyre finds herself alone and isolated as she has to navigate the deep, dark tunnels of a foreign planet. She is equipped with a suit, which required surgical modifications in order to accomodate things like feeding and waste removal. The mission is being run by her handler Em, who has the ability to control Gyre’s suit (she literally can prevent Gyre from moving as well as pump drugs into the suit to elicit any response she requires) and is full of secrets when it comes to the mission of the cave. Gyre is immediately distrusting of Em, which I don’t blame her. If someone took control of my suit for their own personal gain and leaving me in utter darkness, there would be some severe repercussions.

Without giving much more of the plot away, this story is completely based on the dialogue between Gyre and Em as well as Gyre’s own thoughts as she descends further and further into the cave. If you’re someone who is claustrophobic, DO NOT read this book. When Gyre dives into the murky and dark water, both my heart and mind were racing. I am already petrified of the deep, dark ocean, so the things lurking in the bottom of a cave in murky water scared the living hell out of me.

Overall, if you’re looking for a heart racing, atmospheric read that will leave you disoriented and breathless, definitely pick this one up. I’m still in disbelief that this book is a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what Catilin Starling comes out with next.

Have you read The Luminous Dead? Is it on your TBR? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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