The Luminous Dead
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?

The Luminous Dead Details

TitleThe Luminous Dead
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 2nd, 2019
PublisherHarper Voyager
Rating
GenreHorror, Science Fiction, Fiction, Adult, LGBT

The Luminous Dead Review

  • carol.
    January 1, 1970
    Totally Unauthorized Review*It was very good, just the sort of read I wanted. Read it if you enjoy survival stories, or caving, or psychological mysteries where people are unreliable, conflicted, and determined. I read for three reasons:--A certain unnamed good friend strongly suggested it after reading it. Here's how she sold it: "It takes stones of steel to write a full novel with only two characters and a cave for the setting. So far, it's done very, very well."--I confused Caitlin Starling w Totally Unauthorized Review*It was very good, just the sort of read I wanted. Read it if you enjoy survival stories, or caving, or psychological mysteries where people are unreliable, conflicted, and determined. I read for three reasons:--A certain unnamed good friend strongly suggested it after reading it. Here's how she sold it: "It takes stones of steel to write a full novel with only two characters and a cave for the setting. So far, it's done very, very well."--I confused Caitlin Starling with Caitlin Kiernan, who also has a effed up book I want to read (The Drowning Girl).--The darker, the better. Like The Children of Time, it could have played on fundamental fears--in this case, claustrophobia--but somehow, through the writing, I was only riveted. Except for the water scenes. Those were scary. In some ways, it is like The Martian, only with a main character who is far less well-adjusted and funny. I'd say character-building is the clear strength of this book. Do not read the GR book blurb, as it does give far too much away, including one plot point that happens two-thirds of the way in. I read an early copy--hopefully very early--so I look forward to re-reading a print copy that might have even more polish. Just for me--for heaven's sake, do not read the spoilers if you intend to read--(view spoiler)[My most significant criticism would include a lack of world-building. Specifically, once in the caves, I didn't get the sense of a different world except for Tunnelers. In fact, I didn't even get the sense the Gyre knew much about cave geology, period. Though the blurb compares to The Martian, I'd say that book did a far better job integrating world-building (biology, geology, physics, etc) than this did. I also feel like I was left slightly confused why the teams still had to be one person, as long as the person was enclosed in the suit, but that might be because at a certain point, I was reading fast just to relieve the terrible feeling of dread and hope. And Em's age seems problematic--twenty-five teams seemed too many, unless we're talking four attempts a year or something.  (hide spoiler)]That said, the end result was a one-two gut punch. Absolutely wow."She hadn't planned, because her goal hadn't been in the future. It had always been behind her, pulling her back, pulling her down."*Black market ARC. Oh, you didn't know there was such a thing? There is, my friend, and the stories around them are sordid.****(view spoiler)[I'm pretty sure I promised someone my firstborn child for the last one I got. Of course, I'm not planning on any children... (hide spoiler)]******On the up side, I don't have to put anything in about thanks to the publisher, or totally honest review, or unbiased opinions, or any of that other legalese baloney.
    more
  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
    January 1, 1970
    Well... Half the time Gyre is mad at Em, or blaming Em, or wondering at how she doesn't feel like blaming Em. What's with all the blame?Em... Her being blamed during half the book for a number of disastrous expeditions, makes little sense. Yes, she has some (un)specific goals but don't all mining companies in the book? How come that looking for Em's goals is any worse that plain old ore mining? Felt like the author needed some psychological suspense vehicle and this is what got used as such. Wel Well... Half the time Gyre is mad at Em, or blaming Em, or wondering at how she doesn't feel like blaming Em. What's with all the blame?Em... Her being blamed during half the book for a number of disastrous expeditions, makes little sense. Yes, she has some (un)specific goals but don't all mining companies in the book? How come that looking for Em's goals is any worse that plain old ore mining? Felt like the author needed some psychological suspense vehicle and this is what got used as such. Well, it wasn't suspenseful, just read immature.Gyre, she's the worst employee of the decade. She bickers with her employer. Keeps entertaining thoughts of siccing some authority at Em for some half-baked notion of Em endangering her employees on purpose (though, it's clear that if people keep dying on the surface expeditions, they will do so at higher rates on more difficult expeditions). Gyre even gets angry at Em for being professional during one of their crises:Q:“I’m terrified!” Em shot back, and there it was; the stress turned into anger, turned into something honest. “But as far as I see it, I have two options: one, break down and stop being able to help you, or two, be a fucking professional.” God, that was refreshing. (c)Em is close to being the employer from horror film. The girls... their discussions get the all-time low like this:Q:“Stop being so nice,” Gyre added. ...“I thought you wanted me to be afraid. Or to be talking to you.” (c)And Gyre... I can't stand her:Q:The tears were already there, waiting. “I don’t want to do anything for you right now,” she whispered, but she sank to her knees all the same. The last thing she wanted was to serve at Em’s will, but at the same time, it was such an easy win. Follow the command, feed her growling, taut stomach. If she followed every command Em laid out, wouldn’t it take her out of here? (c) At this point I'm like: Yes, Gyre, maybe you do need to follow your guide and employer advice.Add to that all maudlin, at-length, guilt-trip discussions of both girls' family issues... And some totally maudlin interactions:Q:“I almost lost you,” Em murmured.“You still might.”Em’s expression was stricken... (c) Come ooon. You were just whining on about how 27 other people dies on this gal's missions. Just make up your mind if Em's a kitty or a tiger already, will you? BTW where are the other 25 bodies?And, of course, these gals feel the need to get all mushy:Q:“If I’d lost you,” Em whispered, “I don’t know that I could have gone on.” (c)The good points of this book are that original world, the whole concept of cave expeditioning, Tunnellers who swim through rocks... Etc. Excellent read but one that could have made even more stellar.Q:The suit was her new skin, filled with sensors and support functions, dampening her heat and strengthening her already powerful muscles with an articulated exoskeleton designed to keep climbing as natural as possible. She wouldn’t even remove her helmet to eat or sleep. Her large intestine had been rerouted to collect waste for easy removal and a feeding tube had been implanted through her abdominal wall ten days ago. A port on the outside of her suit would connect to nutrition canisters. All liquid waste would be recycled by the suit. (c) Sounds painful.Q:“Walking is the most expeditious way to work off the epinephrine injection, caver.” (с)Q:If you had the skill for it, then why wouldn’t you trade a little bit of bodily autonomy for enough money to feed your family or to start a new life? (c)Q:“In case you’re trapped, and cut off from me, there are . . . kill switches built into the suit. In case there’s no way out.” (c)Q:Luck had seen her born on this godforsaken rock, chance had led to her mother running away, pure providence had kept her from snapping her legs as a kid. Luck might let her finish this, for good. (c)
    more
  • Amy Imogene Reads
    January 1, 1970
    4 starsWhat an unexpected find! Technically a science fiction novel, The Luminous Dead reads like a mystery/thriller diverse survivalist tale with doses of speculative elements and psychological intrigue. Also, lots of caves. Caves on caves.Concept: ★★★★★Spook Factor: ★★★★ Pacing: ★★★Characters: ★★★ 1/2Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2More people need to be talking about The Luminous Dead.For those who like to blend their mystery/thriller with the speculative, it's an almost pitch-perfect entry into the niche 4 starsWhat an unexpected find! Technically a science fiction novel, The Luminous Dead reads like a mystery/thriller diverse survivalist tale with doses of speculative elements and psychological intrigue. Also, lots of caves. Caves on caves.Concept: ★★★★★Spook Factor: ★★★★ Pacing: ★★★Characters: ★★★ 1/2Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2More people need to be talking about The Luminous Dead.For those who like to blend their mystery/thriller with the speculative, it's an almost pitch-perfect entry into the niche. The Luminous Dead follows the underground cave mission of Gyre, the protagonist, as she works under contract for a company exploring one of the many caves on the planet. Gyre's suit comes with a 24/7 communication link to a handler above ground. Her handler, Em, appears to have hidden motivations regarding the mission and things don't always go as planned. Cue the suspense. This entire novel takes place with Gyre in the cave. We've got Em on the comm link, but it's mainly just this solo woman in the dark trying to survive and get to the last/deepest cave point to complete the mission. It's gripping. It's terrifying. Things happen to Gyre that I'll never forget. Gyre's mission is to travel between six Camps that Em and previous caving teams have managed to establish in the caves and get to the final marker. No one has made it to the final marker, but Gyre has nothing to lose and no way out but through.If you have claustrophobia, this novel is not for you. Considering the limited setting, limited dialogue, and repetitive scenery, the pacing is great. I never felt disengaged, and even found myself fighting not to glance ahead to relieve some of the narrative tension. Gyre's trip down into the belly of the beast is gripping and filled with many moments of psychological problems and survivalist dilemmas.One semi-gross note: There are several bodily-function mentions in this, as the high-tech suit Gyre is wearing has adapted sections of Gyre's body to leave no trace in the caves. If you don't like discussions of body parts, fair warning. What I didn't like: Between both Em and Gyre, there is too much of a focus on their mistrust for each other. Gyre flip-flops many times on trusting Em, not trusting Em, etc. This concept would have been completely fine, but the motivations and proof for this flip-flopping went back and forth. It wasn’t for me—I was here for the caves.Recommended reading for anyone who enjoys cave exploration, speculative/horror elements, survival tales, LGBT+, and pulse-pounding intimate science fiction. ***Original notes: Joke’s on me for reading this by myself at night. Loved it anyway. Review to come!
    more
  • Tammie
    January 1, 1970
    The Luminous Dead, a science fiction/horror book, was a solid 4 stars. The book centers around main character Gyre, a caver, who is desperate to earn money to find her missing mother. Gyre is hired by a private mining company to map mineral deposits in a cave off planet and thus the story begins. The Luminous Dead is a very creepy read, especially as Gyre starts her solo expedition exploring the cave. Gyre only has one line of communication and that’s through Em, her monitor. Em is a woman who h The Luminous Dead, a science fiction/horror book, was a solid 4 stars. The book centers around main character Gyre, a caver, who is desperate to earn money to find her missing mother. Gyre is hired by a private mining company to map mineral deposits in a cave off planet and thus the story begins. The Luminous Dead is a very creepy read, especially as Gyre starts her solo expedition exploring the cave. Gyre only has one line of communication and that’s through Em, her monitor. Em is a woman who has a lot of power over Gyre-she is her only source of communication, is able to control her suit and even give injections remotely. As equipment is found missing, routes suddenly changed and dead cavers bodies found throughout the cave-Gyre starts to wonder what her mission is. Both women are hiding important information but they must rely on each other to get what they each want so desperately. The Luminous Dead is very well-written and a highly atmospheric read. Recommended to fans that enjoy science fiction/horror books. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Nick T. Borrelli
    January 1, 1970
    I want to begin this review by pointing out the fact that I'm a sucker for books with this kind of theme. The plot of THE LUMINOUS DEAD is one that takes place on a planet rich in mineral deposits and a "caver" is exploring one such location while also possibly being stalked deep within the bowels of said cave. Anything that involves some sort of exploration on a distant planet or an archaeological angle and I'm usually all in. So when I had the opportunity to receive an advance reader copy of t I want to begin this review by pointing out the fact that I'm a sucker for books with this kind of theme. The plot of THE LUMINOUS DEAD is one that takes place on a planet rich in mineral deposits and a "caver" is exploring one such location while also possibly being stalked deep within the bowels of said cave. Anything that involves some sort of exploration on a distant planet or an archaeological angle and I'm usually all in. So when I had the opportunity to receive an advance reader copy of the book from the publisher, I couldn't download it fast enough. I hadn't previously heard of the author Caitlin Starling before and this is apparently her first novel, so I was excited to see how this story would unfold. I had seen the comparisons to The Martian in that the story is told mainly through internal dialogue and conversation with only one other main character who serves as "mission control" of the expedition. You don't see too many books use this type of narrative device, so I was intrigued to get started. Now on to the book and my subsequent thoughts about it.The main character in THE LUMINOUS DEAD is Gyre, a caver who signs a contract with a private mining company for what she believes is just another expedition to gather valuable ore deposits. Gyre is not totally forthcoming about her background and motive when she signs on with the company, which is to score a quick payday so that she can keep looking for her mother who abandoned her years ago. Gyre has been obsessed with finding out what happened to her mother and she sees this job as nothing more than a means to fund her continuing efforts going forward. What Gyre doesn't know yet is that her contractor and only lifeline to the outside world Em has motivations of her own that aren't simply mining for ore. Gyre and Em are connected via a communication device located inside Gyre's suit where Em can also monitor every aspect of Gyre's physical health. Their relationship starts out as a combative one as Gyre suspects that Em may be hiding something from her and not being completely honest about the job that she has been asked to do. It turns out that Gyre's suspicions are not entirely unfounded when she is able to access a video from her suit that shows a previous mining party who experience an incredible tragedy while exploring the same cave that Gyre is now embedded deep within. When Gyre lashes out at Em and threatens to quit and turn back, Em is forced to reveal that her parents were the ones in the video along with a few others. Something terrible happened to the party that Em has been struggling to discover the answer to. It turns out that she has sent dozens of other cavers on the same mission as Gyre with most of them dying in the treacherous tunnels trying vainly to reach the area where Em's parents were last documented to be alive. As Em continues to open up about what happened to her parents and their family business, her relationship with Gyre starts to change. It begins to become one of mutual understanding as they both are in similar situations: trying to find answers to missing family members. It also becomes a borderline romantic relationship of sorts. Eventually things really start to change as Gyre both sees and hears signs that she may not be alone inside the cave. Could it possibly be someone from the original doomed crew? Em's mother? Or could it be something far far worse that is now stalking Gyre as she tries to survive and find a way out of what could be her ultimate resting place? My first feeling about THE LUMINOUS DEAD was that the story is of a style that I like based on similar novels that I've previously read, one being The Descent by Jeff Long. Admittedly that one didn't take place on another planet, but the feel of it was much the same initially and the cave exploration aspect was as well. There were a few things that I really liked about this book. One being the mystery behind what happened to Em's parents and also Gyre's mother. I thought that was handled deftly as well as the additional mystery of whether what was also present in the cave was a person or a monster of some kind. The suspense of these two questions kept me wanting to read further. The characters of Gyre and Em were well done with both of them having their own demons driving them to find out what happened to lost loved ones. I didn't mind the fact that there was only a two-person dialogue for the entire book either, but at times it did get a little draggy for long stretches as the dialogues were quite frequent and went off on some lengthy tangents. This is ultimately where I found myself not being as into the book as I could have otherwise. For me the book seemed to take a long time to develop and for about the first 70% of it all we really get are conversations that sometimes are relevant to the story and sometimes not. I definitely enjoy when a story builds slowly to a crescendo, but I thought that this one took a little more time than most to get going. When the climax happens, it does so with a bang and it is very satisfying, but unfortunately the journey to get there is fraught with long periods of not much happening. So I have to say that I liked THE LUMINOUS DEAD, but fell just short of loving it. That being said, others may have a vastly different opinion and you should give this one a try if you enjoy books with cave exploration and mysterious things that go bump in the dark. In the end it was a solid book that I think offers a good enough amount for readers to enjoy. But you'll have to wait until April of next year to purchase it as that is when it is slated for release in the U.S.
    more
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    like if the martian and annihilation got freaky in a cave with queer women!!!
  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/03/31/...The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling is a story about two women who have more in common than either of them would like to admit, but by the time they realize how much they mean to each other, it might already be too late. Gyre was only a little girl when her mother abandoned her, leaving only a vague note with an invitation to her daughter to come find her when she is ready. Now twenty-two years old, our protagonist has 2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/03/31/...The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling is a story about two women who have more in common than either of them would like to admit, but by the time they realize how much they mean to each other, it might already be too late. Gyre was only a little girl when her mother abandoned her, leaving only a vague note with an invitation to her daughter to come find her when she is ready. Now twenty-two years old, our protagonist has finally decided it is time. But first, she’ll need to make enough money to get off her backwater planet and begin her search, and to do that, she has forged her credentials and work history in order to sign on to a dangerous mining operation known to pay its cavers extremely well.Given how much she was offered for the job, Gyre expected to be assisted by team of specialists and scientists, but instead, she finds herself alone in the deep, dark tunnels of the planet with only a single overworked individual on the surface remotely monitoring all her life support and suit controls. Introducing herself as Em, her handler is secretive and uncommunicative in her lofty position of authority, which immediately sets off Gyre’s dislike and mistrust of her. But very soon, as the mission becomes increasingly difficult and treacherous, the two of them have to learn to work together and let each other in, because only then can they save one another and put the ghosts of their pasts to rest.I was torn between like and dislike for this book, and it kills me to have to give this one anything less than 3 stars because it had its moments. However, there were simply too many other things about it that left me feeling disenchanted and utterly frustrated, making it hard to justify a higher rating. The truth is, I probably would have enjoyed the story a lot more had it been presented in a shorter, less repetitive and more condensed form, but as it is, I felt that too many pages were devoted to pointless back-and-forth or were squandered by following our characters as they—quite literally in some cases—walked around in circles.What’s more, I feel the publisher description has done the book a great disservice by comparing it to The Martian and Gravity, because the reality, as I found out, was much different. For one thing, the “intensive drive” that was promised was virtually non-existent. A heart-pounding thriller this was not, so don’t be expecting anything like The Descent. I just can’t emphasize enough the slowness of this book, even though, in all fairness, I have no doubt the measured pacing here was entirely intentional. The plot featured here is the kind that relies heavily on character development and relationship building, a process that understandably cannot be rushed.But back to my issues with the blurb: as you would recall, both Mark Watney and Ryan Stone in the respective tales of survival were quick-on-their-feet problem solvers who kept their cool and used their wits to apply their knowledge and resources available to them in order to overcome obstacles. In awe of their inventiveness and ability to find quick and clever ways to get out of tight spots, never once while watching them did I think to myself, “Wow, that was dumb.” Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Gyre, a recalcitrant, reckless and naïve protagonist who frequently and actively sabotaged her own chances of survival with her tunnel vision and less-than-intelligent decisions. That she never learned from any of her mistakes or the fact that the narrative fell back again and again into the same tiresome, infuriating patterns was simply another nail in the coffin. I mean, if you have reason to suspect your mental capabilities may be compromised, perhaps then you shouldn’t rely solely on your own impaired judgment? Sure, Em’s not perfect, but maybe trust that as mission control, she has at least some idea of what she’s talking about? But no, pretty much the entirety of this 400-page novel consisted of repeated variations of the following conversation:Gyre: “I’m going to go ahead now and do something stupid.”Em: “No, don’t do it, Gyre. That would be really stupid.”Gyre: “Fuck you! Just because you’re my boss doesn’t mean you can boss me around!”*Gyre goes ahead and does something really stupid*Gyre: “Well shit, I guess that really WAS stupid. I might have just doomed myself with my stupidity. Dammit Em, why didn’t you stop me?”Em: “You’re right, I really should have tried harder. I’m so sorry that I’m such a monster.”Gyre: “Damn right you are, and I’m not about to let this happen to anyone else. To do that, I’m going to go ahead now and do something stupid.”Em: “No, don’t do it, Gyre. That would be really stupid.”And on and on, ad nauseum. Granted, the first couple of times this exchange happened, it gave us great insight into the characters’ personalities and dynamic. However, tighter writing and more concise storytelling could have probably conveyed the same ideas in half as many pages. The F/F relationship was also not very satisfying, and considering so much of it was developed under mental and physical strain or was fueled by desperate need and duress, I just couldn’t see it as either healthy or sustainable. Furthermore, I was never convinced of Em’s true intentions of sending people down into those caves. The explanations given were so underwhelming, initially I thought they were a smoke screen to obscure the true reasons which would later be revealed, but nope, that was it.Still, I did mention the book had its moments. First of all, kudos to the author for pulling off what is essentially a novel featuring an extremely limited setting and only two characters. And while at no point did I personally find this “horror” novel scary or disturbing, Starling nevertheless did a fantastic job evoking an atmosphere of isolation and claustrophobia, especially in the sections with the sumps. At times, the hopelessness of Gyre’s situation really got to me, not to mention how all the uncertainties had a way of messing with your head. Scenes of breathless action were few and far between, but whenever they cropped up, they were also well written and suspenseful. Plus, the tunnelers were pretty cool, though we didn’t get to see nearly as much of them as I would have liked.However, at the end of the day, the positives were still outweighed by the negatives, which greatly impacted my experience with this book. Namely, slow pacing and aggravating characters were my main issues, compounded with the possibility that my expectations had been set too high by the synopsis. That said, I don’t want to discourage anyone from checking out this novel if the story’s description calls to you, or if you this is something you might enjoy. Good luck, and happy caving.
    more
  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    The blurb compares The Luminous Dead to The Martian, Gravity, and Annihilation. The first two are fine, if the only criteria is "lone person in space-ish survival situation", which is to say not that similar at all. Annihilation is closer for the overall feel of unease, and lack of trust even the protagonist can place in their own perception. But really, The Luminous Dead is something that doesn't entirely fit the mold of what came before - it's something entirely original, and even a bit daring The blurb compares The Luminous Dead to The Martian, Gravity, and Annihilation. The first two are fine, if the only criteria is "lone person in space-ish survival situation", which is to say not that similar at all. Annihilation is closer for the overall feel of unease, and lack of trust even the protagonist can place in their own perception. But really, The Luminous Dead is something that doesn't entirely fit the mold of what came before - it's something entirely original, and even a bit daring.Gyre Price is a woman desperate to be anywhere but stuck on this planet, working for peanuts and getting nowhere. And by the age of 22, she's done it - she's here, working a job considered so dangerous (but compensated accordingly) that cavers usually retire after 2, maybe 3, expeditions. And her only link back to the surface world is the lone voice in her headset, Em - and it's clear that Em isn't just prioritising Gyre's life.Now I'm not a fan of small spaces. Caves, with all that weight pressing down from above? No, thank you! But oddly, that didn't bother me at all. No, where I started to get uneasy was the suit. Cavers wear a suit that plugs directly in (following surgical modifications) to digestive systems, and completely encloses the person within. There's no moving your hand up the sleeve to wipe your face, either - these are small, completely fitted suits. Add to that the absolutely brilliantly escalating unease (the writing really is so good), and before long I was easily as paranoid as Gyre. Possibly more so. I really enjoyed this book. It had me on edge from maybe 10% onwards, and caring so much about Gyre that I couldn't put it down until I know if she'd be ok. I still found it thoroughly unsettling, but I was there with her the whole way - it really is some brilliant writing from Caitlin Starling. I look forward to reading more from her.
    more
  • Justine
    January 1, 1970
    Very close to a 4 star read for me.This is a great pick if you like survival stories with the edge of a pschological thriller. It's well written and easy to follow even if you know nothing at all about climbing and cave diving (me, I know only a little).Coincidentally, I recently read an interesting story in National Geographic about the role of cave divers in the rescue of a boys soccer team from Thailand, who were trapped in a cave for days. It is a different story than the book (obviously) bu Very close to a 4 star read for me.This is a great pick if you like survival stories with the edge of a pschological thriller. It's well written and easy to follow even if you know nothing at all about climbing and cave diving (me, I know only a little).Coincidentally, I recently read an interesting story in National Geographic about the role of cave divers in the rescue of a boys soccer team from Thailand, who were trapped in a cave for days. It is a different story than the book (obviously) but it did give me some context and a little background, which made The Luminous Dead an even better read.For those who are interested, here's the link to the NG story: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/ad...
    more
  • Chris Berko
    January 1, 1970
    A solid four star read for me, if somewhat repetitive, until the end which was sort of a disappointment, so I have to give it a three. I haven't read the Martian so can't speak knowledgeably about that comparison and the only way it reminded me of Annihilation was the underwhelming conclusion. The author does do a lot with only two characters, one only being a voice and a face on a screen, and there were truly frightening and claustrophobic moments it just didn't all come together for me like I A solid four star read for me, if somewhat repetitive, until the end which was sort of a disappointment, so I have to give it a three. I haven't read the Martian so can't speak knowledgeably about that comparison and the only way it reminded me of Annihilation was the underwhelming conclusion. The author does do a lot with only two characters, one only being a voice and a face on a screen, and there were truly frightening and claustrophobic moments it just didn't all come together for me like I had been hoping. I almost never say this about books, but it would make a good movie.
    more
  • The Bookavid
    January 1, 1970
    I'll be honest. I have a hard time with books that have very limited settings and work a lot with internal monologue to establish setting and mood rather than action. THE LUMINOUS DEAD is pretty much the prose version of a chamber play. In space. With aliens. And corpses. And gay girls.Even though this is really not the kind of book I usually go for, there's just something about THE LUMINOUS DEAD that made me long to keep going, to keep following cave explorer Gyre on her mysterious quest throug I'll be honest. I have a hard time with books that have very limited settings and work a lot with internal monologue to establish setting and mood rather than action. THE LUMINOUS DEAD is pretty much the prose version of a chamber play. In space. With aliens. And corpses. And gay girls.Even though this is really not the kind of book I usually go for, there's just something about THE LUMINOUS DEAD that made me long to keep going, to keep following cave explorer Gyre on her mysterious quest through that cave in space while getting instructions from this girl Em, who definitely is up to something. THE LUMINOUS DEAD just forces you to keep going. I couldn't think of anything else every time I put this down because I just needed to know what this awful-fascinating girl was up to. Why Em hired Gyre to travel deep into this cave for such an exorbitant compensation. It's so fascinating. Infuriatingly so, honestly. Em and Gyre have an interestig dynamic. It's a little bit enemies-to-lovers, and Em does a lot of questionable things to keep Gyre going, especially in the beginning, but I think it's resolved quite fairly. THE LUMINOUS DEAD takes place in such a high-tension environment that just naturally brings out the worst in people, and I feel like Starling really captured that. I loved the way she built in technology as well, with Gyre's high tech suit that seems to take care of pretty much everything. It's fun. It's easy to forget that this is a book in space when you're just dealing with this girl being trapped in a cave for 300 pages that could've just as well been in a contemporary setting. The execution really works. It's very atmospheric and creepy as hell.THE LUMINOUS DEAD is definitely a slow book and a pretty graphic one, too, by the way. So if you struggle with anything related to corpses, this is probably not a good pick.It really reminded me of that movie The Descent, with the alien spin on top. Terrifying, fun, unputdownable. I'm a little bit mad actually because I don't think I even had a choice here but to finish this.
    more
  • Jen (Book Den)
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved The Luminous Dead. It's so rare for me to pick up a book, be immediately hooked, and stay that way through the entirety of the novel. The Luminous Dead is 432 pages, and I would have had no problem reading it in one sitting if life wasn't in the way. Even with life I was able to knock it out in 2 days. I did not want to put it down.The Luminous Dead is Caitlin Starling's debut novel. Caitlin Starling is now on my autobuy list. The Luminous Dead only had two characters and one I absolutely loved The Luminous Dead. It's so rare for me to pick up a book, be immediately hooked, and stay that way through the entirety of the novel. The Luminous Dead is 432 pages, and I would have had no problem reading it in one sitting if life wasn't in the way. Even with life I was able to knock it out in 2 days. I did not want to put it down.The Luminous Dead is Caitlin Starling's debut novel. Caitlin Starling is now on my autobuy list. The Luminous Dead only had two characters and one setting for the entire book, and yet I was riveted.The cave setting was the perfect setup for psychological suspense. It wasn't as horror heavy as I was expecting it to be, but I loved the constant sense of dread. The Luminous Dead is one of my favorite reads so far this year, and I highly recommend it!Review copy provided by publisher
    more
  • Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    This review can also be found on my blog!CW: parental death, death, parental abandonment, claustrophobia and some violenceI legit ended this book thinking thatLike I said a while ago, sci-fi isn’t always a genre I gravitate towards. I typically enjoy it, but I don’t automatically reach for it and want to read it all the time. But, I saw this on Edelweiss and immediately realized that I would love it.Not only is it sci-fi, but it has heavy threads of horror running through it. Horror to the point This review can also be found on my blog!CW: parental death, death, parental abandonment, claustrophobia and some violenceI legit ended this book thinking thatLike I said a while ago, sci-fi isn’t always a genre I gravitate towards. I typically enjoy it, but I don’t automatically reach for it and want to read it all the time. But, I saw this on Edelweiss and immediately realized that I would love it.Not only is it sci-fi, but it has heavy threads of horror running through it. Horror to the point that I was tense and reading with rapt attention, wide-eyed and horrified. Because, damn Starling can write. (And, this is a debut. Like damn.)The book is, in a nutshell, the story of a cave and what has happened in it.Gyre picks up a contract to go into a cave. But, things aren’t what they seem. The contract she signed. The woman leading her. The cave itself. It’s all mixed and insane.Honestly, I don’t want to get too much into the plot because I feel like it would give a lot away since the story organically unfolded and every reveal didn’t feel quite like a reveal, yet it certainly was one. If that makes sense.This story is led by strong women, though. Gyre is complex and gloriously flawed. She’s a fantastic lead to bring you through the cave. I got worried at some points that she would annoy me or piss me off — aka, be a Lila Bard character — but while I was annoyed, I felt endeared to her. I understood her.The other main character is Em, the one leading Gyre through the cave system. Just like Gyre, she’s incredibly complex and a deeply flawed individual, yet one that is so beautiful. I’m all for these amazing female characters who aren’t perfect, yet you just can understand them so well.It made me so happy to read these strong women in roles that would have usually been occupied by men. One woman exploring a cave and getting sucked deeper and deeper into the weird world that it is. Another woman who is leading it and having to help make tough decisions, along with handle someone who isn’t always cooperative. I loved the blend of traditional feminine and masculine energy in this book. Seriously, it gave me life.Since this is sci-fi, there is an attached world to it. I don’t think I ever got a big handle on the surrounding world. In this book, that’s not a big deal since it’s a bottle episode of a cave. But, there are some mentions of things that made me go “…what?” even if it never impacted my enjoyment of the story.Oh, and also, it’s queer. I saw one review mention it in a one-sentence review, but I kind of want to talk about it more. You don’t get an overall hint that these are queer women for most of the book, but it’s there and keeps growing stronger and stronger until the end of the story when it’s really confirmed. I got a bit worried about queerbaiting, but there is a payoff with it. And, that made me happier than anything. Their sexualities were never defined, but it was very clear they were queer the whole time.I was absolutely entranced by this book. It was amazing to read. I loved it and preordered the book when I wasn’t even halfway through because I knew that it was going to be a favorite of mine.In short, I’m very impressed by this new author and I can’t wait to read what else she writes!
    more
  • Kameron Hurley
    January 1, 1970
    My blurb: "A masterful, nail-biting thriller from an extraordinary talent. Meticulously researched, expertly paced, with yearning, self-destructive heroines whose incredible physical and emotional journies will leave you breathless." This book was exactly what I hoped it would be!
    more
  • laurel [suspected bibliophile]
    January 1, 1970
    TW: Claustrophobia, paranoiaGyre Price needs cash. She needs to get off-world. And the best way to do this is by cave-diving—and she's found the perfect expedition. Great equipment. Decent contract. High pay-out. So what if she fudged her experience a little? She knows how to climb. She's strong.But her support team ends up being a team of one. And that one is Em. Em, who drugs her. Who lies to her. Who manipulates her.And there's something else.There's something in the caves with her.~What did TW: Claustrophobia, paranoiaGyre Price needs cash. She needs to get off-world. And the best way to do this is by cave-diving—and she's found the perfect expedition. Great equipment. Decent contract. High pay-out. So what if she fudged her experience a little? She knows how to climb. She's strong.But her support team ends up being a team of one. And that one is Em. Em, who drugs her. Who lies to her. Who manipulates her.And there's something else.There's something in the caves with her.~What did I just read?! HOW WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN?!?!! One thing for certain: I will never, ever, ever, ever go spelunking. Or cave diving. Or diving in water with anything solid or liquid over my head EVER. Hell, I'm probably never going to go into a swimming pool again.Do not read this if you are claustrophobic. Do not read this if you scare easily (gah I'm such a wimp). Do not read this if you like tight spaces, aren't afraid of the dark or find cave diving an enjoyable and delightful experience (why, tho). Lol jk. Read whatever the hell you want.This is how this book made me feelRead this taut psychological sci-fi horror thriller. Its tense, atmospheric creepiness kept me far up into the night, and since I don't have an unethical handler prepped to administer uppers without my consent, I went to sleep when I got tired, had nightmares, and then woke up and finished this book.I never thought that I would read a book with only two characters (well, mayyyyybe) that revolves around cave exploration on another planet, much less be entertained by said book, but this was entertaining, riveting and oh so scary.Have I mentioned this was scary?It's scary.Because are you ever really alone?(view spoiler)[This would have been a five star read but that ending was ehhhhhhhhh... (hide spoiler)]I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
    more
  • Dennis
    January 1, 1970
    Possible review to come, depending on if I think it's worth it—but I wasn't a fan.
  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    Warning! Do not attempt to read this book if you are claustrophobic. Do not attempt to read it if your skin crawls in terror from being trapped in small places. Both in its setting and thematically, the Luminous Dead is a narrowly-focused tightly-drawn Story. From Jules Verne to Burroughs to numerous modern writers, there has been an endless fascination with tunneling into the center of the earth, a focus on what lies within the labyrinth of underground spaces. Luminous Dead, with its beautiful Warning! Do not attempt to read this book if you are claustrophobic. Do not attempt to read it if your skin crawls in terror from being trapped in small places. Both in its setting and thematically, the Luminous Dead is a narrowly-focused tightly-drawn Story. From Jules Verne to Burroughs to numerous modern writers, there has been an endless fascination with tunneling into the center of the earth, a focus on what lies within the labyrinth of underground spaces. Luminous Dead, with its beautiful cover art and image-provoking title, continues that tradition. The story takes place on a backwater mining planet, or rather takes place in the planet because the surface of the planet is only important for character development. Almost No action takes place up there. It is important to know however that it is a dry dusty planet of desperation whose few inhabitants will do almost anything to escape to the garden worlds out there. Gyre’s mother escaped long ago, abandoning her to the rocky outcropping and deep crevasses that Gyre spent her childhood exploring. Now it’s Gyre’s turn and, in desperation, she signed a contract as a caver, falsifying her experience because it’s going to take the big money an experienced caver earns to get off world. Now, here she is in a full suit like a space explorer with a feeding tube to connect her to nutrition canisters and a tube surgically attached to her intestines to quickly carry away waste. It’s dangerous down there and survival means keeping her suit on and surrendering total control of her bodily functions to mission control. Is she now a puppet at the whim of her controller? How much of her humanity has she given up? Is she any more than a piece of equipment to be manipulated into exploring the depths and whose survival is only as important as the completion of her mission? It will take all of Gyre’s skills in climbing, swimming, and more to make it from one base camp to the next. But, little did Gyre know when she signed her contract how minimal her support team would be, how many cavers had gone before her into these tunnels and not returned, and how the crippling environment below would play havoc with not just her senses but her very sanity. Is she hallucinating or is there someone else down here following her, staking her? And what happens when a native creature who tunnels through bedrock gets close?There are very few characters in this full length novel and very little change in scenery. Yet, it’s a fascinating spellbinding story of survival, of trust, of paranoia, of the human spirit.
    more
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    The Luminous Dead is a sci-fi horror novel, which is not usually something I'm drawn to. The synopsis of this one was so damn captivating that I had to give it a chance, and I'm so glad that I did! I loved this book, and tore through it since I had to know what was going on.I have not read anything from Caitlin Starling before, but I'm definitely a fan now. It is truly impressive to write a book set in a closed environment with two characters and be able to hold my attention the entire way throu The Luminous Dead is a sci-fi horror novel, which is not usually something I'm drawn to. The synopsis of this one was so damn captivating that I had to give it a chance, and I'm so glad that I did! I loved this book, and tore through it since I had to know what was going on.I have not read anything from Caitlin Starling before, but I'm definitely a fan now. It is truly impressive to write a book set in a closed environment with two characters and be able to hold my attention the entire way through. It was so mysterious to me, and I was dying to found out what led up to the story, and that was going to happen. There are a lot of secrets and lies in this book, and I really enjoyed watching everything unravel. I also liked that this book had two queer women as the main characters, and it was really refreshing since I have not seen a ton of horror with F/F relationships. There are definitely some, but I haven't come across that many (also, let me know if you have any to recommend).The Luminous Dead provides a great sense of dread and claustrophobia. This book is incredibly atmospheric - it's set in a cave system, which is not ever a place I want to be. It has good survival horror vibes - I was never certain how things were going to work out, and I loved the suspense. This was an intense read for me, and I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much to Harper Voyager for sending me a copy of The Luminous Dead. This fantastic book will be out on April 2nd, and I highly recommend picking it up! I hope to read more from Caitlin Starling in the future.
    more
  • Cillian
    January 1, 1970
    The synopsis is great, but there's a huge fucking spoiler tucked in.When you give away something that happens after the 50% mark, you're spoiling.Make that a rule.
  • Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    Many thanks to for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review| Goodreads | Blog | Twitch | Pinterest | Buy this book
  • Emily A. Duncan
    January 1, 1970
    I’m never going into a cave EVER IN MY LIFE.
  • Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
    January 1, 1970
    When I was reading this, I was seriously thinking that it feels like a (100% queerer) version of Annhilation crossed with something like Sandra Bullock’s Gravity… and then I saw that was the official comp! So I apparently wasn’t alone in thinking that.I’d heard a lot of positive buzz about The Luminous Dead, and boy the story did not disappoint.On a hardscrabble planet, the only path to getting out is risking your life exploring the cave systems and the valuable minerals they hold. And Gyre Pric When I was reading this, I was seriously thinking that it feels like a (100% queerer) version of Annhilation crossed with something like Sandra Bullock’s Gravity… and then I saw that was the official comp! So I apparently wasn’t alone in thinking that.I’d heard a lot of positive buzz about The Luminous Dead, and boy the story did not disappoint.On a hardscrabble planet, the only path to getting out is risking your life exploring the cave systems and the valuable minerals they hold. And Gyre Price wants out, enough that she’s lied about her qualifications to get an exploration job. Only, it turns out the job was also fudging the truth. She’s several days beneath the surface when she realizes that she’s not being sent to look for mineral deposits and that she doesn’t have a full surface team — just Em, a woman driven by mysterious goals that cause her to risk others’ lives. Gyre isn’t the first explorer sent into these caverns… but how many of those before her have made it out alive?If you want messy, sharp-edged f/f relationships, then this is the book for you. Gyre and Em are literally the only characters. Part of what makes the caverns dangerous are these creatures called the Tunnelers, who destroy humans whenever they detect them. As a result, explorers are sent in alone wearing full body suits that they won’t remove for weeks. Gyre is completely isolated… except for Em, the voice on the line that she both craves and hates. Em’s the one who’s gotten her into this situation, but Em’s all she has. And is Em entirely a monster? It’s the sort of relationship that probably isn’t 100% healthy, but it’s totally compelling fiction.Gyre, Em, and their relationship (can mistrust turn to trust?) are obviously a core part of the book, since they’re the only characters. But the cave system itself is practically a character of its own in the way that the best settings are. It’s wonderfully atmospheric. Cave exploration would be dangerous under any circumstances, but the peculiarities of Gyre’s planet give this an added twist. Plus, something seems off about these particular caverns… someone’s removed supply caches, and Em could swear she sees someone following her… While I see the book being listed as horror, I found it to be not exactly horror (although creepy for sure).The pacing is very strong. I ended up reading The Luminous Dead in roughly twenty-four hours, unable to look away from Gyre, Em, and the darkness of the caverns. I actually stayed up past midnight to finish it, but it was so worth it. I don’t know if I would have believed that a book with only two characters, set in a cave, could be this good… but it was!The Luminous Dead is a very strong debut novel. Additionally, it’s a stand-alone, not a series starter, so head up if you’re looking for that.I highly recommend The Luminous Dead, and I can’t wait to see what Caitlin Starling does next.I received an ARC with the expectation of a free and honest review.Review from The Illustrated Page.
    more
  • Unabridged Bibliophile
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by Harper Collins for review.
  • Stephanie (That's What She Read)
    January 1, 1970
    3.25 starsThis had a great premise. A cave diver Gyre lies about her qualifications to get a diving job that will pay her enough to get her off her home planet. She thinks she is going to be part of a team, but discovers that she is going to be doing this alone. Her only contact is with the mysterious Em, who knows about her lies. What I liked: - The author did so much with a novel that essentially only has two characters- I loved all of the details with how the suit was designed, and even the s 3.25 starsThis had a great premise. A cave diver Gyre lies about her qualifications to get a diving job that will pay her enough to get her off her home planet. She thinks she is going to be part of a team, but discovers that she is going to be doing this alone. Her only contact is with the mysterious Em, who knows about her lies. What I liked: - The author did so much with a novel that essentially only has two characters- I loved all of the details with how the suit was designed, and even the surgical procedures that had to be done so that Gyre could go on this expedition and not have to stop what she is doing. - The dynamics between Em and Gyre. Gyre doesn't know if she can trust Em, especially after she reveals that she knows about Gyre's lies and then proceeds to overstep her bounds with the suit. - It had great moments of tension and claustrophobic sectionsWhat didn't work: - It was a bit too long. - It gets a little repetetive. Gyre and Em have the same fights and thought processes multiple times. Can I trust her? Is she hiding something? It worked well the first time or two, and then felt recycled and lost its impact.
    more
  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    January 1, 1970
    Words flashed up on her cracked screen.DON'T SPEAKGyre choked down the faint, nascent sound that threatened to leak from her throat.The words on her screen disappeared, and were replaced with:IT HEARD THE SINGING. IT DOESN'T LIKE HUMAN VOICESI won this book via GoodReads' First Reads and I really had no idea what it was about; but I loved the title and the cover so dove right in. What I landed in was a creepy, claustrophobic thriller pitting/partnering two damaged people in a place determined to Words flashed up on her cracked screen.DON'T SPEAKGyre choked down the faint, nascent sound that threatened to leak from her throat.The words on her screen disappeared, and were replaced with:IT HEARD THE SINGING. IT DOESN'T LIKE HUMAN VOICESI won this book via GoodReads' First Reads and I really had no idea what it was about; but I loved the title and the cover so dove right in. What I landed in was a creepy, claustrophobic thriller pitting/partnering two damaged people in a place determined to kill them. Starling doesn't waste time plunging us (literally) into her world, an alien place where mining dominates but some kind of alien known as Tunnelers make it dangerous. Cavers identify lodes -- if they survive the Tunnelers -- and a good caver can make lucrative money surviving one or two expeditions. Surviving being the operative word.Gyre is desperate to leave her home planet to find her mother, who abandoned her as a child; she risked everything to land this mysterious, dangerous, highly paid job. Quickly, we see things are not as expected, but even Gyre doesn't know what is standard. The novel devolves into a mire of paranoia and barely contained panic, infectious and so very, very fun to read.There are alien monsters, possibly unreliable narrators, horrifying realities or maybe terrifying delusions. It's impossible to tell what's real and what isn't, and I loved every moment.Bonus is that Starling's world isn't white and straight! A super fun debut, reminiscent of The Descent and The White Road.
    more
  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A mixed bag of both thrilling tension and a slow, ponderous beginning, The Luminous Dead worked on some levels but failed on others.This is a hard review to write. On one hand there are things about The Luminous Dead that I loved, elements that the author did really well. But on the other hand, there are a lot of problems wit I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A mixed bag of both thrilling tension and a slow, ponderous beginning, The Luminous Dead worked on some levels but failed on others.This is a hard review to write. On one hand there are things about The Luminous Dead that I loved, elements that the author did really well. But on the other hand, there are a lot of problems with this story, so it’s hard for me to fully endorse it. In the end I decided to give this three stars, which I feel is a good rating based on the mix of both good and bad elements.(And strangely, every time I saw the word "caver" my brain read it as "cadaver." Not sure what that means!)Gyre is an experienced caver and makes her living joining dangerous caving expeditions on an off world planet. Corporations hire cavers and send them on missions to find precious ores, forging paths deep in the caves for future mining operations. She’s just signed on for a solo job which will give her enough money to quit caving altogether, and enough money to find her missing mother. But upon entering the cave, decked out in a high-tech suit that will keep her alive for the next month or so in the caves, she discovers that instead of the expected team of experts, monitoring her from the surface through a sophisticated computer system, there is just one woman at the controls. Em is terse and combative and seems to have an ulterior motive, although Gyre at first can’t figure out what that might be.As she makes her descent, the dangers of caving become more and more real as things start to go wrong. Crucial supplies that are stashed away in various “camps” throughout the cave system have gone missing. Water levels inside the cave have risen, creating dangerous pools of water that Gyre will have to swim through. And then there’s the ever-present threat of the Tunnelers, unseen creatures who burrow through rock and leave destruction in their paths. Gyre is tough and determined to finish the mission, but can she even trust Em to keep her alive?Let’s start with the positives. The Luminous Dead is actually pretty scary at times, and I thought Starling did a great job creating and then ratcheting up the tension. This is a survival story, and at no time while reading it was I convinced that Gyre would make it out alive. In the beginning of the story we learn that Em has sent down thirty-five other cavers before Gyre, and of those, twenty-seven did not make it back. So you know right away that Gyre’s odds at surviving are not very good. She has all sorts of things to contend with: the inherent dangers of rappelling down walls; the possibility that her suit or equipment might malfunction; the constant worry that she’ll run out of replacement batteries which are necessary for her suit to maintain life support; getting lost; running into a Tunneler; injury—the list goes on and on. In short, this is a dangerous—one might say foolhardy—mission, and Starling conveys that danger really well.I also loved the cave setting. I thought the author did a pretty good job of describing the cave, with its dank air, slick walls and floors, the ever present darkness, penetrated only by the glow of Gyre’s headlamp or her equipment. The whole story had a claustrophobic feeling to it, as Gyre moves through tight spaces and is forced to traverse some areas under water. I did get a little confused about the logistics, though, and I would have loved a map in the beginning of the book for reference, as Gyre moves from Camp One to Camp Four and then back to Camp Two, etc. I did see mention of a “map to come” on my Kindle version, so if you’ve seen a finished copy and can verify a map, I’d love to know.But for such a thrilling sounding story, The Luminous Dead is actually quite slow-paced, at least until you hit the halfway point. Up until then there is a lot of repetitious action, while Gyre makes her way slowly through the caves, backtracking when she runs into obstacles, arguing with Em about what her next move will be, etc. There are several mysteries going on, and I never got sufficient answers to those mysteries, which was disappointing. We hear Em and Gyre talking about the Tunnelers early on, but it isn’t until about the 90% point that we actually see a Tunneler. Gyre is also seeing strange things in the caves, and you aren’t really sure whether they’re real or not. I did love the way Starling drew that element out for such a long time, although it sort of petered out at the end and the explanation just didn’t satisfy me.I also had issues with the characters. Gyre seems like she’s going to be a tough-as-nails woman, athletic and experienced with caving, yet at some of the most critical moments in the story, her brain seems to shut down completely and she makes some awful decisions. One moment in particular actually made me laugh out loud, even though it was quite horrific! And I really didn’t like Em at all. First of all, her motivation for sending so many cavers to their deaths was frankly, ridiculous. What this story really needed was higher stakes, something that made Gyre’s suffering worth while, but every reveal felt like a cop-out to me. Em also lies a lot to Gyre, and then admits that she was lying. That makes Gyre hate her even more, except then it feels like they’re starting to have feelings for each other? It made no sense to me at all, and I got the feeling that the author was just trying to shoehorn some queer rep into her story for the sake of being able to say “Hey, I have queer rep in my story!”A lot of things about this story didn’t make sense, in fact, and I had so many questions. When Gyre is in dire straits, why doesn’t Em send in a rescue team? If Em’s never actually been caving herself, why does she seem to know every nook and cranny of the caves? Gyre has several opportunities to abort her mission and return to safety, yet each time she decides to keep going—for very stupid reasons. I found myself wanting to rewrite the story in many places, which isn’t a good sign.Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself. I know plenty of bloggers who really loved this book, but if you’re like me and you need solid reasoning behind characters’ motivations, then proceed with caution.Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
    more
  • Nadine
    January 1, 1970
    The Luminous Dead is an atmospheric novel that follows two women as they dive deep into the earth and even deeper into their own psyches. I love these types of novels, exploring unexplored lands/planets. So, I requested this one immediately after reading its synopsis. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Luminous Dead as much as I wanted. The comparison to The Martian and Annihilation are apt, though The Luminous Dead is missing that spark and it factor that make those novels memorable. The atmosph The Luminous Dead is an atmospheric novel that follows two women as they dive deep into the earth and even deeper into their own psyches. I love these types of novels, exploring unexplored lands/planets. So, I requested this one immediately after reading its synopsis. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Luminous Dead as much as I wanted. The comparison to The Martian and Annihilation are apt, though The Luminous Dead is missing that spark and it factor that make those novels memorable. The atmosphere throughout the novel is creepy with an unrelenting sense of dread. Starling excels flawlessly with this aspect of the novel. From the beginning of the novel until the end, it feels as if there’s a weight slowly settling on your chest as you explore the cave with the characters and discover the many unsettling decisions that led to the characters’ current situation. The synopsis paints The Luminous Dead as a very different novel than the one you get. Instead of a horror science fiction novel, readers get a creepy character driven story. The best way to describe the novel would be to compare it to the television The Walking Dead. The apocalypse and zombies are the catalyst to the character driven story as opposed to exploring the cause of apocalypse and zombies. The Luminous Dead functions in the same way. The exploration of the cave is the catalyst for the story being told about the two women. So, the world building is not expanded upon or explored since the story is ultimately about these two women and their journey. My three star rating mostly reflects my disappointment with what the synopsis paints versus what I ultimately got from the novel. I wish Starling had focused a little more on the world building and given more context as opposed to focusing solely on the two of them.Overall, despite my more negative review The Luminous Dead is definitely worth reading for Starling’s excellent atmospheric writing and character development. ** I was provided an ARC via Edelweiss for an honest review.
    more
  • Christine Sandquist (eriophora)
    January 1, 1970
    **This ARC was provided by Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review**You can read this review and others on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks!Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019Execution: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5Enjoyment: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Key Descriptors: horror, scifi, cave exploration, psychological, unreliable narrator, LGBTQ+Premise: Motivated by a desire to follow after the mother who abandoned her, Gyre Price lies about her experience in order to land a lucrative cave-diving gig. Gyre anticipates a topside team tha **This ARC was provided by Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review**You can read this review and others on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks!Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019Execution: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5Enjoyment: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Key Descriptors: horror, scifi, cave exploration, psychological, unreliable narrator, LGBTQ+Premise: Motivated by a desire to follow after the mother who abandoned her, Gyre Price lies about her experience in order to land a lucrative cave-diving gig. Gyre anticipates a topside team that matches the quality of the gear and paycheck she’s to be given…. only to find that her crew is a single woman, known only as Em. Em has no compunctions about manipulating what Gyre sees, hears, and feels in the cave through control of her diving suit. As claustrophobia and panic settle in, Gyre finds that she can trust no one – including herself.“THE CAVER AGREES TO SURRENDER BODILY AUTONOMY TO THE EXPEDITION TEAM FOR THE DURATION OF THE EXPEDITION PERIOD, IN ORDER TO FACILITATE THE SMOOTHER OPERATION OF THE EXPEDITION AND TO PROTECT THE CAVER’S WELL-BEING. AT THE EXPEDITION TEAM’S DISCRETION, THE EXPEDITION TEAM MAY PERFORM THE FOLLOWING NONEXCLUSIVE TASKS:ADMINISTRATION OF CERTAIN HORMONES AND NEUROTRANSMITTERS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ADRENALINE, DOPAMIN, AND MELATONIN.ADMINISTRATION OF CERTAIN PHARMACEUTICALS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANTIBIOTICS, OPIOD PAINKILLERS…”Review: I came for the creepy cave monsters and stuck around for the amazing character development and the interactions between Gyre and Em. The Luminous Dead utterly blew my expectations out of the water, and I enjoyed every minute of it. What an incredible debut novel!I was kept on the edge of my seat by the sheer sense of claustrophobia and terror the author evoked in this novel. I made the horrible mistake of reading this late at night (I simply couldn’t put it down), and was certain that if I looked up into the dark I’d see a face staring right back at me. I recommend reading this novel in a brightly lit, open space that is as dissimilar to a cave as possible. Gyre has to contend not only with the normal dangers of a cave – which are dangerous enough – but also with the growing certainty that there is someone else with her in the cave. Resupply boxes go missing. Bodies of previous cavers are moved. And her suit’s battery is getting low…“She stared down at the wreckage. The suit had been half crushed. The mask was off, revealing pits where eyes had been, and tight, dried skin stretched over a prominent, masculine chin. The caver’s chest had been split open, and a filamentous white fungus grew from the hole. . . Bile rose in the back of her throat, and she turned away.”Gyre Price is the absolute epitome of strong female character. She is, excuse my french, a fucking bad-ass. She panics, she cries, and she falls apart, but by god if she doesn’t pull herself back together as best she can. She responds like humans do to intense stress, but she does not give up. She does what is needed to stay alive and preserve whatever shreds of sanity she has left. Additionally, Gyre takes absolutely none of Em’s bullshit. When Em goes too far in attempting to control and manipulate Gyre through the use of dopamine, adrenaline, and other pharmaceutical injections, Gyre threatens not only to cease cooperating but to pull off the helmet of her suit – potentially calling a Tunneler down and ending not only Gyre’s life, but also the integrity of future missions in that cave system.“You don’t take control of my suit, and you don’t lie to me. I’ll check. . . I can’t do my part if I can’t trust what I see. If me getting through this is so important to you, then you need to trust me. And in return, I don’t need your help getting to a garden world. What I do need is your help tracking down my mother.”Gyre was born and raised on Cassandra-V, a planet populated primarily for its mineral deposits. Typically, a caver is seeking out new deposits and possible new mine locations. As Gyre’s expedition continues, however, Em’s motivates are slowly revealed to be quite a bit different from what Gyre initially anticipates. Em’s past issues are slowly brought to the forefront, and the depth of the danger Gyre is in is gradually revealed along with them.It’s unusual for a book to have a cast of only two characters. I’d consider it to be a bit of a risk, especially for a debut novel. Quite frankly, however, this book thrived off of the limited interactions available to our protagonist. Watching Gyre and Em’s relationship grow and change throughout the novel is fascinating. Gyre’s slow descent into paranoia, panic, and uncertainty drags you right down into the thick of things. Despite her misgivings, she’s forced to rely on Em if she wants to make it out alive. As she gradually realizes she can’t even trust herself, she is forced to accept whatever aid can be offered… yet even as she begins to trust Em, Em is beginning to break down and fall apart the closer she gets to obtaining her goal.My only real critique of this book was the ending. The ending wasn’t bad, per se, but some bits of it also felt like a slight let-down. That said, I don’t think there were many alternatives to how it ended. I think it only felt like a bit of a let-down due the ridiculously intense ramp up we had moving into it; I felt almost like I’d been slammed into a brick wall with the change of pace.All in all, I am very excited to read more of Caitlin Starling’s work in the future. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes atmospheric horror, psychological terror, or intense characterization.The Luminous Dead can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.If you liked The Luminous Dead, you might also enjoy:Firewatch (video game, heavily narrative focused)The Martian by Andy Weir
    more
  • Aleksandra
    January 1, 1970
    book twitter says "this is spooky and f/f" so I gotta add the book
  • Matthew Galloway
    January 1, 1970
    This book really checked all the boxes for me -- isolated person trying to survive a dangerous environment, alien environments, creeping paranoia... And I would say for three quarters (or maybe a bit more) I was utterly hooked. Before I go on, I want to say that yes, I think you should read this book! I believe the end will work for many people, even though it didn't really work for me. The story and I collaborated to create some plot expectations that just never materialized... But you and this This book really checked all the boxes for me -- isolated person trying to survive a dangerous environment, alien environments, creeping paranoia... And I would say for three quarters (or maybe a bit more) I was utterly hooked. Before I go on, I want to say that yes, I think you should read this book! I believe the end will work for many people, even though it didn't really work for me. The story and I collaborated to create some plot expectations that just never materialized... But you and this book may come up with different expectations that will leave you completely satisfied.The first half of the book was just about absolute perfection. I could feel those caves pressing in on me and I utterly believed in our main character, Gyre. She was such a beautiful mix on contradictions -- tough, but vulnerable, cautious but a bit of an adrenaline junkie, trusting but paranoid. The cave system felt alien enough, though I suppose much of that feeling arises from paranoia about one creature and a ton of description about Gyre's suit, rather than going into detail about alien ecology (which just goes to show that as much as I love those details, apparently a similar effect can be achieved with lighter brush strokes).As that halfway point was reached, it started to feel like the book should be wrapping up and I got a bit concerned... But the plot twisted away in an exciting way that also made sense, so satisfaction could continue. There are some ethical quandaries that pop up that I'm not so sure bothered me that much... But I can't get into those without diving into spoiler territory. I think the ethical issue that concerned me more was actually never really addressed.At any rate, great creepy read that I hope finds its way into the hands of people who can connect with the ending better than I did.
    more
Write a review