Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Woah, y’all. I finally finished a book!! It’s been like an entire month and I still have no reading motivation but I did it!! Also my last class of the semester ends in just a few days so fingers crossed I’ll get some reading motivation back once I have a month where I don’t have homework deadlines looming in the background!

So, what book did I read? Well if you didn’t pay attention to the title of this post it was The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

The Luminous Dead

Here’s the synopsis:

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?

Caves are one of my biggest fears, the darkness and sickening sense of claustrophobia that come with them send chills down my spine with just a thought. My mom and aunt can’t go a family gathering without talking about the time I said I’d be fine going past the point of no return in a cave tour and then ended up having a breakdown. (Sidenote: I was like 7 at the time and I got my sweatshirt hood caught on a railing so I thought someone was grabbing me, like YOU go through a spooky cave and think someone is grabbing you and come out of the experience unscathed!!!!) So anyways, when I saw this book I knew that if I wanted a horror book that could genuinely terrify me, well this is it.

The writing in this was so good, there was more than one scene in which I was left with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up because I was so spooked. This definitely played into my own fears and I found myself questioning every single thing I read which, to me, adds so much to the horror aspect. I think that if I would have had the attention span to read this in one sitting, I would have, but it ended up taking me about a month and a half to finish this which made it a little bit jarring each time I picked it up again. Despite the gaps between reading, once I did get back into reading it was easy to immerse myself back in the story. I feel like horror is one genre where if I can’t be fully immersed then I’m not going to fully enjoy it so I am happy to report that this is quite an immersive story.

With a cast of two characters I was really interested to see how this would play out and the way the relationship between Gyre and Em would develop from the beginning to the end. My emotions were all over the place and I’m not going to lie when I say that I would greatly enjoy some further addition to this story. There was definitely a conclusion but I feel like there is so much of this world left to explore that I would be down for any sort of epilogue that the author would like to give us. This aspect of the story, with Gyre and Em, was so complex and frustrating and yet I could see so fully the motivations of each character and I loved that. Each was so fully developed and the balance between heartbreaking, tender moments and sheer terror and stress and anger was so well done.

I feel like this book would appeal to those who aren’t normally fans of horror too. It’s thrilling and shocking and left me feeling like I should check over my own shoulder but for horror, I felt it was pretty tame. There isn’t anything overly gory and I feel like it’s more of a psychological horror that just burns nice and slowly until it gets you right at the end.

In the end, I rated it 4 stars because there were parts of this that left me feeling a bit dry. I highly recommend picking this up and I look forward to reading whatever Caitlin Starling comes up with next!

You can pick up your own copy of The Luminous Dead at these links:

Amazon (Affiliate Link) // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository