3 reasons to check out claustrophobic new read The Luminous Dead


Here are 3 reasons why you need to read, The Luminous Dead, an intense psychological sci-fi thriller about a harrowing caving expedition.

The PR team at Harper Voyager were kind enough to provide me with a copy of The Luminous Dead, the debut novel from author Caitlin Starling, in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn to The Luminous Dead due to comparisons to Jeff VanderMeer’s horrifying sci-fi novel (and film) Annihilation, which blew me away last year. I’m happy to say The Luminous Dead is a worthy comparison and is one of the most tense, atmospheric, and claustrophobic novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s a marvel Starling was able to create such an intense read when the story only contains two characters, and yet it’s never dull.

If you need more incentive to check out the book, I’ve got three reasons for you.

3. It’s an extremely tense and well-written thriller.

Gyre Price is a reckless caver who lies about her experience to get recruited on a dangerous new caving expedition on a foreign planet. She hopes to earn enough money to fund her desperate search for her missing mother and to be provided for in years to come.

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Em is the proctor of Gyre’s mission and the lone voice she has keeping her company in her suit as she begins her trek. When Gyre applied for the expedition, she assumed she would be hunting for rare minerals or ore deposits, instead she finds herself a pawn to Em’s every whim.

As the supervisor and above-ground controller of this mission, Em is the one who gets to dictate every step of Gyre’s adventure – by any means necessary. Refusing Em’s orders is not an option when she has control over Gyre’s suit and withholds vital information as she deems necessary.

Despite only featuring two characters, Starling has concocted a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller that will keep you on your toes until the novel’s final moments.

2. The plot and world-building are phenomenal.

As someone who doesn’t know anything about cave-diving, I was a little overwhelmed at first because Starling throws you head-first into the fray. But she does an excellent job of slowly layering in the world-building and exposition without turning into an info dump. You’re guided into the rules and regulations of Gyre’s world as she experiences it first hand.

Of course, this is a fiction novel with distinctive horror and sci-fi elements, so there are liberties taken. I mean this book doesn’t even take place on Earth, cavers even have to get their insides surgically rearranged to better streamline the eating and waste disposal process. That idea alone is a horrifying extrapolation of body horror.

1. It features a love story between two women.

It’s awesome to get LGBTQ+ representation in novels, especially in science fiction and horror novels where the relationship is as natural as any other and I wasn’t anticipating it in this book, yet it still made complete sense. I won’t spoil how it develops, though you will probably be able to guess who it’s between. You’ll be surprised by the way the relationship is nurtured and crafted over the course of the novel.

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Character development is easily the strongest component of The Luminous Dead. Both characters are fully-realized women who undergo their own unique arcs in accordance with the novel’s plot. You’ll get attached and it will make your desire to know what’s going to happen next even stronger. The Luminous Dead is one of those books you won’t want to put down until you get to the final sentence – and then you’ll want more.

The Luminous Dead is available to buy now! You can get your copy in physical or eBook format right here on Amazon.

Will you consider reading The Luminous Dead? What are some of your favorite horror and science fiction novels? If you’ve already read The Luminous Dead, what were your favorite moments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!