Book Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Hi everyone, I remembered I have a blog and am back with a review. My apologies for the slacking during this apocalypse but it's been hard to find structure and motivation.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Published April 2019

Dark Fiction  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon 

Source: Purchased
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?

My 2 Cents For Free!

I will admit straight off that I’m not a huge fan of action and sci-fi stories. I know, I am terrible. There's no need to tell me. I don’t know why I am the way that I am but that’s how I am. So I went into this after hearing over and over again that it was one of the best books of 2019, and hoping with every hope in my being that the creep factor would be enough to keep me going. If it wasn’t enough and I had to DNF this book I would have to be the lone voice of negativity and I don’t like being that person and truly it would’ve been my own fault. Fortunately for me, the horror vibe was creepy enough to keep me going through all of the action/adventure/sci-fi bits when I otherwise might've noped out but what truly surprised me was how much I wanted to keep reading to find out how everything ended for the two characters in the story. The complicated relationship that develops ever so slowly between caver Gyre and her guide Em was more than enough for me. I’m a sucker for flawed and complex relationships and this is a great one. There’s a lot of pain and hurt and backstory and damage here and I loved getting down into it and watching it all get picked apart and brought to the surface.

This book is overwhelmingly claustrophobic and the atmosphere is painstakingly put down on the page. There may even be a monster lurking in the cave! I almost forgot about that bit of added terror. Trust me, you’ll want to read this book somewhere bright. Somewhere with a lot of air. Maybe somewhere you can hear the birds sing a lovely song to you. It is that intense. There is also some squirm-worthy and delightful, depending on your level of weirdness, body horror that happens here. Gyre, the caver, has been fitted and physically modified into her suit as were some other folks we meet along the way but I won’t say anything more about that, nor will I tell you about the plot because I don’t want to spoil and maybe I’m a little lazy. But I will tell you that some of that stuff really made me cringe a bit in horror and I love it when a book hits me that way.

There are many 5 star reviews for this book and I’m going to be here giving it a four and ½ and I won’t be rounding up because of my personal preferences and because some of it was a little bit of a slog for me, if you want to know the honest truth It is not a book I’d reread again but I wasn’t disappointed with the horror bits and the emotional wringer the characters put me through. Definitely recommended and an incredible debut.

4 1/2 out of 5


  1. Welp, I'm now even more excited to read this one!

  2. Dear Husband likes science fiction. I like horror. This sounds like the perfect read for us.:-)

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this! Sadly, I wasn't crazy about it, for reasons I can't remember but I wrote out in my review, lol. But you got it right with the creepiness, there are some very scary moments:-)

    1. It was a wee bit draggy in parts but I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it.

  4. I need to read this one as well. I have been trying to work in more science fiction and it's been on my radar forever. Hopefully the horror aspects will pull me through. I did just read Goldilocks and loved it so maybe this will be my next science fiction try! Great review.

    1. Thanks, Barb. I was surprised at myself by how much I liked it. I hope you do too.

  5. I love this book. That is all. :)

  6. This one has such mixed reviews that I don't know what to think about it. I'm not sure it's really my thing as SF isn't my most favourite genre for books I have doubts about!

    1. Hmmm, I honestly didn't think I'd like it too much either. If you like action you might enjoy it though.

  7. Glad this one ended up working for you. The whole cave thing is what makes me really want to read this one. Caves creep me out and I love reading about them. Especially if there's something lurking inside. :D


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