The Luminous Dead

by Caitlin Starling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book checked many of my personal boxes in terms of storytelling, many of the elements being things I don’t see as often as I would like, but I love when they happen. I will be honest it’s hard to give a decent review without giving any spoilers. I’m glad I went into this book blind and equally thankful I refrained from asking questions.

The tension laced through the entire novel was a hook that dug deep from page one and just kept pulling me along. The story was terrifying in a subtle way, something on a deeper level than your traditional monsters and killers type of horror. It was perfectly balanced and the characters were well very written, the central driving factor of the plot.

Full Review with Spoilers

This was a perfectly balanced horror story for me. The book opens immediately in the tension, main character Gyre deep in a cave system on Cassandra-V, a planet similar to earth. Everything about her situation is uncomfortable in the best way, from her complete isolation away from everyone else save the handler in the base on the surface, to the suit that she is literally connected to.

Gyre’s situation with the suit was starting to read. It had an almost body horror quality without the gore. In order to remain in the large cave system for weeks or months at a time the suit is surgically connected to her body, allowing her to eat or remove body waste without ever having to remove it, tubes connecting through her body and bypassing natural body functions entirely. This added a very interesting level of claustrophobia while at the same time seeing Gyre traversing some fairly large open spaces of the cave. Throughout the journey too she is completely alone physically. Her only source of interaction is her handler on the surface communicating with her via the suit’s coms. Em. This is my favorite part of this book. I adore a well-crafted story with minimal characters. There’s so much emphasis on well-crafted characters this way. The only slight exception is the fact that Gyre gets to watch a few video clips of other climbers in the past going through the same cave system, but I can’t exactly classify them as characters.

The development between Gyre and Em is fascinating. It goes through such an evolution, from total anonymity, to contempt to ultimately love by the end of the novel and all through just communicating (and just as often not communicating) at a distance. It has all the elements of essentially a long-distance relationship with life-threatening situations mixed in. I loved Em’s slow and reluctant way of getting to know Gyre and like Gyre into her world. She is not really a good person realistically as she has allowed so many people to die on a mission that won’t actually produce anything put potentially peace of mind for her. The way the drama and tension just continues to escalate the entire time was stressful and exhausting, but again in a good way. At some point and really couldn’t stop and just had to know where the story was going and to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not Gyre would make it out alive. The author’s ability to keep me on edge for the entire time was a huge draw.


This was a great psychological, sci-fi, suspense. the pacing is quick and there isn’t really any moment that I felt was filler or unnecessary in any way. Defiantly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys tension and relatively self contained stories.

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