The Luminous Dead by: Caitlin Starling

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?

Content Warnings: Claustrophobia, death, loss of parents, child abandonment, loss of body autonomy, non-consensual administration of drugs, nightmares, hallucinations, feelings of isolation, blood/gore, loss of limb, and suicidal ideations.

I’ve let this book sit on my shelf for a while before finally deciding to dive in. As a huge fan of watching horror/thriller movies/shows I’ve been pretty nervous to read any…for fear that reading it will prolong the unease/anxiety/etc. After seeing a few trusted Booktok accounts discuss the book I finally felt ready to take it on. Although I did make sure to break up the reading over multiple days and also read a happier book when I needed too. 😅

The way this book was written I could easily see it turned into a fantastic horror film. The whole being alone, in a privately owned cave system, with only the voice of your handler as company. Fear of not knowing if you can trust what you see and hear and constantly having a sense of being watched. The suspense alone had my anxiety peaking constantly…always curious and afraid of what the next section of cave would lead to.

As I’ve never read a book like this before…I can’t say what books it reminds me of. I can however tell you movies and video games that I was reminded of while reading this book. Without reasoning I’ll just leave my list: The Descent [movie], Until Dawn , As Above So Below [movie], and Man of Medan . Honestly, there’s probably a ton other that have similar vibes but these are the four that I kept randomly thinking about as I made my way through the book.

Published by Noelle Loves Books

Growing up, Japanese and Indigenous, it was hard to find books that showcased stories and worlds that accurately portrayed Noelle’s experiences. Fantasy quickly became her main love, as you could really be anyone, anywhere. As the years went on, and technology grew, Noelle was finally able to see more stories and authors that looked and felt like her. Noelle is open to all genre’s though she can mostly be found reading own voice, fantasy, and romance. Ratings: 5 Stars: Completely blew me away 4 Stars: Loved the story but didn't feel completely blown away by it 3 Stars: Liked the overall concept of the story but either had poor execution, had a lot of plot holes, or was written poorly 2 Stars: I struggled to understand the plot, poorly written, or just had really unlikeable characters along with a poor writing 1 Star: Horribly written, major plot holes, or extremely unlikeable characters and plots.

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