The Luminous Dead

By Caitlin Starling,

Book cover of The Luminous Dead

Book description

Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best First Novel!

"This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation and Andy Weir's The Martian." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked The Luminous Dead as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Deep space can be scary, but I consider deep caves to be much more terrifying.

The Luminous Dead has an eerie mission to the depths of a cave on a distant exoplanet—the worst of both worlds! This book follows a non-regulation diver on a dangerous job shrouded in secrets and the enigmatic, untrustworthy voice in her helmet guiding her through the darkness.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take long for the characters to descend into antagonism and uncertainty about whether the other things lurking in the cave are figments of paranoia or dangerously real. If you like feeling queasy, secondhand claustrophobia, The…

What could be more terrifying than having to plumb the depths of absolute darkness, alone, with nothing but a single cord separating you from escape and being stuck down there forever? How about being on a distant planet, with a sentient AI assistant who is just as likely to be friend or foe?

Author Caitlin Starling delivers scares and isolation in spades in this unique sci-fi horror.

Starling's book takes you on journey to a different sort of landscape – a sci-fi flavored cave system of bioluminescent fungi and devastatingly large, menacing worms who tunnel through stone.

The book centers on just two characters, strangers linked by survival and an empathic connection as well as the highly advanced technology that allows for survival in these extreme conditions.

But what starts as a seemingly straightforward recovery mission quickly goes sideways, and you learn that neither character is exactly who they seem to be.

What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse game of trust that's simultaneously intense, horrifying, and oddly…

Desperate to escape a dead-end mining planet, Gyre exaggerates her caving experience to sign on with a mysterious company. It’s only when descending, sealed inside a technological marvel of a suit, that all the questions she never asked come back to haunt her. 

The Luminous Dead is a tremendous pressure cooker of a novel, experienced almost entirely in the microcosm of the developing relationship between Gyre and her intense, driven handler Em. Both women are stubborn, obsessive, and flawed: survivors of trauma but fighting not to be defined by it. And it’s only by working together that either of them…

A gripping, desperate survival horror set deep inside a cave on an alien planet, The Luminous Dead sinks its hooks in immediately and doesn’t let go. Gyre and Em—a caver who’s willing to risk her life for a payout, and a woman who’s willing to take her up on that offer—have a captivating tension between them. I literally couldn’t put this book down.

As a writer who also loves to explore the idea, What if caves were terrifying, this is one of my all-time greats. Gyre is a cave diver who wrangles a difficult job mapping an unexplored area miles below the surface. She is sealed into a bio-suit that keeps her alive, and her only human contact is the voice of her handler, Em. The isolation, darkness, and closeness of the cave are mirrored in the way Gyre’s story unfolds; as the reader, you are trapped with her, stuck in the story the way she is stuck in the cave. The…

From Alison's list on woman-led horror.

This book is a tension-rife delight, about a woman who descends deep into a dangerous network of caves in search of people who died there years ago—and her only guide is a woman miles away, unfriendly and not to be trusted. I loved the tension in this book, never knowing what would happen next, what might jump out of the shadows, the mystery of her hostile guide, and what happened long ago. The slow burn relationship between two tough women used to making it on their own and not relying on others. It's the kind of book you would love…

From Megan's list on queer SFF to get you through winter.

How do you make a mystery setting even more claustrophobic than a locked room? How about sticking your character in a cave, by herself, with limited resources, terrifying monsters, and exactly one link to the outside world—and that link is the voice of a person she doesn't know, can't trust, and who might be lying to her about everything? This is great sci-fi horror, but it is all built around a layered mystery that gets uncovered clue by tantalizing clue the deeper we go into the cave. The evolving mystery, the dangers of caving, and the fraught connection between the…

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