The Luminous Dead: Book Review

Hello, hello lovely reader!

Before the review, let’s chat the Colorado Festival of Horror (COFOH)!

Being completely honest, it felt weird to go to a convention and be close to a crowd, but I also enjoyed being out at a horror convention again! The event was small, though it made sense since this was COFOH’s first convention ever. There was a vendor room, a handful of panel rooms, a film room, and various activities. They even had a special convention beer!

I think COFOH is off to a great start. I’d love to see them grow and add more panels, shows, and activities!

It also reminded me of how much I miss going to conventions regularly. Ah, well, onto the review!

The Author

Caitlin Starling is an American horror writer, who “writes horror-tinged speculative fiction of all flavours”. Her first novel, The Luminous Dead, won the LOHF Best Debut Award and was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and Locus Awards. She also writes nonfiction, which has appeared in Nightmare and Uncanny. She has three projects in the pipeline currently; Yellow Jessamine, a novella; The Death of Jane Lawrence, a novel; and a novella appearing in the Vampire: The Masquerade audio collection called Walk Among Us.

The Novel

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 . . .

The Luminous Dead Amazon description

The Luminous Dead is a claustrophobic, sci-fi, psychological horror set below the surface of a wretched planet, where the tunnels are haunted by Tunnelers and the threat of insanity. Gyre is desperate to get off the planet and find a mother who left her there, so she fluffs her resume a bit (who hasn’t?). But the expedition isn’t standard, nor is the Handler who is supposed to keep her safe and alive. Delving deeper and deeper into the depths of the planet, Gyre and her Handler find way more than either of them expected.

The Review

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)




This has been one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Well developed, powerful, unique characters: check.

Sci-fi technology and alien planet: check.

Hostile setting and creepy caves: check.

Terrifying kaiju: check.

The Luminous Dead is an emotional rollercoaster that takes you deep into the dark guts of an alien planet, haunted by the rumblings of creatures called Tunnelers that no one has survived an encounter with.

The novel starts off already tense as Gyre notices that she doesn’t have the big support team she expected, instead there’s only a cold Handler, Em, who seems to be working alone. The reader gets to experience two types of claustrophobia: the first because, well the novel is set in a cave, and the second is the feeling of being trapped in Gyre’s head as she suffers through doubt, suspicion, terror, and moments of teetering sanity.

The plot is a slow-burning trip down paranoia lane, where you wonder how much of what Gyre is seeing is real. Which monsters are there and which are isolation induced hallucinations? And then you wonder, does it matter when the fear is real?

The Luminous Dead is wonderful, it’s powerful, it’s definitely a book I will read again and it’s definitely something I want to see adapted into a movie. If you like sci-fi horror, or if you’re looking for a book to crush your heart with cold bands of anxiety, this is the one for you. You need to read this book.



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