The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

*Spoiler free*


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?

I really enjoy cave/underground horror stories. I usually watch movies like that, but I was willing to give a book a shot. It sounded really good and I’d heard good things about it! Plus, it sounded like it would have a queer romance, so that was even more incentive for me start it. Trigger warnings: parental death, death, parental abandonment, gore, claustrophobia

I know absolutely nothing about cave diving. I know that’s it’s about diving in caves and that’s about it haha. This book managed to explain the ins and outs of cave diving, in a way I could understand, all while moving the plot forward, freaking me out, and creating emotional depth. It was written in a way where I didn’t have a really clear idea what was happening on the technical side, but I could still get the main idea and understand what was happening, which I really appreciated.

The cave systems were SO COOL! I loved exploring them and learning the ins and outs. I loved as new information was presented, everything got creepier and it seemed like only new questions remained in place of the old ones. There is so much unknown about the cave system Gyre is in and the book never really gives a solid answer to some things. Gyre gets herself into increasingly dangerous situations and the questions pile up and it’s all terrifying.

I wasn’t expecting to love the characters as much as I did. With creepy books, I’ve found that the characters are usually just vessels to move the plot forward to get to the terrifying parts. But, I really, really liked Gyre and Em. They both had so much depth to them and they managed to create such a complicated, messy, yet strong bond, all through just talking to each other through Gyre’s suit. I loved their relationship and I loved how they were both fighting for different things, but they paralleled each other in such a great way. They both have their own agenda and both of them will do reckless, dangerous things in order to further it. They both carry so much pain and they both know they’re using it to drive them. I really enjoyed seeing them play off each other and seeing them grow.

I wasn’t expecting for certain aspects of this book to be left as vague as they are. I’m all for leaving things left unsaid. I think it can really add something to a book. I just don’t know how I feel about the vagueness in this book. I think I like it, but I’m not sure. Sometimes, it made everything more terrifying and the questions it raised added another layer to everything. Though, I think some it was carried out to long and when revelations happened, it didn’t seem as shocking. Also, I’m just not quite sure what happened in some places. It feels like some threads were left hanging. Personally, I would have liked more explanation regarding the caves, but I can also see how it ties into the overall story and makes everything feel murky and questionable. I’m a good way! It kind of feels like the caves were a metaphor of something bigger, while also trying to a very real and important plot point.

This was really, really solid book and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved how deeply the emotional aspect was explored. And while it frustrated me, I can appreciate how the lingering questions adds to the book overall.

You can add The Luminous Dead on Goodreads and order a copy of your own!

Thank you for reading!

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