Review: The Luminous Dead by Catlin Starling

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

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?

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. Narrated by Adenrele Ojo. Published by Harper Audio, April 2019. Total run time of 14 hours and 9 minutes.

*Possible Triggers: body/ medical modification.

Well. I’ve been sitting here trying to start this review off in a positive way… I’m really struggling to find something positive to say though. D: All I can come up with is the cover is very, very cool.

Right. So. This turned out to be a very disappointing read. I don’t even really know where to begin. I listened to the audio and it is 14 hours that I will never get back. I kept waiting for something more to happen, a pay off of some kind… and it felt like there was none.

The two main characters are just… so NOT likable! Gyre is a whinny, childish, inconsistent hypocrite that makes a lot of stupid choices. Em is a lying, manipulative, crazy person with a yo-yo for mood swings. There is zero character growth or development. It is infuriating that Gyre constantly fights with Em, can’t take responsibility for her own actions, and blames Em for everything.

The interactions between the two characters is so odd! There really isn’t any indication of theme growing closer and becoming friends…. AND then all of a sudden they are in a romantic love angle? What the actual F—-?? WHY? HOW? It made no sense whatsoever and just felt shoehorned into the story. WHY?? 😡

Also, Em is kind of a terrible person! She is super sketchy and lied constantly. I don’t even understand WHY she was so sketchy in the first place? When the reason was finally revealed… I just didn’t get it. What was the big deal about what she was looking for? :/ It was understandable. Em could have just been honest because she was offering so much money, people would have done the job no matter what. So why bother lying? I kept waiting for a better reason for her actions but… nah, that was it.

Speaking of being “kept waiting”…. I kept waiting for the plot to go somewhere. It was so repetitive with very little actually happening. It was just going round and round in a circle. I kept thinking, “Oh, surely it’s going to pick up soon?” I kept feeling like something MORE was going to happen and it never did. There is one scene at the very end where we finally meet a tunnler. That was exciting! Finally! But then it was over so fast. :/ After all the talk of the tunnlers, it felt a little bit anti-climatic that it was over that quickly when the rest of the story was pretty uneventful and was dragged out.

I wanted to like The Luminous Dead SO much! I just couldn’t over look all the problems I had with it. :/ It has a repetative story that hardly went anywhere with super unlikable characters. There was so much potential that it just never seemed to capitalize on. Sadly this was a huge miss for me. Also, the book blurb comparison to the dread of Annihilation is a grossly inaccurate comparison.


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