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The Luminous Dead

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  4,847 ratings  ·  1,165 reviews
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
Paperback, 415 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Harper Voyager
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,847 ratings  ·  1,165 reviews

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Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
scary and gay
what more could i want
Totally Unauthorized Review*

It was very good, just the sort of read I wanted. Read it if you enjoy survival stories, or caving, or psychological mysteries where people are unreliable, conflicted, and determined. 

I read for three reasons:

--A certain unnamed good friend strongly suggested it after reading it. Here's how she sold it: "It takes stones of steel to write a full novel with only two characters and a cave for the setting. So far, it's done very, very well."
--I confused Caitlin Starling w
Sumit RK
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in a remote dystopic future, The Luminous Dead is the story of Gyre Price, a young woman raised on a mining colony on a distant backwater planet. Gyre obtains a solo cavern expedition job that promises an enormous payout. Almost immediately, she realizes the job is much more dangerous and complicated than she was originally led to believe. Trapped underground, with only a mysterious handler named Em to guide her, Gyre has to battle her way out of the many dangers and something sinister lurki ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Well... Half the time Gyre is mad at Em, or blaming Em, or wondering at how she doesn't feel like blaming Em. What's with all the blame?

Em... Her being blamed during half the book for a number of disastrous expeditions, makes little sense. Yes, she has some (un)specific goals but don't all mining companies in the book? How come that looking for Em's goals is any worse that plain old ore mining? Felt like the author needed some psychological suspense vehicle and this is what got used as such. Wel
Amy Imogene Reads
4.5 stars!

What an unexpected find! Technically a science fiction novel, The Luminous Dead reads like a mystery/thriller diverse survivalist tale with doses of speculative elements and psychological intrigue. Also, lots of caves. Caves on caves.

Concept: ★★★★★
Spook Factor: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2

More people need to be talking about The Luminous Dead.

For those who like to blend their mystery/thriller with the speculative, it's an almost pitch-perfect entry into the ni
Ɗẳɳ  2.☊
May 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
"A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation . . . " Nah, I beg to differ.

Only two characters appear in the entire story. One is a spelunker in an alien cavern, the other's her guide and handler along the surface. Both young women have similar tragic backstories--losing their parents at a young age--both are exceptional liars, and both are chasing the delusional dream of reuniting with mothers that abandoned them. The
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
This was BONE CHILLING and absolutely impossible to put down. I made the wrong choice when I decided to finish reading this alone in my room at 3 am. Besides being ridiculously creepy and engaging from page one, this also has a super complex queer girl main character and the potential for an equally complex f/f relationship full of anger and distrust. Basically this is the fucked up queer horror story of my dreams, The One I have been searching for, and I cannot wait to read whatever Caitlin Sta ...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling is a story about two women who have more in common than either of them would like to admit, but by the time they realize how much they mean to each other, it might already be too late. Gyre was only a little girl when her mother abandoned her, leaving only a vague note with an invitation to her daughter to come find her when she is ready. Now twenty-two years old, our protagonist has
Kayla Dawn
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This made me so goddamn uncomfortable, I loved every second of it
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horror aficionados who love seeing a sketchy relationship take center stage
Recommended to jade by: Cintia
“humans are selfish. it’s what we do. you loaded the gun, but we all pulled the trigger.”

i put out a call for some good horror recommendations, knowing the goodreads rec system is not to be trusted, and boy did you all deliver. had some old-fashioned nail biting moments with this one!

the setting? an elaborate cave system full of steep climbs, impossibly narrow squeeze-throughs, and deadly floods. oh, and alien flora and fauna to top it all off.

the characters? gyre, a cocky young cave
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-shelf, horror, sci-fi
A very surprising read. Half horror and half SF with high-tech suits on an alien world, this novel is rife with obsession, spelunking, and a ton of the little inconsistencies that would drive any normal cave diver insane.

And then there's all the dead down below.

Nearly thirty, all spelunkers like Gyre, sent down to be eaten by this horrid, horrid cave. And it's a rigged game. The lies, the obsession of the woman underwriting each one of these expeditions is the half the novel. The other half is
Warning! Do not attempt to read this book if you are claustrophobic. Do not attempt to read it if your skin crawls in terror from being trapped in small places. Both in its setting and thematically, the Luminous Dead is a narrowly-focused tightly-drawn Story. From Jules Verne to Burroughs to numerous modern writers, there has been an endless fascination with tunneling into the center of the earth, a focus on what lies within the labyrinth of underground spaces. Luminous Dead, with its beautiful ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cave versus tough as nails woman

This story only had three characters, Gyre, an intrepid and daring caver, her boss and handler, cold reserved Em, and a monstrous cave, peopled with the dead. If you enjoy a story about human versus nature or what it takes to survive in the worst of circumstances, you will enjoy The Luminous Dead.

Gyre is a wondrous creation; she is an orphan who seeks the mother who abandoned her for a better life. In order to get the money to travel off planet, she accepts a dang
DNF @ 230 pages
I have been trying to read this book for like 2 months and I can't do it anymore. I read like 150 pages of the physical copy and I couldn't get into it, so then I listened to the audiobook instead and I still can't get past the 230 page mark because I just don't care. It's just so boring and it sucks because this book has a cool premise and I like the female/female banter-y relationship that is starting but I just don't care enough to finish this, the middle of this is dragging so
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, horror-dark
The Luminous Dead, a science fiction/horror book, was a solid 4 stars.
The book centers around main character Gyre, a caver, who is desperate to earn money to find her missing mother. Gyre is hired by a private mining company to map mineral deposits in a cave off planet and thus the story begins.
The Luminous Dead is a very creepy read, especially as Gyre starts her solo expedition exploring the cave. Gyre only has one line of communication and that’s through Em, her monitor. Em is a woman who h
Nick Borrelli
I want to begin this review by pointing out the fact that I'm a sucker for books with this kind of theme. The plot of THE LUMINOUS DEAD is one that takes place on a planet rich in mineral deposits and a "caver" is exploring one such location while also possibly being stalked deep within the bowels of said cave. Anything that involves some sort of exploration on a distant planet or an archaeological angle and I'm usually all in. So when I had the opportunity to receive an advance reader copy of t ...more
I will admit straight off that I’m not a huge fan of action and sci-fi stories. I know, I am terrible. There's no need to tell me. I don’t know why I am the way that I am but that’s how I am. So I went into this after hearing over and over again that it was one of the best books of 2019, and hoping with every hope in my being that the creep factor would be enough to keep me going. If it wasn’t enough and I had to DNF this book I would have to be the lone voice of negativity and I don’t like bein ...more

This was AWESOME. This book was absolutely un-put-down-able and I can't BELIEVE this is a debut! It captured me from the very first chapter, which many books (even ones I love) don't do that. This is a perfect mixture of different components to make a strange psychological horror sci-fi. While nothing absolutely horror-filling happens in this book, it was sending shivers down my spine and absolutely making me go cold even though i was reading it outside in 80 degree weather. The closest
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
like if the martian and annihilation got freaky in a cave with queer women!!!
Edward Lorn
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The only sci-fi novel I've ever enjoyed all the way through.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Went in expecting a gripping, inventive survival story akin to The Martian. Was treated to eight hours of emotionally confused fumbling à la Gravity (at best).

The cave dwelling aspect got me excited for intensely thrilling setting, but the purely melodramatic approach wiped all the credibility from the premise. The consistently fatalistic narration numbed your mind to the monotonous over-dramaticism, rendering null any chance for affecting emotional response or sense of suspense.

Instead of a rat
The Bookavid
I'll be honest. I have a hard time with books that have very limited settings and work a lot with internal monologue to establish setting and mood rather than action. THE LUMINOUS DEAD is pretty much the prose version of a chamber play. In space. With aliens. And corpses. And gay girls.

Even though this is really not the kind of book I usually go for, there's just something about THE LUMINOUS DEAD that made me long to keep going, to keep following cave explorer Gyre on her mysterious quest throug
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

DNF at.. I don't even know. Life is too short to waste time on books that aren't capturing my interest.
It's not you, book; It's me. Just kidding. It's totally you

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Kameron Hurley
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My blurb: "A masterful, nail-biting thriller from an extraordinary talent. Meticulously researched, expertly paced, with yearning, self-destructive heroines whose incredible physical and emotional journies will leave you breathless."

This book was exactly what I hoped it would be!
Cassie Lola (holo.reader)
First, can I just say how impressed I am that this is Caitlin Starling’s debut novel? Seriously, well done – applause, applause, applause! This one has been widely hailed as amazing, and I had very high hopes when starting it. These high hopes due to fellow reviewer’s ecstatic praise of a book can sometimes lead to disappointment, but I’m very happy to confirm that with The Luminous Dead, my reviewer friends were right on the money!

Anyone who knows me knows that my preferred brand of specific ho
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
Very close to a 4 star read for me.

This is a great pick if you like survival stories with the edge of a pschological thriller. It's well written and easy to follow even if you know nothing at all about climbing and cave diving (me, I know only a little).

Coincidentally, I recently read an interesting story in National Geographic about the role of cave divers in the rescue of a boys soccer team from Thailand, who were trapped in a cave for days. It is a different story than the book (obviously) bu
Chris Berko
A solid four star read for me, if somewhat repetitive, until the end which was sort of a disappointment, so I have to give it a three. I haven't read the Martian so can't speak knowledgeably about that comparison and the only way it reminded me of Annihilation was the underwhelming conclusion. The author does do a lot with only two characters, one only being a voice and a face on a screen, and there were truly frightening and claustrophobic moments it just didn't all come together for me like I ...more
The blurb compares The Luminous Dead to The Martian, Gravity, and Annihilation. The first two are fine, if the only criteria is "lone person in space-ish survival situation", which is to say not that similar at all. Annihilation is closer for the overall feel of unease, and lack of trust even the protagonist can place in their own perception. But really, The Luminous Dead is something that doesn't entirely fit the mold of what came before - it's something entirely original, and even a bit daring ...more
Jen (LOHF/Book Den)
I absolutely loved The Luminous Dead. It's so rare for me to pick up a book, be immediately hooked, and stay that way through the entirety of the novel. The Luminous Dead is 432 pages, and I would have had no problem reading it in one sitting if life wasn't in the way. Even with life I was able to knock it out in 2 days. I did not want to put it down.

The Luminous Dead is Caitlin Starling's debut novel. Caitlin Starling is now on my autobuy list. The Luminous Dead only had two characters and one
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Grim Readers Book...: Checkpoint #2 - Chapters 12-22 9 23 Jul 14, 2019 07:05PM  

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Caitlin Starling is an award-winning writer of horror-tinged speculative fiction. Her first novel, The Luminous Dead, won the LOHF Best Debut award, and was nominated for several others. She tweets at @see_starling and has been paid to design body parts. You can find links to her work at ...more

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“That was the look of somebody resigned to being the monster they knew they were.” 2 likes
“Time to climb back up,” she said, and began walking. Em blinked. Frowned. “What?” “Climbing up. To the surface?” “That’s not what you said.” Gyre stopped, listening to the water sliding from her suit, pattering against the shallow pool she stood in. “Of course it is. What else would I have said?” “You said time to climb back down.” 1 likes
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