... claustrophobic and harrowing ... This novel is suspenseful, with more than a few elements of survival horror ... The revelation of Em’s true motive, and Gyre’s true purpose, are heartbreaking, and add new depth to a novel that’s already all about going deep. This is a survival story, a psychological thriller, and some of the best SFnal horror I’ve ever read. It’s a hell of a debut, and I can’t wait to see what Starling does next.
It's tough to know here how much more I should tell you, because the entire architecture of the story hangs on the slow-burn paranoia and the fraying personal connection between Gyre and Em ... The Luminous Dead is too meticulously twisted to let anyone simply be evil without cause, without depth. And that, actually, is the best thing about these kind of one-man (or, in this case, two-woman) shows ... It is a torturous book. Horrifying in small, cutting, personal ways, and in the more classic scare-in-a-dark-room way. But there's an iron rod of panicked strength that runs through the middle of it.
While the story’s premise has the potential to be a bit claustrophobic, the literary landscape is surprisingly vast ... Boldly building a psychological sci-fi thriller with a cast of two, Caitlin Starling’s debut novel explores the horrors hidden within profound physical and psychological stress ... Testing the limits of endurance and trust, The Luminous Dead sheds a revealing light on the extraordinary dark depths that the human mind and body will plumb in search of answers and illumination.
Starling has written a tightly-focused novel, part psychological thriller, part deep character study ... The world of The Luminous Dead is the world of the cave. Starling depicts the terror and the wonder of the environment through which Gyre moves with deft strokes. She also emphasises its physicality. And the mental confusion and exhaustion that strikes Gyre when she feels at her weakest—though Starling’s a little less than perfectly adept at making Gyre’s paranoia and despair tensely compelling in isolation ... This is a gripping debut from a talented voice, and I look forward to reading more of Starling’s work in the years to come.
Starling’s riveting near-future debut depicts an intense psychological battle of wills between two damaged, deeply flawed women who forge an unbreakable connection in the dark ... Both women can be messy, cruel, and selfish, and Starling disregards conventional notions of such women seeking or needing absolution. This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Andy Weir’s The Martian.