It’s Bram Stoker time over at the Horror Writer’s Association. Which means a flood of books to consider as contenders for “The Best of the Year.” This particular book from the list stood out to me, so… I figured I’d talk about it.
“The Luminous Dead” is the debut novel from Caitlin Starling. The setting is simple: a series of caves that the protagonist, Gyre, has to explore on behalf of her employer, a mining conglomerate. Her task is pretty much to re-supply a bunch of “camps” already set up in this cave from previous expeditions and to establish a final camp. The author also provides a helpful map for the reader in the front .
Tiny problem. This is Gyre’s first official expedition. In addition, Gyre lied regarding her experience to get the job.
Tiny other problem. Her employer also lied.
The narrative caught me straight up. We first meet Gyre trying to navigate through a crack in the wall she could barely fit through. And it just got more intense from there. Overall, the underground experience, the isolation, and its effects on the human psyche; all of it was methodically presented by the narrative.
This was a slow burn. I felt myself getting more and more tense. Several times, I kept reading, referring back to the map as things went wrong saying “How’s she going to get back through that?!” The reality of what she–and her employer–were going through and the emotional foundations of their motivations were well set up.
I ended up simultaneously appreciating and loathing their relationship. Especially as the situation forced them to rely on each other more and more. The resolution to those feelings felt earned. And it took up to the end to see if our protagonist would even get out alive.
Bottom line? If the idea of someone trapped in a cave, far from help, terrifies you… or if you feel alone due to isolation, consider picking this up. In conclusion, give it a shot and tell me what you think!