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Caitlin Starling Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Luminous Dead (2019) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Caitlin Starling is American author of science fiction, horror and fantasy books best known for her 2019 novel The Luminous Dead a thrilling blend of Gravity, Annihilation and The Martian. Caitlin is a writer and also a spreadsheet-wrangler based in Portland, Oregon. A graduate specialized in anthropology, she has an interest in macabre and dark, and she crafts horror themed speculative fiction for all genres.

Her debut novel, The Luminous Dead is a spine-tingling novel, a story about a caver based in a foreign planet who finds herself trapped with only an unreliable radio and her wits to help her back to the surface. Donald Maass Literary Agency represents her, and Harper Voyager published her novel.
The Luminous Dead

Caitlin Starling debut novel The Luminous Dead takes place on a planet that’s’ rich in mineral deposits. We meet a caver exploring for precious rocks but what he doesn’t know is that he’s being stalked deep in the core of the said cave.

If you’re a space movie lover or an avid reader of books set in foreign planets that involves some sorts of exploration or archeology work, it’s likely that you already know the creepy and spooky creatures involved. Caitlin’s story can be compared to The Martians, and the story is narrated through internal dialogue and conversion with one more character on the radio which serves as the mission control. This is something you won’t see in any other book, making The Luminous Dead a book worth the shot.

The lead character in Caitlin Starling book is Gyre, a caver who makes a deal with the devil by signing a contract with a private mining company about retrieving valuable ore deposits but finds absolutely the opposite.

She isn’t forthcoming with her background, and her motive all that she wants is a quick payday so that she can continue the search for her mother who deserted her many years ago. She is obsessed with finding what happened to her mother and when she signs the contract; she sees this job as just any other job to fund her personal mission.

But what Gyre doesn’t know is that her contract and the lifeline to the outside world Em has a motive for her own. Em and Gyre are connected through a communication device located outside Gyre’s suit where the Em can monitor Gyre’s physical health closely. Their relationship doesn’t start so good as Gyre suspects that Em might be hiding some information from her and she isn’t honest about the space exploration job she signed for.

It turns out that Gyre’s suspicions are true especially after she is able to access a video from her suit that shows a previous caver who experiences a tragedy while exploring the same caves she’s exploring. When Gyre strikes back at Em and threatens to quit the mission, Em is forced to reveal to her that the people from the video she discovered are her parents along with others explorers. Something terrible happened to the explorers and Em has been struggling to find the answers to their whereabouts. It’s revealed that Em has also sent many others on the same mission with many of them dying along the way trying to reach where Em’s parents were last seen alive.

As the Em continues to open up to Gyre about what happened to her parents and their family business, their relationship begins to change for the good. They get to a mutual understanding as they both are trying to find answers to what happened to their loved ones. Their relationship also becomes a romantic of sorts.

Things start to change when all seemed well as Gyre starts to see and hear signs that she is not alone in this deserted planet. Could it be that one of the original crew members is still alive? Could it be Em’s mother? Or is something far worse stalking her every move and waiting for the perfect moment to kill her?

If you’ve read The Descent by Jeff Long, you’ll enjoy The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. While The Descent isn’t set on another strange planet, the story gives the same creepy feeling as Caitlin’s book and involves cave exploration.

There are several things you’ll love about Starling’s debut novel. One of them being that the mystery behind what exactly happened to Em’s parents and Gyre’s is beautifully handled. The mystery of whether what was stalking Gyre inside the cave was a monster or a person is also handled well. The suspense that’s created by these two questions will keep you hooked and turning pages to figure out what happens next.

Additionally, the Caitlin does a fantastic job of crafting Em and Gyre’s characters. Well, these are two characters haunted by their demons- demons that drive them to find out what happened to their lost loved ones. While there’s only two person dialogue throughout the entire novel, there’s suspense and other elements that will keep you hooked right from page one to the last page.

Overall, The Luminous Dead isn’t a book just about space exploration; it’s a story that touches our everyday lives. It’s a book about grief, pain, fear, and suffering but one that the characters queerness does not define these themes. Our main character is complex, has a painful past, and makes an irrational decision.

Additionally, this book is more than just a story about two women united by shared grief and trauma. It’s a book about the role mothers play in our lives and the large hole they leave in their absence and how we are able to cope with that. At the end of 2018, the theme of mothers was largely discussed in the science fiction community.

Although Caitlin Starling gives you absent mothers and dead mothers, she also gives you the reader a resolution- absent moms leave mom-shaped holes in the main character’s hearts, and they only end up stuck, searching and waiting. In a world where women play the catalyst role, it’s also interesting to given a role the readers can reflect in a space-themed novel.

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