Saturday, May 06, 2023

Five space books to send a chill down your spine

Jenny Hamilton reads the end before she reads the middle. She reviews for Strange Horizons and Lady Business. At she tagged five "books set in space that might or might not be very, very, very full of ghosts," including:
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Perhaps my most triumphant book rec of recent memory occurred when a pal tweeted “the inherent eroticism of ground control to mission communications.” I could not smash the Reply button fast enough to recommend Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead. Gyre signed on to a mapping mission in the expectation that she’d have a robust ground control team and a simple job of finding and mapping resources. But ground control is just one woman called Em. Her stake in the mission remains shrouded in mystery. She’s willing to do just about anything (to Gyre) in order to get what she wants. And Gyre can’t shake the feeling, as she dives deeper into the planet’s cave system, that she’s not alone. She finds traces of disturbances that shouldn’t be there; feels eyes on her even though she’s alone; sees the faces of people she knows to be dead.

If I were going to pitch this book to someone who hadn’t mentioned the inherent eroticism of ground control to mission communications, I’d probably say that it’s the story of two ruthless queer women looking for answers in haunted space caves that nobody really thinks will get them what they want. The claustrophobia of Gyre’s descent blends perfectly with the sparseness of the cast: Em is the only person Gyre has to speak to, ever, and it gradually starts to come clear to Gyre that the reverse is also true. These two women need each other as much as they mistrust each other, which makes for a deeply compelling experience as Gyre goes deeper into the cave system and begins to know Em a little better.

I am very afraid of caves. These caves are very frightening. Space horror at its finest.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Luminous Dead is among Victoria Helen Stone's nine recent thrillers in which isolation amps up the tension, A.K. Larkwood's five tense books that blend sci-fi & horror, and Jeff Somers's seven scariest science fiction horror novels ever written.

The Page 69 Test: The Luminous Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue