Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Things She's Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

The Luminous Dead

The economy of colony world Cassandra-V is based around one thing: resource extraction. Below the settled surface run massive cave systems, many prospected for minerals, others unmapped. Early explorations of these caves invariably ended in disastrous attacks by native monsters called Tunnelers. Years later, cave prospectors have learned how not to attract the Tunnelers by donning hi-tech, fully sealed suits. Still, the profession is notoriously dangerous.

Gyre Price wants nothing more than to escape Cassandra-V and find her missing mother. Despite the many risks, she signs up for a caving operation with fake credentials and the promise of a large paycheck. She also expects a full surface team to monitor her suit and surroundings. Instead she gets Em, a lone young woman with massive resources and a dangerous obsession, who has no qualms about remotely controlling Gyre's suit, withholding information and administering drugs without consent. Missing equipment, Em's deadly stubbornness and the constant rumble of a stalking Tunneler drive Gyre into a mental darkness as entombing as the cave itself, and the lower she goes, the more she can't help feeling as if she's being followed.

The Luminous Dead is a master work of science-fiction psychological horror. Caitlin Starling's debut is a claustrophobic's nightmare, with plenty of tight spelunking and murky cave-diving done in something like a space suit. Gyre's tense progress and her evolving relationship with Em make for a propelling read. The Luminous Dead should find fans across genres. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer