The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Book – Gyre is determined to get off the mining planet she grew up on and to find her mother, who disappeared years ago. The easiest way to do that is as a caver, exploring the depths of the planet to find new sites for the mining companies that run the world. But caving is dangerous, so rather than take the time to build up a proper career and risk dying before she gets a chance to get out, Gyre’s faked her CV and signed on to one big job that should pay her enough to get offworld as soon as she’s done. Of course, there’s a reason this job pays so much, and it’s certainly not because it’s a normal caving expedition.

I never expected a novel about one person alone in a cave, sometimes talking with one person on the surface but sometimes not, to be so emotional. Gyre is a terrific character, stubborn and foolhardy and paranoid, and I was cheering her on even as I was cursing her terrible decisions. While the novel starts out almost like a horror novel, the deeper Gyre goes into the mystery of why she’s been sent into this particular cave and what happened there, the more the broader universe of mining corporations and alien predators – not to mention Gyre’s developing relationship with her handler, the woman who hired her for this expedition – comes into play. I adored The Luminous Dead and I can’t wait to see what Caitlin Starling does next.