Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best First Novel!
"This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Andy Weir’s The Martian." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.
When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.
Instead, she got Em.
Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .
As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.
But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Caitlin Starling’s gripping science fiction thriller instantly enters the canon of great novels about exploration and survival. A brilliant departure from the typically macho space-mining adventure, the book features two main characters who are women of color: cave spelunker Gyre Price and her aboveground guide, Em. Em is blindingly rich, while Gyre is poor and desperate to leave her violent home planet; the power imbalance between the two women creates a deeply toxic dynamic. Starling’s world-building skills and exquisitely crafted plot serve her intrepid female characters well, putting this book in the same league as Annihilation and Alien.
Starling's riveting near-future debut depicts an intense psychological battle of wills between two damaged, deeply flawed women who forge an unbreakable connection in the dark. Gyre Price, an amateur caver from an impoverished mining world, is desperate to earn enough money to discover the fate of her mother, who abandoned their family when Gyre was young and she isn't above falsifying her qualifications to get the high-paying job she needs. Aware of Gyre's deception, Em, Gyre's controlling, manipulative handler, guides her on a harrowing journey into the depths of a rarely explored cave system on some unexplained, ill-fated errand. To survive the darkness and the threats concealed therein, Gyre must confront monsters from her own imagination as well as those from Em's bloody past, and defeat them both. Both women can be messy, cruel, and selfish, and Starling disregards conventional notions of such women seeking or needing absolution. This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation and Andy Weir's The Martian. Agent: Caitlin McDonald, Donald Maass Literary.