Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Publication Date: February 8th, 2022
Hardcover. 352 pages.
About Dead Silence:
"A GHOST SHIP.
A SALVAGE CREW.
Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.
What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.
Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate."
Dead Silence is a riveting and terrifying journey in the outer reaches of space where the remains of a decades-old luxury cruiser that disappeared with a ship full of passengers is discovered. This was an unpredictable journey featuring an extremely unreliable narrator and cast of characters that made this book an edge-of-your-seat experience. This book did not end up being quite what I expected and I would probably describe it as more of a psychological thriller with hints of horror than a pure horror novel.
In Dead Silence, we follow Claire Kovalik, team lead of a repair crew that ends up shooting off into the outer depths of space after picking up the beacon of a random, unknown distress signal from a ship nearby. After reaching the origin of the distress signal, they discover the long-lost luxury ship Aurora and decide to go on board to bring back proof of its existence. While exploring the Aurora, what they find are unspeakable horrors–horrors that are made even worse by the fact that everyone on board from the repair ship seem to be having varying degrees of hallucinations that only seem to be getting worse.
The story is told via two timelines, both narrated from Claire’s unreliable POV. The first section is told in the present timeline to create a sort of frame story for Claire’s retelling of what happened on the Aurora with her own crew and how she ended up where she currently is, complete with the many hallucinations that make her own memory and experiences exceptionally unreliable. We also get to hear a lot about Claire’s previous experiences on an abandoned ship as a child that has left her with a great deal of present-day trauma and PTSD, and although I really appreciated how well Barnes captured this struggle, I did feel that there was a bit too much time spent on this that took away a bit from the rest of the story. I always enjoy an unreliable narrator, but I will admit that I don’t care as much for the hallucination trope unreliable narrator, and since this book was very much based on that, I didn’t end up loving it quite as much as I’d hoped. Still, Barnes does a great job of using this narrative device and I think it worked perfectly for this story.
One of the best and most successful aspects of Dead Silence was Barnes’ ability to create a truly ominous, unsettling, and creepy atmosphere. The fear and terror of what was on board the Aurora combined with the crew’s own fears and uncertainties were palpable and I found myself completely sucked into this setting. I loved Barnes' ability to create such a tight, tense atmosphere that left me feeling as claustrophobic and unsure of what I could trust as the characters in these pages.
The pacing of Dead Silence was a bit on the slower side overall, but Barnes’s compelling writing was enough to keep me following along with the flow of the story. That being said, I do feel like we spent a lot of time thinking about things and focusing on Claire’s trauma and past to the point where I sort of just wanted to move on at times. I appreciated the author’s interested in developing a complex and multilayered character, but at times it just felt as though it was overtaking the rest of the plot. This isn’t probably a huge issue for a lot of people who enjoy really getting into the minds of characters, but for some reason is just stood out as being overmuch for me at times.
Overall, I've given Dead Silence four stars! Dead Silence is a haunting space horror/thriller that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, so be sure to check it out if that sounds like something you think you might like.
*I received a copy of Dead Silence courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*