“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” ― Arthur C. Clarke.
As I approach my mid-30’s, I see my attention span shorten and with it, my desire to sit down and read a book. I find myself taking months to finish, or even worse, a novel is put down to never be picked up again. Yet, every so often I find one that reinvigorates my passion for reading and turns it from a task to be completed, to a pleasure to be enjoyed. Last month, I was in the enviable position to read Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes, and damn if I didn’t burn through this book like a man on a mission. This particular title fell into my lap after I was prompted with the terms ‘space’ and ‘horror,’ much like a dog responds to the words ‘walk’ and ‘treat.’ This particular review will remain spoiler-free and I encourage our readers to catch the full interview with the author that will premiere this Friday, but for now, strap in for a spine-tingling tale that leaves you questioning your own mind by the end.
Our story begins with protagonist, Claire, our team leader who has the steadfast determination of Alien’s Ellen Ripley, a parallel that lent credence to my love for the character. She finds herself captive at a corporate rehab facility in Florida for space-explorers whose minds have been swallowed by the vast expanse of our universe. A routine emerges of her being interviewed by a couple bigwigs looking for answers about the fate of her crew, and their astonishing discovery of the ‘ghost’ ship Aurora, that had been MIA for 20 years. The story then takes turn flipping back and forth between present and past, until they converge into an epic Act 3 that will leave you guessing until the last sentence. This non-linear storytelling is back-boned by our unreliable narrator, allowing for readers to never be quite sure what is really going on, and keeping each page a tension filled exploration. The story and characters are unique, with some definitive homages to past films of similar missions that had gone awry, but ultimately, this novel feels like a breath of fresh air within the genre.
From Event Horizon to Aliens, Ghost Ship to Titanic, it is evident that S.A. Barnes (AKA Stacey Kade) did her homework when it came to writing Dead Silence. It’s become increasingly difficult over the years for book scares to truly land with me, especially when the world we live in comes with its own daily brand of horrors, but kudos to Barnes for conjuring the unrelenting uneasiness that plagued me page-by-page. This book had me flipping the lights on quickly before entering rooms and second-guessing every noise in my own home, but I wasn’t ready to put it down out of sheer determination to see it through to the end. Another driving force for my enjoyment of this book was our team leader/ass-kicker Claire. We have been desperate for the next Ripley, a character than can transcend outdated stereotypes and I think Claire might be the protagonist to fill those shoes. This is the type of novel you hope to be picked up for a film or perhaps a mini-series to allow the ideas to be completely fleshed out. Whether it be kindle or hardcover, lights on or off, it’s time to visit your local book depository and get your copy of Dead Silence.
Full Interview with author S.A. Barnes (Stacey Kade) will be available 2/11/22!