Review by Brennan LaFaro
Read the synopsis for Dead Silence and it’s not hard to see what caught Tor Nightfire’s attention. A beacon-repair crew in space stumble across the find of the century, a luxury cruise(space)ship that went inexplicably missing with all its passengers and crew aboard. With dollar signs in their eyes, Claire and the rest of the crew board looking for some trophies to bring back, to prove their discovery. Dead Silence promises a haunted house in space and mostly delivers.
What Dead Silence has going for it is the atmosphere, masterfully crafted by S.A. Barnes. Every room explored on the Aurora truly reeks of the possibility of what it could contain. The jump-scare moments are done well and Barnes creates some haunting visuals, with the blindfolded woman coming quickly to mind. Granted we are immersed in a horror story, but the reader never wonders if things are going to go well aboard this ship.
Dead Silence benefits from a non-linear narrative, but struggles getting us to care about characters. Claire is well-developed and present-day scenes, sprinkled with confusion and paranoia, make the reader feel for our main character. The other crew members never really jump off the page and the stakes do waver a bit for it.
My other issue (mild spoilers, here) is despite the intriguing premise (and I am a haunted house nerd, so it really grabbed me), the story begins to feel too familiar after the halfway point and the third act tiptoes through a trope that has been very well trodden, especially in the specific subgenre of space horror.
While there were aspects that didn’t work for me, the majority of the book totes an atmosphere that some ghost stories struggle to match; a lingering air of dread that leaves the reader, if not the characters, never feeling quite safe. If the synopsis grabs you, Dead Silence is worth checking out just for that.
I received a copy from the publisher for review consideration.