For What It's Worth

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn't yet ended.


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. ~ Goodreads

Source: Purchased

Review: This was one my most anticipated books - my only really. I've loved almost all of Barnes (writing as Stacey Kade) books since before I started blogging.  And I love when authors take on new genres.

Dead Silence is so intense and atmospheric. It's described as Titanic meets The Shining - I've also seen references to Event Horizon and Alien. I've only see Titanic and Alien(s) and I can attest to those caparisons.

The 5 member crew of beacon repair specialists, led by team leader, Claire Kovalik, respond to a distress signal being sent out from the long lost Aurora. The Aurora was a state of the art luxury space-liner on it's maiden voyage, carrying various luminaries and a Kardashian like family, filming a reality show. 

While they have reservations about going beyond their own beacon range and boarding a ship where anything could have happened, the lure of staking their salvage claim, by grabbing a few artifacts, and becoming financially independent from the Verux corporation is too great. Even though Verux has cared for and funded Claire since she was a child - as the lone survivor of another incident that killed the entire crew, including her mother on a Verux ship - they are about to retire her off to an office job and Claire can't handle that. They also hope beyond hope that there might be survivors.

As they board the Aurora, it's clear that something horrifying occurred. This is the very best part of Dead Silence. Barnes nails the description of the abandoned ship - the opulence of how it must have originally looked and the aftermath of floating bodies, frozen water, bloody messages and warnings along the walls. It is CREEPY and feels like you are right there with the crew.

After a short time, things get even creepier as Claire starts seeing things...maybe ghosts of the crew and guests? At first she isn't sure what to believe because her memories and perceptions have always been off kilter due to her PTSD, but paranoia starts to take over the entire crew and make them turn on each other. 

The story shifts from the present, where Claire is being questioned at the Verux Peace and Rehabilitation Tower to find out what happened to her ship and presumed dead crew and the past - what really happened to her and the crew on the Aurora, One of the interrogators believes she murdered the entire crew to keep the salvage money for herself, or that she's just crazy as she tells her story of what happened. Problem is - she's missing pieces of the story herself. How did she get home? Where is her crew? Why would she leave them? And why do they keep appearing in front of her while being interrogated?

Verux eventually wants her to go back to the Aurora to salvage the ship or possibly for other purposes unknown to Claire. Alien/Ripley reference!

I didn't love going back to the ship as much as I enjoyed the original visit where it was new and the crew had their interesting dynamic but, even so, as the paranoia grips the second crew and has even more dire repercussions, I was still hooked. The intensity was still present and the gore was amped way up, just in a different way. 

There is a bit of romance, and it's funny to me how readers react to it. It's barely there but giving Claire a confidant and reason to believe in herself again, trust in her future isn't a bad thing in my opinion, But I think a lot of sci-fi, horror fans don't usually have any romance and don't want it mucking up their genre. lol

I was, mostly, happy with the resolution, every question is answered, everything wrapped up. While the big things made sense, there were a few explanations that didn't really make sense to me. Especially regarding the ghosts. I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil but let me know if you want to discuss. I also wasn't thrilled about how a few things were wrapped up off page.

Nothing Barnes has written has been dark like this and I think she just killed it with the world and descriptions. Claire is a really interesting character. Because of her trauma and PTSD she holds everyone, including the reader, at arms length, yet she's tough and worth rooting for but could be off putting to some.  

Sure, there were a few things I didn't love but overall, this was a solid sci-fi, horror, character study. Dead Silence cements that I'll follow Barnes/Kade anywhere and her writing continues to stretch and grow more complex.

*Heads up! This is a fairly gory book if you're squeamish. 


  1. I hope to be able to read this one soon-ish (which might mean in a couple of months LOL - I'm busy with review books), and I'll let you know how I feel about the romance thread and the ghost stuff (I'm kind of a book-ghost expert, so maybe those things will make more sense to me...or maybe less? LOL).

    1. I understood the ghosts but not an aspect of *a thing* We'll discuss!!! lol

      I'm sure you won't like the addition of the romance but I felt like it was hardly there and gave her something to live/heal for.

  2. Sounds really interesting and suspenseful. I like those kinds of books. Thanks for putting this on my radar. :D

  3. I liked this and need to get my review going. I definitely had Aliens vibes especially towards the end, and I love that trope. Badass Marines going in to "fix" a situation and of course they have no idea what they're getting into. The leader of the group in this one reminded me of Vazquez from Aliens... I wanted more of her dynamic with Claire but the end sort of ran out of time.

    Anywho this was solid. I think because of the hype I was expecting it to be even better, but that's me. Also yes we should discuss because I had some issues with the reveal/ ending. I was expecting something else based on all the eeriness. I like the relationship had with whats his name a LOT.

    1. Kevin thought it was a lot like Event Horizon but I've never seen it.

      But surviving, then being tossed back in and with a grip of military really reminded me of Aliens.

      I'd love to discuss the ghost aspect with you! It seems a lot of readers had an issue but I don't know if it's the same issue lol

      I'm glad you liked the relationship too. It was understated but fitting for her. She needed that stable force and hope for the future to heal.

  4. Creepy yes, goory? Euwww. But I could d8 with a good creep out

    1. It is kind of gorey - can't lie. But in a creepy way... lol

  5. I don't read many books like this one but this does sound like a book that I might like.

    1. I think it's the kind of book you can read even if you wouldn't normally lol

      It's pretty accessible to readers who don't read sci-fi/horror (like myself).

  6. Not my thing (I like fluff), but I am happy a book you were anticipating was a hit.

  7. Aw yay I am really glad you mostly liked it! I loved it- this was my first book by the author, but it definitely won't be my last! And wait, people dind't like the romance?! I loved iT! I also do kind of agree about the ghost bit, but I liked everything else so much I was able to deal with it! Great review!

    1. Her other books are totally different but I love her writing in all genres, it seems.

      I read a lot of complaints saying the romance wasn't necessary. I think the book brought in a lot of horror/sci-fi fans where there isn't typically any romance but I felt it was so understated and necessary for her. She's lost so much and having a person to ground you and give you hope is a good thing.

  8. Sounds great! I'm adding it to my TBR. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 👏👏👏