Review: Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes

Dead Silence

S.A. Barnes

Narrator: Lauren Ezzo

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.

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Published: February 8, 2022

Suicide Ideation, Blood Depiction, Depression, PTSD, Death, Gore, Mutilation, Child Death 

“Somehow I suspect that “third time’s a charm” does not apply to narrow escapes from death.” 

Starting out, I was iffy on our narrators performance– they weren’t doing a bad job at all, yet here was this disconnect, this ease in jumping in and out of the book. But, as said book grew in story and stakes and all that jazz, I think she did a good job in emotion and inflection and giving life to the characters and world.

Considering this was a semi-impromptu pick up read, the plot seems simple enough— it’s a dysfunctional ragtag team of people on a job they really didn’t want to do (minus our main character of course) and they think they’ve hit the jackpot when they happen upon an abandoned ship. Of course, it’s full of dead people but we’re not gonna think about WHAT did that to these people– get the loot first, be ethical later… until it goes wrong.

I feel like I should mention this has very heavy Titanic and The Shining elements in here… and I didn’t realize it until the end. I mean, I did see the Titanic seeping through and I thought that was really cool, I love any retelling-ish story in space… I’ll go more into my feeling here in detail later, but I feel like knowing about these things may help the reading experience.

The beginning really was disjointing– it was a switch in before and afters, a narrative was clearly trying to be pushed upon the audience, but I didn’t feel like the two timelines were adding up… AT FIRST. But, once we got there I was really enjoying the mystery. The twist, while quite obvious (villain and plot wise) was still fun enough to spectate.

“Silence has a different quality to it when you’re the only one left alive. It’s thicker. Heavier somehow.” 

And when it comes to the horror aspect, I can’t say I was scared or anxious. If anything, I treated this like a murder mystery. No points docked from me, considering as always the characters are what really bumped these stars up personally… or at least the main character. See, Claire in the beginning was… I didn’t really latch onto her. She was kind of just… there. Yeah, we’re told she’s going through some things, but as a 3D character? I wasn’t 100% sold on her… which also shows I should be more patient because I really came to appreciate her. From her being conflict resistant to the PTSD and the trauma she faced as a young child and the desperate position we find her in from the very start of the book…

As for the other characters… couldn’t really give you my two cents on them– they were there. The only one I actually enjoyed was Kane and only because their subtle romance managed to both surprise and delight me. Maybe it was his unending patience and understanding with her, or the fact that he recognized her trauma and made sure any decision that was made was made by her first, that she had to come to the realization and figure herself and her emotions out… there was no pressure and it was the perfect amount of romance.

Coming back to the trauma aspect of the story and Claires character arc, I really appreciated the way it was handled, however ⤵

{SPOILER}I do feel like the ghost aspect kind of damped it for me, which is where The Shining influence comes in. I was hoping the ghost were metaphorical but nah, she just has special abilities I guess??? But then the ringing made people see things… except everyone saw the same things… UNLESS THIS HAPPENED WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD TOO SO THE AFTER AFFECTS OF THE CHILDHOOD EXPOSURE OF THE WEAPON HARBORED ON THE SHIP GAVE HER THE MAGICAL POWERS BECAUSE KANE SAW THE DEAD PEOPLE TOO AFTERWARDS… I THINK. I don’t like thinking about this THIS hard.

Honestly, I see how this review might be confusing. However, look upon that four star rating and see that I had a fun time listening to this one. It was atmospheric, quick and im happy I picked this one up on a whim.

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