Ever since the launch of the Alien marketing campaign in 1978, sci-fi fans the world over have been familiar with one simple concept: in space, no one can hear you scream. It’s a chilling fact. But with the release of S.A. Barnes’s new novel Dead Silence (out February 8, 2022) readers are about to learn that it’s a lot more complicated than that—and twice as terrifying.

In Dead Silence, Claire Kovalik is a blue collar beacon repair team lead stationed at the outermost reaches of documented space. Orphaned at a young age in a terrible accident, Claire has found a home in space—a home she is about to lose after this final job. The applications to further her career have failed, leaving her with the frightening prospect of being grounded on earth, permanently. 

But just when it looks like it’s time to hang up her space suit, Claire and her team pick up a faint distress signal that leads them to an impossible discovery. Listlessly floating deep in unexplored space is the Aurora, a luxury cruise vessel that mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago on its maiden voyage. With a find as rare as this one, Claire could avoid her impending retirement and open her own transport service. But once her crew steps on board the ill-fated ship, they realize something is wrong. Whispers, visions, and thousands of dead bodies threaten to drive them insane before they can claim their find. Can Claire hold onto her sanity long enough to secure her future?

Genre fiction fans can be a tough crowd to please, but a sci-fi/horror novel as fine as Dead Silence is near guaranteed to be a hit. Barnes keeps their writing style simple and approachable, avoiding the purple prose that sometimes creeps into the sub genre. This direct, easy approach allows the content of the story to take the driver’s seat—and what a story it is.

The marketing materials for Dead Silence do a good job of letting readers know what to expect, with comparisons to Paul W. S. Anderson’s late-90s chiller Event Horizon and Kurbick’s watershed adaptation of The Shining. But Barnes’s tale of working class folks trapped in a ghostly ship of horrors stands all on its own. The descriptions alone will stick with readers long after they’ve placed Dead Silence back on the shelf. Dark hallways beckon, an ornate atrium stands empty and destroyed, even Barnes’s depiction of a swimming pool in space takes on a horror that won’t soon be forgotten. 

Filled with twists, thrills, and frights, Dead Silence is a masterful new addition to the science fiction and horror realms. As the first few pages slip through their fingers, genre-literate fans may think they know what’s coming—and that’s just when S.A. Barnes wants you to think. 

Dead Silence is out February 8, 2022 from Tor Nightfire

Book cover for S.A. Barnes "Dead Silence," featuring a gloved hand pressed against a cracked porthole.

Looking for more modern horror masters? Check out Transmuted.

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