Book Review: Ghost Station by S. A. Barnes

Dr. Ophelia Bray is a psychologist trying to escape her past. The unwanted daughter of an infamous family, she is shunned by those who know her real identity, even though she is more victim than perpetrator. When something gruesome happens, it’s easier to blame the closest target. In order to propel herself beyond her childhood trauma, Ophelia has dedicated her life to studying what she believes was the cause - ERS, which is a space-induced form of madness that drives people to murder. The most famous case resulted in the brutal murders of twenty-nine people.

An opportunity arises to accompany a small exploration team who have recently lost one of their own, and she takes it, hoping to redeem herself by saving them from further loss. The team is reluctant to have her (an understatement) and Ophelia struggles to fit in. Things only get worse as something - ERS, madness, something else - begins to affect the crew and they turn on each other.

Dr. Ophelia Bray takes the idea of a “flawed protagonist” to a new level, and is a bit of a baffling lead for this story. She is a psychologist, but has plenty of her own mental health issues that she barely manages to keep in check, even before things start to really go awry. The crew is openly hostile to her, even before knowing her past, and her attempts at winning them over are rather clunky, and she develops inappropriate feelings for one of them. I wondered at times why she was hired for this mission in the first place as she felt rather incompetent.

Some of those issues added to the growing tension on board, but at other times, it was more distracting than anything. The reveal about her past and how it affected her is well done and sufficiently terrifying, and does serve to explain her long list of neuroses. I definitely found her realistic as a person and in her motives, desires, etc, but I wondered at her place in this group.

The other characters range from interesting to infuriating, but I didn’t find myself drawn to any particular one. The plot has a few twists, but not many that are shocking. I think the strongest part of the book is the ending sequence where everything is revealed and the team must work together to escape their fates.

Overall, I had a mixed reaction to this book. Some parts were well done, while others kind of lagged. I enjoyed it enough to try out Barnes’ other novel, Dead Silence.



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