Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes horror book reviewsGhost Station by S.A. Barnes horror book reviewsGhost Station by S.A. Barnes 

Ghost Station, by S.A. Barnes (2024), is a mix of haunted-house and The-killer-is-among- us horror, with a generous ladling of body horror to round it out. The standout of this space-horror novel is the setting, a deserted habitat on a dead and snowy planet, where psychologist Dr. Ophelia Bray is supposed to be observing the Reclamation and Exploration Team who had a team member die mysteriously on an earlier assignment. Bray’s specialty is Eckhart-Reisner Syndrome (ERS), a condition that comes on during extended stays off earth. In one notorious case, ERS led to the murders of twenty-nine people on a mining colony.

Ophelia, or Phe, has her own issues. Her family is the second-richest on earth and made most of their wealth from inventions and space exploration. When it comes to ERS, Phe considers them part of the problem. However, there are even darker chapters in Phe’s past, and the deserted “hab” on Lyria 393-C brings many of them back into her consciousness. The team distrusts her. Even their commander, who requested a therapist, only did it as a paperwork dodge; he doesn’t want her there either. At least one of the team has a personal reason to hate Phe if they knew who she really was. Almost as soon as they enter the vast empty hab they find indications that things went very wrong for the team who was there before them.

Barnes is a master of atmosphere, whether it’s the empty and echoing inner space of the hab or the exterior environment, filled with snow and the constant screaming of the wind. The planet does not have sufficient oxygen for humans, and requires enviro-suits, an excellent tool for limiting peripheral vision in a horror story. Very soon, Phe is having trouble telling whether things around her are pranks, nightmares, accidents… or something else. And she’s not alone with that confusion.

S.A. Barnes

S.A. Barnes

As I said, I loved the atmosphere in this book, and I appreciated the explanation for the increasing horror. The set-up and the protagonist character in Ghost Station is very similar to Barnes’s 2022 book Dead Silence, but Phe seems to do a lot more dithering, and that didn’t resonate as well for me. The R&E team felt less like people and a bit more like types. I also thought the book got off to a slow start, as Phe prepares for “cold sleep” to go into space, and her family pulls out all the stops to keep that from happening. Still, if you want a chills-down-your-spine, look-over-your-shoulder space horror book, this is a good place to look. The book is a creepfest, and I mean that in the best way.

Published in April 2024. An abandoned plant. A hidden past. A deadly danger. Psychologist Dr. Ophelia Bray has dedicated her life to the study and prevention of Eckhart-Reiser syndrome (ERS)―the most famous case of which resulted in the brutal murders of twenty-nine people. It’s personal to her, and when she’s assigned to a small exploration crew who recently suffered the tragic death of a colleague, she wants to help. But as they begin to establish residency on an abandoned planet, it becomes clear that the crew is hiding something. Ophelia’s crewmates are far more interested in investigating the eerie, ancient planet and unraveling the mystery behind the previous colonizers’ hasty departure than opening up to her. That is, until their pilot is discovered gruesomely murdered. Is this Ophelia’s worst nightmare starting―a wave of violence and mental deterioration from ERS? Or is it something even more sinister? Terrified that history will repeat itself, Ophelia and the crew must work together to figure out what’s happening. But trust is hard to come by…and the crew isn’t the only one keeping secrets.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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