Ghost Station Review: In Space, No One Can Hear You Get Therapy

By Christina Ladd on

About Christina Ladd

One of the Books & Comics editors at Geekly. She/her. Sailor Rainbow. Glitter and spite and everything bright.


We love to see a good old fashioned space spook-em-up. It’s the foundation of many, many franchises across all types of media, and Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes draws from these predecessors while still managing to tread new ground in a skin-crawlingly fun way. As Geekly Inc.’s resident mystery lover (really I just love to endlessly guess at things and sometimes be right) Ghost Station provided an excellent creepy setting, strong characters and a creative mystery that builds to a tense and tight thriller.

Ghost Station finds our protagonist Dr. Ophelia Bray signing up to be the onboard therapist for a salvage crew headed to an extrasolar planet. She has her own messy reasons for doing this that we’ll get into later. Officially she’s with them to research a psychological syndrome affecting space faring humans: Eckhart-Reiser Syndrome (ERS) which has the unfortunate side effect of making people homicidal. This particular crew just had somebody die from…well let’s say complications from ERS. Ophelia is out to make sure it doesn’t spread to the rest of the crew. They land on the planet of a long-dead alien race and it is not a spoiler to say that things don’t go according to plan.

Strong world building really set this book up for success. Barnes strikes an excellent balance between real science, future made up tech, creepy vibes and the literal and metaphorical alienness of space. The world of Ghost Station feels like a natural extension of our current world, down to the mega corporations running half the galaxy. Barnes is clearly taking her cues from the Alien and The Expanse franchises with just enough flair to not feel like a carbon copy. Space is after all, a rather large place, and there’s lots to explore.

The characters of Ghost Station feel like real people, with all their flaws and joys exposed out in the void of space. The crewmembers are grieving for their lost teammate and upset about being saddled with a “useless” therapist who might be spying on them. Ophelia herself is an absolute mess, her dark past immediately coming back to haunt her upon landin–and girl does not keep it together well. It makes for some probably inadvertent levity amidst a fairly grim narrative. There are sweet moments, sad moments, and one of the things I felt throughout is I wish we had gotten more time with some of these characters. Ghost Station clocks in at just under 400 pages, which is not particularly long, and I would have loved some more character-driven moments before it all started to go to hell.

What worked: Setting and characters

What didn’t: A bit short on time with those characters

Recommended listening: Dark Space Lo-Fi ambient mixes

One thing I heard about the possibilities of alien life that always stuck with me was the idea that there could be alien life out there that we just have no way of perceiving let alone communicating with. Alien life could be sentient clouds of gas, or vibrating rocks. So I always enjoy when sci-fi media strays into that kind of territory because I find it fascinating and terrifying. Without giving away too much, the alien life of Ghost Station hits that fascinating and terrifying mark perfectly. There are just enough clues as to what is going on that kept me doing my endlessly guessing thing, while just enough “aliens are scary and different” to make the answers creepy as heck.

All of these things combine to form excellent ratcheting tension with a satisfying conclusion. I hope we get to see more novels set in this world because it feels like there is lots left to explore. 

Ghost Station comes out April 9, 2024.

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