Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: The Chill

 The Chill - Scott Carson

Atria/Emily Bestler Books

448 Pages

For the most part, I am not a fan of ghost stories or other supernatural thrillers. I left that phase after I finished Stephen King’s The Green Mile in 1999. I used to read King, Clive Barker, and Robert McCammon religiously, and probably wore myself out of the genre. I sneak back into once in a while when a highly reviewed book comes along, but for the most part, I simply pass them on the shelf. The Chill by Scott Carson was a different matter right from the start.

When I found The Chill on the new releases shelf at the Lockport Library, I was intrigued by the summary on the inside cover. Two things struck me. First, it was strikingly similar to a story idea I had back in high school in 1990 or 1991. I never wrote much more than 200 pages by hand before letting it drop to the side. I wondered how it would have turned out if I had kept going. Thankfully, Scott Carson is far better than this guy and actually finished a book. Secondly, there was just enough history in it to draw my attention.

In the north country of Upstate New York, a reservoir to serve New York City was built in the early part of the 20th century. In the name of progress, a small town along the route of the reservoir is swallowed up by the rising waters. Left behind are displaced people, both living and ethereal. 

Across the intervening years to present day, the dam has become an afterthought to nearly everyone. Years of disrepair and neglect have left the dam in a precarious position. The past, never ready to rest, plans a return to punish those who disrupted their lives, using the dam as a means to breach the divide. Can the town be saved from rising waters, restless spirits, and their own arrogance?

This book is a fast paced supernatural thriller. Some of the things I liked with this novel were the flashbacks to digging the tunnels and building the aqueducts. Even today as more subway lines are planned, the workers are far below the city streets in a world often unseen by the residents above. What secrets are in the dark earth?

While, for me, the characters were a little off-putting and thin, I think the story was very enjoyable. The dam and town themselves become the main characters in this novel. Will either or both stand firm in the face of disaster, or will they crumble under the pressure? Will assistance from the people along the shores of the reservoir be enough to save everyone? These are the questions that will keep you turning the pages.

Scott Carson’s The Chill would be a great book to read on that cool, fall evening, sitting on the couch. It will make you glance out the window at the strangest of sounds, no matter how small or innocuous. I would recommend this book for the people who like Steven King, but don’t want as much of the scare, nor want to read 800 pages. In half the time, Carson delivers a capable story worthy of some of King’s most sublime horror.

Craig Bacon likes to find old ruins in the weeds and forests, and think about the life that happened there. And could still be happening there.