Review: The Chill by Scott Carson

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★★

Atria | 2020

Opening Hook: Drowning an entire village

Main Character: Can’t stop, won’t stop talking about dams

Plot Twisty-ness: Drowned along with the village


I’ll be honest, I read this book in July 2020 and it was so fucking boring that to write a review now is going to be difficult. All I know for sure is that it was a snoozer when it was supposed to be a pee-in-your-pants supernatural horror/thriller.

So, we’re off to a great start.

Basically, the small village of Galesburg in upstate-New York was flooded a century ago to create the Chilewaukee reservoir – nicknamed The Chill – to provide water to millions of southern New Yorkers. Of course, Galesburg residents weren’t super psyched to have their hometown put underwater, which is totally understandable, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. It was a political decision that was moving ahead whether they liked it or not – their town was being confiscated.

That didn’t mean, however, that the townsfolk would go down without a fight. They banded together, starting a fierce rebellion that promised to kick ass and get revenge, no matter how many lives were lost along the way.

But, you know, government versus village rebellion means the government won.

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Years later, the dam is leaking and cracking. Enter Mick Fleming, chief engineer of the state’s water infrastructure. And if anything screams, “this novel is going to be lit!” it’s a main character that oversees a state’s water infrastructure.

Mick sees a dam that has suffered years of neglect and oversight, but some of the former townsfolk of Galesburg – dead or alive – see an opportunity for the revenge they’ve been seeking for decades.

The second POV is that of Aaron Ellsworth, the son of the Sherriff of Chilewaukee. He was kicked out of the Coast Guard because of his violent anger. Since then he’s stumbled onto a path of drugs and bad crowds. When he ends up at The Chill to test his Coast Guard training out one more time, he ends up seeing and doing some strange shit that will change the path his life was taking.

What happens to Aaron brings out Gillian Mathers, who works for the Department of Environmental Protection and has ties to Galesburg. She’s expecting to investigate a dead body at The Chill, but when she starts seeing strange shit and listens to Aaron’s tale of what he claims really happened, the case turns into something much weirder.

Now we’ve got a water infrastructure engineer, a fired coast guard junkie and the environmental protection lady. It’s a PARTY.

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The set-up of the novel took for-fucking-ever to get through. Scott Carson – pseudonym of Michael Koryta – goes hog-wild on sharing all the details about building dams, tunnels, water infrastructure (I never want to type that word again) and geography that, pardon the pun, I didn’t really give a damn. It was too much. The pacing of this novel is totally fucking submerged (the puns just keep coming) because of the abundance of details that were not necessary for a thriller. Maybe an engineering textbook? I am not here to learn about building a dam, I’m here for the fucking ghosts.

This had a lot of potential in the mystery and horror department based on the synopsis, but it was so boring that I considered DNFing it multiple times.

Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t give up.

Yes, there were ghosts hellbent on revenge, but the horror elements were so non-existent, or drowned out by endless paragraphs of details and explanation, that it didn’t really matter what scary stuff might have been going on.

This book clearly has an audience, judging by the ratings elsewhere, but that audience does not include me.

Carson is technically – in every sense of the word – a really good writer, but this was boring, over-detailed and missed the mark on what a horror-thriller is supposed to be. Really, I’m starting to think this was actually a secret textbook on the engineering of dams. But I’m not falling for it! I’ll never be a dam engineer! Never!

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🔪🔪🔪


In this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep…

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