The first time I heard about Scott Carson occurred when I was browsing a local library’s website and saw one of his upcoming releases. That book was The Chill, which I admittedly borrowed once or twice when it came out, but never got reading before it was due back. You see, I tend to have a bad habit of borrowing and requesting too many books, because so many sound interesting, and I have a fear of missing out on something great. Today’s younger generations would likely sum that up as ‘FOMO.’
Although I didn’t get reading the first book by this assumed pen name (of Michael Koryta’s?), I wasn’t interested in making that same mistake with his next one, when I saw it appear on NetGalley a year later.
Titled Where They Wait, this newish release follows a young man approaching thirty, named Nick Bishop. Alone and jobless in Tampa Bay, Florida, he’s unsure of what to do next after breaking things off with his longtime girlfriend and being laid off from his position as a respected war reporter. This leads to a conversation with an old friend back in rural Maine, who offers a gig that is simply too perfect to be passed on. Thus, Nick begins the process of returning home to a place he hasn’t been in some time, despite his mother having had a stroke while hiking in the nearby mountains.
Alice Bishop now lives in a quiet, garden facing room in a nursing home, despite not being all that old. It’s a real shame to those who knew and loved her, because she was once a leading neuroscientist. That makes things even worse, as nobody expected such an intelligent woman to be felled by early onset dementia.
Going in, I knew that Where They Wait was about dark and disturbing dreams. What I wasn’t aware of was how much it centred on brain research, dream manipulation and related things.
When Nick arrives back in his hometown. he doesn’t return to the house he and his esteemed mother once shared following the untimely death of his father. Instead, he touches down and sets up shop at their camp, which is what Mainers apparently call their lakefront cottages. In truth, it’s the only ‘home’ he has left in Maine, and it’s where some of his best memories were created.
Earlier in this review, I mentioned a job opportunity. You’ve likely been wondering what it is ever since. Well, an old and close friend — who now works as the dean of the respected local college — wants his favourite reporter to do a piece on a local start-up, which is developing a new mindfulness app called Clarity. It will pay a whopping $5000.
Needless to say, that’s impossible to pass up.
When Nick first visits the Clarity app’s headquarters, he’s shocked to see that it’s housed in the town’s old and once abandoned mill. In fact, the old building has received such a major facelift that nobody would ever suspect it was once so derelict and hard on the eyes. That isn’t the only surprise heading his way, though, because he also quickly discovers that another old friend plays a pivotal role in the app’s development. Someone he hasn’t seen in a long time.
After first meeting the unexpected familiar, Nick enters into what is one of the quietest and most secure labs he’s ever seen. Not only is it beyond modern, but it’s also got a warning chime that lets those working there know if a guest is carrying a cellphone, which is a big no-no despite an app being developed in house.
What results is a strange meeting between our protagonist and the app’s creator; a rich, brilliant and also familiar man whose social skills aren’t exactly top notch. This odd CEO ends up shocking his partner by asking Nick to be a beta tester, which he agrees to for the sake of the article. After all, neither employee has been too forthcoming about what, exactly, Clarity does, and a good investigative reporter needs to experience what he’s writing about in order to do it justice.
What Clarity ends up being is a strange amalgamation of mindfulness exercises and sleep songs, which the user must listen to using ear or headphones. As is usually the case, Nick considers the latter to be hooey, but finds that he almost instantly falls asleep after starting the first, unique and surreal, song. After that, he finds that sleep isn’t as peaceful and dream free as it once was, and begins to learn more about Clarity, those involved in it and himself.
It goes without saying that Where They Wait is a book with an interesting premise, which promises nightmarish horror and a potential modern day culprit. The tale starts off well, Nick is well defined and relatively deep, and the writing is pretty solid. It’s also got loads of potential.
That said, it’s not the five star read I was hoping.
What we have here is a decent and slightly above average read, but one that drags at times, and isn’t very scary at all. At times, it’s also downright weird, and goes in directions that won’t interest some readers. Some of the twists were predictable, and the last part of the book didn’t live up to the premise’s promises. In fact, parts of the conclusion felt silly and rushed.
If you’re looking for an interesting, modern horror read, Where They Wait by Scott Carson is worth checking out. Go in expecting something a bit weird and you should enjoy it. Just don’t expect the next spooky masterpiece.
**This review is based on a first edition copy of the book, which the reviewer borrowed from the library. We were provided with an advanced and uncorrected ePub through NetGalley, but decided to read the finished book since it was already out at the time of reading. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Atria/Emily Bestler Books) for providing a copy. Receiving this book for free did not sway our opinion.**