Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/27/2017

Release Date:  Apr 18, 2017  (you can pre-order here)

Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden’s supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror will love Ararat, the thrilling tale of an adventure that goes awry. When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone.

My Review:

This is the best full-on horror novel I’ve read in some time. It feels like vintage Michael Crichton to me, with a plot something like: Dan Brown meets “The Thing”.

A huge earthquake and avalanche at Mt. Ararat (in Turkey) exposes a cave in the snow. That mountain has long been rumored to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, so a number of teams set out to explore the newly uncovered cave hoping to find archaeological gold. The first team to the cave will win the scoop. This “race to the cave” is only the very beginning of the novel.

The team to reach the cave first is an engaged British couple, Adam and Meryam, a quintessential digital age couple who make adventure videos together. They find that the cave is, indeed, the ark, complete with various levels of ancient timber floors and walls, “stalls” ,and the remains of a human family and animals. Also in the ark is a sarcophagus that contains the skeleton of something with horns that might or might not be human.

A group of scholars, Turkish bureaucrats, archaeologists, local guides, an American man sent from DARPA to see if the find can be weaponzed (uh-huh), a UN observer, priest, etc, all end up at the ark to investigate. They are high up on Mt Ararat, isolated from the world by a blizzard, when sh*t hits the fan.

At times, this feels like a monster movie, ala “The Thing”, with the isolated group of people being hunted and picked off one-by-one. There’s a supernatural element here, so this is definitely more horror than thriller. There were some nice touches having to do with dreams and the past history of several of the characters that gave the horror some depth and the book a bit of a literary edge. The story becomes quite tense and scary. It’s quite a nail-biter. If you don’t like violence, you probably need to skip this one.

I really enjoyed the pseudo-history/religious elements in the story, though they stay at an Indiana Jones sort of level. The characters were all unique and had some layers. Meryam, for example, who heads the project, is a woman who is not always likable but she is smart and ambitious and generally makes good choices.  The sexism she faces from the local guide was quite realistic.  Another stand out was Walker, the secret DARPA agent, who is a tough fighter but also compassionate and a thinker. The writing style was tight and unadorned. The plot moves forward at a fast clip and there’s no fluff or filler.

I guess this has already been tapped for a movie. I’m not surprised as it totally reads like one.

Loved it! If you miss old-school horror, give this one a try.

Book Links

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