“A Nightmare of Biblical Proportions”: Review of Christopher Golden’s Ararat

Posted: July 16, 2019 9:00:00 AM CDT

A Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, and an atheist walk into a cave…no this is not a poorly devised joke, but part of the plot line to Christopher Golden’s Bram Stoker Award winning novel, Ararat. What begins as an exploration of a newly revealed opening in the great Mount Ararat, ends in loss of sanity, the external and internal battle between good and evil, paranoia, death, and so much more.

Let’s take a step back and talk a bit about the primary location of this novel. Mount Ararat is a dormant volcanic ridge in the far eastern part of Turkey. It is about 25 miles in diameter, its highest peak reaches about 16,945 feet above sea level, and it is the highest peak in Turkey. Ararat’s biggest claim to fame, however, is that it is rumored to be the final resting place of the biblical Noah’s Ark and has long been a topic of exploration and debate among scholars and theologist from all over the world.

Golden takes this fascination with the Ark’s final resting place, and proposes: what if the Ark was found and what if a greater power was held within? Now, what if that greater power was not a benevolent God, but a darkness that feasted on those who neared it?

[Warning: This review does not include any major plot spoilers, but does reveal a few overarching details to the plot and story. If you prefer knowing nothing about a story going in, feel free to scroll down and see the recommendations list then come back to read the rest after you finished the book.]

Shortly after an avalanche reveals an unexplored cave in the side of Mount Ararat, the book's story begins it's ascent with a rush to claim this new unexplored area...along with the fame and fortune that would accompany such a discovery – especially if the cave possesses evidence of the Ark’s presence. To our primary explorers’ joyous surprise, this cave is not simply a cave, but the three-decker Ark itself.

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Soon, we’re introduced to a vast array of additional characters – an exceptional number of them being granted names and a bit of a role, but primarily serving as the often considered ill-fated Star Trek “red shirts”. The exploratory party that has set out to investigate the Ark consists of scientists, explorers turned authors/aspiring filmmakers, Turkish soldiers/guides/government officials, archeologists, United Nations observers, religious scholars, and an undercover agent from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA – aka the X-Files unit of the U.S. Department of Defense…with an emphasis in weaponizing unexplained phenomenon).

As our series character arrives (52 pages in), it seems the lead team has already revealed quite a bit in its exploration of the Ark – ancient cypress wood in accordance with the biblical story, three decks, animal stalls, the bodies of "Noah" and his family, claw marks on a side door that would have been blocked in by the side of the cave, and a sarcophagus-like container holding a husk of a “human” body with devilish horns...you know, just your general run of the mill archeological finds.

The progression of the story is a slow burn, with the evil gradually seeping and manifesting itself just enough to unnerve the characters, but leave the reader wishing for a bit more. A little past the half-way mark the action ramps up and the characters, who have existed in denial with hushed suspicions, slowly begin to agree that something isn’t right. A few “red shirts” have gone missing, a blizzard essentially traps them on the Ark, and members of the team are increasingly behaving erratically. Eventually, the group gets it together and decides to do all they can to combat or escape the evil that is now in full-on hunt mode.

The title, while marked as a horror, progressed a bit too slowly to ever leave me on the edge of my seat or creeped out. Saying that, it is also highly possible that my horror threshold is a bit different than a casual or non-horror fan, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Additionally, I felt minimal connection to the characters, giving their eventual injuries or deaths a mild “aww” (primarily because I’m inclined to empathize with loss of life - even fictional), but it never took me to the point of “I need to set this book down and have a moment” devastation. I also feel the opportunity to explore and sell the paranoia of our doomed party was missed out on.

On the positive end, I appreciated the questions of good versus evil, particularly the ponderances some characters have regarding whether or not it was the external evil manifesting itself from within them or if it was simply the evil they possessed all along seeping out due to the high stress and fear.

The story itself was an entertaining read; not a straight to my favorites list, but certainly enjoyable. Also, I was excited to discover Golden has written additional books continuing one of the character’s stories AND is in the process of creating a TV series, opening with the Ararat storyline. I can tell you that I enjoyed the title enough to continue the series and to tune in when the show officially debuts.

 

Happy Reading!!

Trisha

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By: Trisha Hernandez

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