Ararat by Christopher Golden

April 13, 2017

Meryam and Adam take risks for a living. But neither is prepared for what lies in the legendary heights of Mount Ararat, Turkey.

First to reach a massive cave revealed by an avalanche, they discover the hole in the mountain’s heart is really an ancient ship, buried in time. A relic that some fervently believe is Noah’s Ark.

Deep in its recesses stands a coffin inscribed with mysterious symbols that no one in their team of scholars, archaeologists and filmmakers can identify. Inside is a twisted, horned cadaver. Outside a storm threatens to break.

As terror begins to infiltrate their every thought, is it the raging blizzard that chases them down the mountain – or something far worse?

Isn’t just always the way; you discover a centuries old burial site that could hold secrets relating to one of ancient history’s biggest mysteries and before you know it a blizzard has arrived, everyone is trapped and one by one they start to die. Is there a deranged killer amongst them, or is there something far more sinister? Christopher Golden’s latest, Ararat, is a masterclass in slow burning tension.

The thing I like most about this author’s writing style is the attention he pays to his characters. He does a fantastic job of establishing each of them. The dynamic between the two leads, Meryam and Adam, is well realised. Having spent years together, their entire relationship is based on an inherent trust. As the stresses of running the dig increase and events go from bad to worse, you can see that trust being eroded. Another character I warmed to was Ben Walker. He is the action man of the piece. There is a certain air of mystery that surrounds Ben, and I liked his no-nonsense approach to problem solving. The author does briefly touch upon Ben’s history. I would have loved to learn more. I am not sure if this relates to another novel or not, but I certainly hope so. What is revealed sounds like it would make for another exciting tale that I would be more than happy to read.

There is a moment in the novel, about halfway through, where the tension suddenly turns up a notch and things start to get genuinely creepy. Just when I thought I had sussed what was going on with the story, events spiral off in completely different direction. The narrative descends into some full on, bloody horror and I loved it. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting this abrupt change of pace, it caught me completely unaware. I thought we were firmly in the realms of psychological terror, boy was I wrong. I’ll admit it, you lulled me into a false sense of security, Mr Golden. Well played. I’m a huge fan of any author who throws me a curveball like that and catches me off guard.

Now there might be part of you that is thinking “I have no interest in reading fiction based on a Bible story”. You would be making a huge mistake, I wouldn’t dismiss Ararat quite so quickly. I am a confirmed atheist, but I am also interested in history. I do sometimes ponder the origins of religious doctrine and I like the idea that ancient texts, like the Bible, have a kernel of truth in them. There may well have been an ark, or several arks. I’m not suggesting that all the animals were transported two by two in order to save them all from a world-encompassing flood, but perhaps there was some disaster that is the seed of this tale. Many historians believe that the legends of Robin Hood are a based on the lives of multiple men. I suspect the Bible falls into a similar category. My point is that I have no issue at all with reading fiction that is based on any form of mythology.

Christopher Golden is skilled when it comes to creating a sense of unease in his work. I read Snowblind a few years ago and there was the same claustrophobic eeriness in that book as is on display here. Ararat taps into that primal fear of the unknown. If anything, I was reminded of John Carpenter’s cinematic masterpiece The Thing. When you are trapped in an enclosed space and there is something stuck in there with you, there are only two choices – accept your fate or fight tooth and nail to survive. Watching the group unravel as they each choose what path to follow is fascinating.

It may be a little obvious, but my musical recommendation for Ararat is the soundtrack to the movie Everest by Dario Marianelli. I reckon the sinister grandeur of the music captures the same tone as the book, reinforcing that theme of unknown terror once again.

If you are looking for a modern action adventure novel with a distinctly supernatural twist then I can confirm that Ararat is the novel for you. Christopher Golden always produces first rate, solidly entertaining fiction and Ararat is no exception. When it comes to fiction you just can’t beat shoving a group of people into a highly stressful situation, turning the screws and watching them all squirm.

Ararat is published by Headline and is available from 18th April

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