Ararat by Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s Press (April 18, 2017)
320 pages; $24.99 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
It has been several years since a novel has truly unsettled this reviewer. This is one which produced nightmares, repeatedly, a read that will nestle under the skin like few others. Christopher Golden has penned some great tales in the past—most recently, the disturbing Dead Ringers—but Ararat just might be his best.
It’s a thriller with horror, or horror in a thriller format. Doesn’t matter—labels will soon be forgotten once the pages whiz by. All the typical clichés adhere to Ararat, but this novel steps deftly around all of the usual horror/thriller pitfalls, mostly due to Golden’s development of characters who breathe, live, and fear on every page.
Something has been found on Mount Ararat, something which may be Noah’s Ark. What the team of explorers, scientists, and scholars find within darkens the cave where the structure has been embedded within the mountain rock. Instead of animals two by two, they discover a handful of human corpses. One mummified being stands out. One with horns.
Before you can jump to any half-baked conclusions, Golden tears perceptions and plot twists left and right throughout. Adam and Meryam, an engaged team who spearhead the Ararat expedition, drive the story, along with Ben Walker, sent from DARPA to assist in ascertaining the true nature of the find. Nobody is who they seem to be, which raises the novel above typical thriller fare. Secondary characters become fully fleshed beings, with nearly everyone turning a bit part into something crucial.
Something on the mountain is not quite dead, but it waits, bides its time, until the time is right for it to show itself. Ben, Adam, Meryam, and the others struggle to figure out the dark puzzle as a blizzard threatens to make the mountain cave their tomb.
Ararat will call to mind several classics, from The Thing to The Exorcist to The Omen and others, yet it builds and establishes its own entity. Golden’s knack for intertwining sympathetic characters and the horrific with suspense begs for continued reading and will ensure this story be read in just a few sittings. It’s that good. It’s that unsettling.
This is a story that begs for a blockbuster-style movie, but it’s one that this reviewer won’t be viewing. The nightmares aren’t worth it.
Readers of thrillers and horror will be talking about this one for years.