Christopher Golden returns to the realm of high concept thrillers with The Pandora Room, a novel chock full of action, horror, mythology, and history. Following in the footsteps of Ararat, the story that successfully combined the aforementioned elements in one of the best novels of the year, this entry also keeps the setting claustrophobic and tight, a motif that could be a mess in less capable hands.
Ben Walker returns in this story as an operative for the department of defense, but specifically an agency much more interesting. He joins an excavation in Iraq close to Turkey where stability is far from reality. The dig has gone underground into a subterranean system where something mysterious is unearthed, piece by suspenseful piece. A terrorist caliphate above ground attacks, trapping the team below, threatening the mission that Ben knows must be kept from public knowledge.
The fabled tale of Pandora and her sister Anesidora may have been based in fact: one box containing the secrets of the gods and the other, the curses that could destroy mankind. Archaeologist Sophie Durand crawls into a room where a single jar sits: which one is it? Is the myth true or just a story to frighten the people of ancient times?
Soon afterwards, reality and the team begins to unravel as internal rivalries erupt, governments clash over possession of the jar, and the jihadists ramp up their attack on U.S. forces. One by one, the men and women begin to feel strange effects of a long-buried malady when the seal of the glass is damaged.
The walls begin to close in on the multiple groups that must work together if anyone is to survive, while something else begins to emerge—something that tears on the fabric of what the people know to be reality.
Golden has long been a force in horror and fantasy, yet now has cemented his hold on what can best be considered the thriller with several fascinating elements of other genres. Characterization is always strong in his novels and Golden juggles several players with ease here, digging deep into lives and backgrounds without losing any of the steady, exciting pacing that compounds conflicts by the chapter. Fans might recall the best of F. Paul Wilson, Michael Crichton, and James Rollins here.
Another winner by the author who keeps expanding his base with each novel. Highly recommended for thriller and horror fans.