Book Review by Heidi Simmons
by Christopher Golden – Fiction
What if Noah’s Ark really existed and was exposed to the world today? Would it change how we believe, live or treat each other?
A man, his family and all the earth’s animals on a boat surviving at catastrophic flood is a story told in many forms across the globe. In Christopher Golden’s novel Ararat (St. Martin’s Press, 305 pages) the discovery of Noah’s Ark reveals more than just an old boat.
Ararat is one of two dormant volcanoes in Eastern Turkey. Greater Ararat is the legendary landing place in the biblical account of Noah’s Ark. It is the tallest mountain in the region and sits on the border of Armenia (formally Russia) and Iran. The dominant religions – Jews, Muslims and Christians – basically believe that Noah really existed and there was a great flood.
Author Golden begins his story with a devastating earthquake in Turkey that reveals a box-like opening on Mount Ararat after an avalanche. The main protagonists, Adam and Meryam, are climbers, adventurers, authors, and videographers, who want to be the first team to document the object. The couple is recently engaged, and believe their audience will root for them emotionally and appreciate their new adventure. It may also launch their careers globally.
As excited as Adam and Meryam are, there are some troubling issues. First, it’s winter and the conditions on the mountain are more treacherous than usual. Second, Adam is Jewish and was raised by his grandmother who believed a dybbuk lived in their house, which makes Adam vulnerable to biblical superstitions. And finally, the area is surrounded with religious and political unrest. Adding to the complications, Meryam was raised Muslim, but is now an Atheist.
Belief systems aside, the couple get to the object first.
Three months later, Meryam is in charge of the site, which, at first, appears to be the ark of Noah.
Meryam and Adam co-manage the large team of archeologists, religious experts, political observers and government officials. The ark becomes a makeshift community with offices, labs, infirmary and sleeping quarters while information is gathered to determine what the object actually is – if not the ark. The small team of filmmakers do their best to get it all on camera.
When three ancient, frozen bodies are examined, and a sarcophagus is opened to reveal a mummified, humanoid creature with a horned skull, something is unleashed that starts to haunt the minds of those on the ark.
Friends and colleagues start to violently turn on each other and people get murdered and go missing. No matter what team members may believe, all agree that the exhumed “creature” is evil.
As a terrible storm moves in making an evacuation too dangerous, the ark turns into a living hell where no one can escape the nightmare.
Ararat is a supernatural thriller set within a structure that is most likely Noah’s Ark. As the “demon” takes possession, the significance of the discovery and what that might mean to modern humanity mostly fades.
The story starts with its characters debating issues if the discovery is actually Noah’s Ark. There are some religious and scientific arguments that just scrape the surface of how it might change the world as we know it. Do you reveal the ark or keep it a secret? Examine the contents or leave it alone? Does the world have a right to know?
But as interesting as that is, none of that matters when the sarcophagus opens and evil is unleashed. In fact, the novel picks up speed and intensity when it becomes a horror story. The “demon” literally takes over.
The problem for me was the “loving” couple. I didn’t particularly like either and I did not buy that the two would ever be able to manage such a significant archeological find. They are filmmakers with no scientific skills.
However, I did enjoy Ben Walker, a character that shows up as an observer, but is really there to take samples for a secret US military organization. He has a Ph.D, and been around the world dealing with strange anomalies. Maybe there is something that can be weaponized?
I hope author Golden brings Dr. Walker back for another supernatural adventure — maybe even a sequel. Golden may not be an intellectual and insightful writer, but he can deliver horror a la Stephen King.
Overall, I was intrigued by the story. Noah’s ark is a part of our human mythos. Yes, I wanted more depth and debate, but I did enjoy the nature of the “beast” and the possible implications. We live in a world with evil. How did it get here?