By: Christopher Golden
Release Date: April 17, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Award: Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel (2017)
Sometimes a book lands on the to read list and sits there. Despite passing by Ararat each time I went to the library I didn’t borrow it. There was always a different book I’d come in for, or my stack was already piled four or five books high. However, this time was different. I finally read Ararat by Christopher Golden.
Ararat follows Adam and Meryam, a recently engaged couple, though Adam isn’t sure how Meryam feels about their pending marriage any longer. The couple races to Mt. Ararat after a vicious snowstorm leads to the discovery of a cave with what appears to be an ancient ship. Adam and Meryam race to the location, intent on being the first ones there in order to claim the archeological dig for their own documentary purposes. But there are ancient corpses within the frozen arc, and a coffin that houses something which is most definitely not human. What happened here? What is that thing? And why do odd things keep happening? Adam and Meryam are determined to find out.
The book skips between being paced too quickly to moving much too slowly. We don’t get a very good feel for the main characters before they’re whisked away to Mt. Ararat. Then after a time skip of a few months the plot begins to slow. The pacing does pick up again when we near the climax of the story.
There are a good number of characters in this book, but very few of them are memorable. Enough time isn’t spent with any of them, leaving readers with a rather two dimensional viewpoint of any given person. Each character’s personality is largely driven by their profession and the role they play within the expedition. Nothing gets expanded much past that point. Likes, dislikes, attitudes, and viewpoints of the supporting cast don’t deviate much from what could be assumed simply based on their names, religions, and occupations. This leaves a great many characters – because there are a good number of supporting characters within the story – feeling extremely flat and the names of similar characters blending together to become nigh indistinguishable from each other.
The only characters we get even a hint of three dimensions from are the two main characters, Adam and Meryam. Yet, even then, we don’t get much. While an interesting side plot revolving around their upcoming marriage, different religions and nationalities, and how others view them is set up, it doesn’t go much of anywhere. This side plot is brought up multiple times in the beginning of the novel, even becoming somewhat of an issue when it is clear that their guide up the mountain doesn’t like Meryam in the slightest. Yet, this side plot becomes almost completely irrelevant by the time they get up the mountain. Meryam’s side plot is odd at best and nonsensical at worst. I don’t want to go into too much detail as I don’t want to venture into spoiler territory, but by the end of the book I was convinced that everything she had gone through was simply physically impossible.
Another question I had throughout the book was this – what exactly were Meryam and Adam’s professions? In the beginning the book talks about Meryam writing a book, though it never goes into much detail. Later it mentions documentaries that they’ve made together while, again, never going into much detail about them. Now they are documenting this archaeological discovery with a team of people from around the globe, but neither of them seem to have sort of archaeological knowledge. This question, like many others in the book, is never answered in much detail.
As for the horror aspect, I was intrigued. It was this that kept me reading. I like stories that touch things like lost civilizations, ancient languages, myths, folklore, and the unknown. Ararat fits in with some these themes, but never with any sort of satisfaction. There were things I liked. I liked the arguments over the translation of texts. I liked the mystery set up by the corpses found within the arc and the unknown origin of the coffin or its contents. But this mysterious, unsettling air and slight psychological horror aspect morphed into something more akin to popular horror movies. This combined with the poor characterization really made me loose interested in the plotline during the second half of the novel.
Despite some issues in pacing Ararat by Christopher Golden was a generally quick read with an interesting premise. However, it didn’t come to satisfying conclusions in regards to the plot and the characters were flat and uninspired. If you are looking for a quick read with some horror aspects, do give this a try. Otherwise, this might not be the book you’re looking for.
You like fast paced conventional thriller/adventure stories; You like stories about ancient peoples and the mysteries they leave behind
Don't Read If:
You don't like underdeveloped characters