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 very quickly to being paced rather slowly. We don’t spend very much time with 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, however.
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 without a strong feeling of their personality, likes, or dislikes. Each character’s personality is largely driven by their profession and the role they play within the expedition. Likes, dislikes, attitudes, and viewpoints of the supporting cast don’t deviate much from what might be assumed simply based on their names, religions, and occupations. This leaves a great many characters – as there are a good number of supporting characters within the story – feeling extremely flat and the names of similar characters blending together.
The only characters with a great deal of character development the two main characters, Adam and Meryam. 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 as in depth as I would have liked. This plot is brought up multiple times in the beginning of the novel, even becoming somewhat of a larger plot issue when it is clear that their guide up the mountain doesn’t like Meryam in the slightest. Yet, all this becomes rather forgotten by the time they get up the mountain.
As for the horror aspect, I was intrigued from the get go and it really paid off. It was this that kept me hooked. I like stories that touch things like lost civilizations, ancient languages, myths, folklore, and the unknown. Ararat fits in with many these themes. I liked the character’s 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 and its contents. This mysterious, unsettling air and slight psychological horror aspect morphed into something more akin to popular horror movies.
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 remained flat. 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.