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Book Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden

“Christopher Golden is well aware of the waves in pop fiction, and with Ararat he’s set himself up beautifully not only to ride this one, but to grab hold of new readers and bring them along for the ride.”

Christopher Golden is the author of dozens of novels, tie-ins, and comics, but with his latest novel, Ararat, he may have just written himself a horror classic. Ararat feels like an adventure novel—documentary filmmakers Meryam and Adam are the first on the scene when a cave is suddenly exposed during an avalanche on the Biblically-famous Mount Ararat in Turkey. The rule of the reviewing game is that it isn’t a spoiler if it’s on the jacket copy, so we can tell you that they find the hull of some kind of ship (or ark, if you’re a believer) and deep inside there is a coffin with the corpse of a deformed creature inside. See, the corpse has horns.

No more spoilers. Upon opening the pages of Ararat you’ll quickly get pulled into a story of dark adventure, of historical mystery, and of murder. There are elements of the greats of horror fiction in Golden’s latest. He uses Stephen King’s crucible setting to great effect—where the characters are all trapped and forced to work together or tear each other apart. There’s some William Peter Blatty in there, too, and a smidge of Dan Simmons’s beast of a novel The Terror, and a heaping dose of John Carpenter’s The Thing. This isn’t to say that Golden wrote a mismatched, hodgepodge novel–far from it. Ararat is its own monster, and it has an epic ton of juicy horror bits for even the most jaded fan of the genre.

Like Michael Crichton or Dan Brown, Christopher Golden is an expert at the high-concept rollercoaster thriller. He populates Ararat with an assortment of conflicting characters who have personalities that ricochet off each other. It’s a master class in pacing, too, which can feel a little formulaic at times, but Golden doesn’t seem to care. He’s writing something fun, something disturbing, and something that will have a wide appeal. He’s a commercial writer, and eschews any of the artsy twists that so many current authors feel they need to throw into their stories. There are twists in Ararat, but they’re the kind of twists you can crave as a reader. After all, with this kind of story you want the characters to experience the worst possible time in their lives, right?

The only downside to Golden’s aggressive thriller pace is that the conflicts can sometimes come off as melodrama. A few scenes feel like they’re going through the motions, spouting clichés and revealing predictably awful secrets about each other. Shuffle the deck of whammy plot reversals and pick a card—cancer! sterility! an unexpected gun!—and a few of these will make some readers roll their eyes, but Golden’s gift is he uses it and moves on, never slowing down, never giving the reader a dull chapter to drop the book off on a coffee table and actually get anything done with their real lives.

Ararat is a new jewel in horror-adventure fiction, a sub-genre that has been ramping up for years and is set to explode. Christopher Golden is well aware of the waves in pop fiction, and with Ararat he’s set himself up beautifully not only to ride this one, but to grab hold of new readers and bring them along for the ride. This is a gateway novel—something you can give to friends who are swamped in legal thrillers or cop thrillers or the latest serial killer snooze fests. You give them Christopher Golden’s Ararat and it should be easy to pull new readers to the dark side of horror.

JAKE MARLEY

 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Paperback: (320 pp)
Release Date: 18 April 2017

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