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Ararat by Christopher Golden

Published by St. Martin's Press on April 18, 2017

An avalanche on Mount Ararat has opened a previously hidden cavern. Adventure writers Adam Holzer and Meryam Karga put off planning their wedding to travel to Turkey in the hope that exploring the cavern will lead to the discovery of Noah’s Ark, which would cap their writing careers and give them a television series to boot.

A Catholic priest who doubles as a scholar of biblical times tells us that one interpretation of ancient texts suggests that Noah had a demon on board the ark along with the world’s critters. Noah might have wanted to hire a security guard to keep intruding demons out, but his lapse serves as the shaky foundation for Ararat.

Adam and Meryam find a structure that seems to be an ark, improbably high on the mountain to have been deposited by a flood, but of even greater interest is the apparent demon in the coffin, improbably well preserved if it’s been there since biblical times. But really, who knows how quickly a demon’s body rots? An international team soon arrives on the scene, including the scholarly priest and a fellow named Ben Walker who has been sent by DARPA under the guise of representing the NSF. Because DARPA, it seems, takes a great interest in demons. Who knew?

Of course, all the researchers who camp in the ark begin to experience anxiety and nightmares (understandable when sharing quarters with a dead demon) and creepy events soon occur. Fortunately, the researchers include expendable grad students who can be counted on to disappear without explanation. But is it the demon who is making them disappear, or does a murderer lurk among the ark’s new residents?

The characters have about as much depth (i.e., not much) as is common in a thriller, but they have enough substance to seem real. Adam is Jewish and Meryam was a Muslim before she became an atheist. I suppose that’s supposed to make them an interesting match, but Christopher Golden doesn’t do anything with their backgrounds after revealing them, other than having a bitter Turkish guide yell at them both.

Nor does he do anything new with a plot that basically combines a lost ark story with a demonic possession story — one of those demons who jumps from person to person like a hot potato. When the demon starts playing musical bodies, the story becomes too ridiculous to be frightening, and too predictable to be interesting. The novel tries to be insightful about the evil that lurks inside all of us (except, apparently, Walker) but the self-realizations that the characters stumble upon are too banal to be rewarding.

Ararat moves quickly. It is easy, light reading and it has some entertaining moments. It simply does not do enough with those moments to overcome its weaknesses.


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