Meryam and Adam earn a living by taking risks – they’ll make a dangerous expedition, often at an inappropriate time of year to spice it up a little, and will film and write about the experience.
Following an avalanche on Mount Ararat in Turkey, a new cave is discovered, one that has been covered by snow and ice for centuries, and that is now begging to be explored. Meryam and Adam can’t resist the temptation that this presents and, dropping everything, they head out to Turkey to stake their claim.
Arriving there first, they discover the remains of an ancient ship hidden in the cave. What the ship is and how it got there isn’t entirely clear, but many believe, or at least hope, that it is Noah’s Ark, which, according to Genesis:
came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.
The implications of such a find are huge, but inside the ship they find something else. A coffin, sealed in bitumen, and inscribed with mysterious symbols. Opening the coffin, they find a body, vaguely humanoid in form, but with horns sprouting from its head.
As a storm threatens outside of the cave, leaving the archaeological team that have assembled to investigate both the ship and the horned cadaver completely stranded, people begin to go missing, and terror infiltrates the team.
Golden is excellent at creating tension. From the initial misgivings that tell you that things aren’t going to go quite as planned, he gradually builds up to a deep sense of foreboding which has you mentally screaming at the characters to turn around and get the hell out of there. But, it would be a poor story if they did so, and the lure of possibly discovering the remains of Noah’s Ark has astounding implications – things would have to be really bad to make you leave that behind, wouldn’t they?
I really enjoyed the clever way in which Golden makes the characters question was is going on. Is there really an ancient evil lurking in the cave, or do the unusual happenings have a more rational explanation? Conditions at the top of Mount Ararat, which stands at over 5,000 metres, are less than ideal, particularly with a storm raging outside the cave. The altitude, and the effect that it has on the body and mind, combined with the implications of their discovery as well as the clash of religions and beliefs resulting from the multinational team that have been assembled to investigate the find all add to the tension, and it does make you wonder whether it is just human nature at play when things first start to go awry.
As it is an archaeological dig, there are a lot of characters, and I found that, the main characters aside, I did struggle to remember who was who and what their role was initially. From the archaeologists, a priest and an expert in Arkology (yes, that’s a thing!), to the necessary doctors, mountain guides etc. there are a lot of people here, and to develop all of them fully would increase the size of the book massively. That said, the main characters are all well developed, and I really enjoyed the background that was provided, which gives a lot of insight into the way the characters act and react to the events in the novel.
On a slightly more personal note, I appreciated Golden’s neutrality in discussing the potential discovery of Noah’s Ark. Whether a believer or not, it’s entirely possible that the earth was flooded, and that someone, called Noah or otherwise, was able to board a boat with some other individuals and some farming stock – taking livestock is a convenient way of making one’s food supplies last for longer, after all. Ararat isn’t a conspiracy theory or an attempt to sway one’s beliefs either way – it simply uses the setting and the potential discovery as a way of telling a great story, and this very much suited my tastes.
I found Ararat to be a fast-paced read, and I raced to the end to find out what would happen. And there is a brilliant twist at the end, which again is something that Golden does really well. Recommended for fans of the horror genre who enjoy creepy, insidious and occasionally gory novels.
Ararat will be published on 18 April – many thanks to Phoebe Swinburn at Headline for sending me a copy for review.