Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden

Ararat: A Novel
By Christopher Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prior to Ararat, I had only been familiar with Christopher Golden's work in comics, primarily Baltimore with Mike Mignola. Thankfully, this book was as good a place as any to experience Golden's long-form prose, and post-Ararat, I expect to be reading plenty more this guy's work in the years ahead.

Convinced that they have discovered Noah's Ark after an earthquake reveals a hidden chamber inside Mt. Ararat, a team of researchers dig deeper, hoping to find answers to a series of questions thousands of years old. Led by newly-engaged non-fiction adventure novelists, Meryam and Adam, the team of researchers, scholars, and government overseers find quite a bit more than they bargained for. What they find is something ancient, something evil. As a snowstorm pummels Ararat, and members of the crew begin disappearing, the expedition finds themselves trapped by hostile forces all around.

I've noted before that I'm a bit of a sucker for horror set against arctic climes. There's just something about the visceral nature of freezing winds, violent snowstorms, and blood-spill that really draws me in, from John Carpenter's The Thing to Dan Simmons's The Terror, and real-life horrors like the Shackleton expedition and the polar voyage of the USS Jeanette. And now, Ararat.

Golden nails the atmosphere exceptionally well, and the growing sense of unease and paranoia infecting the researchers is very well drawn. That this works so well is a testament to Golden's ability to draw characters - Meryam and Adam are a flawed, with their problems beginning even prior to their arrival at Ararat. Their difficulties finding a wedding venue for their upcoming nuptials is certainly relatable, and but the deeper issues underscoring this difficulty sets the stage dramatically for the events that follow. Golden does a fine job laying the groundwork early, seeding it with enough doubt so that when conflict erupts it's built right into the core of these characters and their relationships.

Ararat is a slow-burn horror novel, one that is deliberately and methodically paced. Golden lets the conflict simmer, masterfully building up the tension as he peppers in a series of crises that lead to a wonderfully aggressive climax fueled by distrust and fear. This is the perfect snow-day read.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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