From the opening scene of archeologist Dilara Kenner watching her friend Sam Watson slouch over dead mid-conversation in the food court at the Los Angeles airport, The Ark's author Boyd Morrison plunges us into a story filled with terror and intrigue. This debut novel spans only a few weeks but feels much longer as our heroes jet from Newfoundland to Las Vegas, to Seattle, to Phoenix, to Miami, to Orcas Island, to Armenia. They are always in danger and working against incredible time constraints as they attempt to unravel and foil Sebastian Ulric and the Church of the Holy Waters’ deadly plan to wipe out civilization.
Plot is everything in this fast-paced thriller. Boyd distributes the tension peaks and valleys throughout to keep us turning pages till the end. Characters, easily identified as on one side or the other, engage in numerous cat-and-mouse pursuits. Some of the more fantastic chases (a monster truck loose on the streets of Phoenix, motorcycles careening around the deck of a ship, good guys against bad in the bowels of a maze-like bunker) reminded me of action movie sequences. Boyd’s obvious comfort with setting these up, along with his clear descriptions of the action may be thanks to his work with Xbox Games Group. More than once I felt like I was in the middle of a video game – only to emerge at the next level with things getting even worse.
Something that amused me about the setting/plot combo were all the high tech gadgets that the characters had at their fingertips. Just when all seems lost, Tyler produces from his backpack a battery-operated strobe, GPS system linked with his laptop (which never seems to be out of juice), foldaway shovels, remote-controlled vehicles with laser mapping capabilities, hardhats with articulated viewfinders. In that way the book is a techie’s adventure in gadget paradise.
As successful as the story is at delivering an action-packed plot, it is unexceptional in delivering complex characters. Dilara and Tyler are the superwoman Barbie and superman Ken of the good guys, while Ulric, Petrova, and Cutter are evil personified. However, given the type of story this is, I wasn’t surprised or unduly disappointed. This cast of characters gets the job done, delivering lots of entertainment along the way which is the main thing.
The themes the story addresses are similarly slight. Boyd does have Tyler start coming to terms with his relationship with his father. And there is some discussion about faith versus science especially as it relates to Noah’s Ark, the finding of which was the lifetime quest of Dilara’s father, and a focal point in Boyd’s tale.
The two main characters become romantically involved, resulting in a few steamy love scenes (though they are probably tame when compared to similar scenes in some general market books of this type). There is also swearing – not overdone or gratuitous – but there is a lot of violence.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the Noah's Ark aspect of the book. To make it figure as part of the intrigue and treachery, Boyd has his characters twist the biblical Noah’s Ark story by questioning the integrity of its translation and the accuracy of its transference from one generation to the next. Though Boyd’s far-fetched premise about the ark serves his general market story well, it in no way offers new enlightenment about the actual Noah’s Ark, only fanciful speculation, complete with an archeological treasure-store and magical amulets.
As a whole, this “blistering paced” suspense thriller is quite an achievement as a debut. Lovers of action, suspense and, of course, high tech toys, will not want to miss it.