Friday, June 04, 2010

book review: The Ark by Boyd Morrison

Title: The Ark
Author: Boyd Morrison
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada, May 2010, paperback, 420 pages

ISBN-10: 1439198675
ISBN-13: 978-1439198674

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 (Dilara and engineer Tyler Locke) 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.

(Article first published as Book Review: The Ark by Boyd Morrison on Blogcritics.
I received The Ark as a gift from Simon & Schuster Canada for the purpose of writing a review.)


The Ark is actually the third novel Boyd Morrison wrote.  He was having the usual trouble debut authors have finding anyone to publish his stories. He tells the fascinating tale of how his book got published to Scott Bukti in a Blogcritics interview. Here's an excerpt:

"Editors loved the premise, plot, and characters, but they didn't see how it would stand out in a crowded thriller market. So with Irene's (his agent) blessing, in 2009 I put all three books onto the Kindle store. I really had nothing to lose. This was just as the Kindle 2 was coming out, and Amazon started letting unpublished authors self-publish their books electronically on the Kindle.

I did no advertising or promotion, but readers on various web discussion forums picked up on the books and started recommending them. Within a month, The Ark was the number one techno thriller on the Kindle, and all three books were in the top five in multiple genres. Within three months, I sold 7,500 copies of my books, and by that time they were selling at the rate of 4,000 books per month."  Read entire...
Which just goes to show, there is hope for writers even in this brave new world of publishing house downsizing, online bookstores and e-readers.


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