THE TABLETS OF ARARAT

C. J. Illinik, Author
C. J. Illinik, Author . Kregel $12.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8254-2908-8
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This ambitious debut novel geared for the Christian market juggles a multitude of time periods and subplots to trace the history of ancient gold-covered clay tablets on which Noah kept an inventory of the animals in his ark. The story is loosely framed around an American archeologist, Arianna Arista, who discovers two of the gold tablets in an underground well in Turkey. Rather predictably, she also finds romance with team accountant/photographer Morgan McCauley and a new interest in God. Another tablet is held by Turkey's chief archeologist, and the history of this tablet's broken corner piece also figures largely in the tale. Unfortunately, the story quickly fragments into multiple time periods and locations, including Turkey in 1969, ancient scenes "before the Great Flood," Beijing in the 1960s and 11th-century Armenia. The result is a series of short stories with the common thread of the golden tablets, rather than a seamless, cohesive work. The distracting footnotes are inconsistent; "cartoon" is footnoted as a "preliminary drawing or sketch," but "caravanserai" remains unexplained. Foreign words followed by their definitions interrupt the narrative flow, and contrived scenes require generous suspension of disbelief. Illinik's historical asides often take on an instructive tone, but her colorful cultural details are the book's greatest asset. Although it's a tough read, there's enough potential here to hope for better things in Illinik's sophomore outing. (May)

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