After preventing a cataclysmic nuclear explosion in a subterranean bunker beneath the White House, President Conner, his most trusted advisors, and members of his cabinet are led to believe that they’ve stopped imminent disaster. Another crisis, however, soon follows—leaving little time for anyone to catch their breath. Military personnel and scientists aboard the Prometheus, a covert research lab tucked away in the picturesque turquoise waters of the Pacific, have succumbed to a deadly virus in what appears to be an act of sabotage. With the culprit on the loose, the threat of foreign powers closing in to steal the lab’s classified data, and possible exposure to new, fatal man-made viruses, the government has their work cut out for them. Led by husband and wife duo Commander John Hart and Dr. Liz Wilkins, an elite team heads to the so-called “Dark Ark” to avert another impending crisis. But this time, they find more than anyone bargained for—secrets that, if left in the wrong hands, could have earth-shattering implications.
John Leifer’s THE DARK ARK starts in the middle of an apocalyptic emergency, dialing up the dramatic tension to an eleven within its first chapters. From there, the break-neck pace doesn’t slow as multiple conflicts pile up, woven between scenes of suspenseful political intrigue and possible far-reaching, and frankly terrifying, repercussions. While the prose is sometimes bare, the story more than makes up for it—driven by a complex plot, capable characters, and technical research that shines to make the novel frighteningly real. The story unfolds like a high-stakes, big budget summer blockbuster, but still allows moments to develop heartfelt characters and searing emotional beats. Commander John Hart and Dr. Liz Wilkins are the epitome of a power couple, both of them at the top of their respective fields while working perfectly in sync with each other. Their romance, their unbreakable bond—and their witty banter—holds the entire novel together amid all of the action and intrigue. It’s also refreshing to see a well-rounded, headstrong, vulnerable woman in a STEM field written with such care in a genre often dominated by men. The book shifts perspectives often, lending an air of mystery and escalating its urgent pace by giving page time to the story’s antagonists. And they’re the kind of antagonists that strike the appropriate amount of fear, not just for the power they hold, but how real they are. How they could exist, and likely do exist, outside of fiction.
Leifer’s novel is extremely timely on several different fronts, given the current political climate and the global pandemic. More than that, it exposes and comments on America’s dark history of eugenics, the ethics of genetic research and engineering a devastating virus, and the scourge of white nationalist movements reaching the highest levels of government. It makes for a rather cathartic read, one with a satisfying, though open, ending.
A high-stakes, big budget summer blockbuster of a novel, THE DARK ARK moves at a break-neck pace to deliver a complex and ambitious story.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader