Ana Against the World by David Snyder
Here is a high-level overview of the latest finished work by David Snyder. Those interested, including literary agents, readers and other professionals, are encouraged to contact David at the address listed on his biography page here, or by connecting on LinkedIn. David’s LinkedIn profile can be accessed via the button on the bottom of the home page.
Genre: UPMARKET/Suspense 103,400 words
Dr. Anahita Ardehi, a world-famous religion scholar and direct descendant of a goddess, has always wanted to find the magic words to stop people from hating and killing each other around the clock.
In fact, her life’s goal is to find these magic words before she dies.
But there’s only one problem. Ana is an army of one, and she’s vastly outnumbered. The forces of pure evil seem to have the upper hand and the world is literally on fire, burning to the ground in many places. Chaos abounds. And a shadow government known as “The State Linguistics Complex” wants Ana dead.
In this terrifying season of humanity, the world is wracked by disease and violence. Manipulative corporations have allied with dark forces in the shadow government, seeking to control humanity with implanted chips. Living nightmares created by the implants bring a horrific prehistoric curse to life—a curse that hidden powers have wanted to unleash since the dawn of humankind. Savagery and murder are commonplace.
Then, during an archaeological mission in the mountains of Iran, Ana discovers that the key to defeating the forces of darkness may be written on clay tablets hidden in the remains of the library from the Tower of Babel. On her visit to her ancestral homeland, Ana learns that these tablets, known as the “lost codes of Eden,” are buried somewhere in the land of her forebearers, a fertile garden in the Liqvan Valley. The lost codes of Eden not only foretell the destruction of the human race—they also tell how to stop it.
Will she discover the tablets in time? Are too many people on the wrong side? Is there anyone left to trust? Does she have enough faith in herself as one woman to take on the entire world and tell the one truth that few people want to hear—even if that means she has to die for it?
QUICK PLOT SYNOPSIS
After suffering a nervous breakdown caused by a social media addiction, Iranian-American religion scholar Dr. Anahita Ardehi (named after an ancient Persian goddess) decides to take some time off from teaching in New York and heads to Iran for some rest and relaxation in the land of her ancestors, the foothills of the Zagros Mountains.
As soon as she leaves America, the world plunges into a sudden state of shock. Under a dark spell, the entire world begins to suffer an epidemic of illness and violence, as prophesied by a prehistoric curse engraved on clay tablets and hidden in the mountains of Iran. Known as the Book of Abinamabad, legend holds that the curse was written by a demonic race, the archenemy of humans.
As a child, Ana invented her own languages and her own religion, encouraged by her Zoroastrian father and Jewish mother, both medical doctors, who fled Iran in their youth. Now an adult, Ana is a leading expert on ancient languages and religion. In addition to studying the legends of the curse of Abinamabad, she has spent years researching rumors that a few clay tablets referred to in inner circles as the “lost codes of Eden” may hold shocking secrets about the location of the real garden of Eden—and the people who inhabited it.
After her breakdown, she decides that she has to go to Iran and find these tablets if she is to restore her faith in herself and humanity. Spending six months on a sabbatical in her ancestral homeland, Ana becomes convinced that Eden is not a myth, but is in fact the home of her ancestors, a gorgeous mountain region south of Tabriz. Finally finding Eden, Ana has no desire to go back home where gruesome chaos is exploding, but the Iranians kick her out. Back home in America, she is forced to reckon with powers of darkness that are much larger than she ever imagined.
In the course of her research, which uncovers even more lost writings about the curse of Abinamabad, Ana finds evidence that a global organization conducts medical experiments, giving brain implants to vulnerable individuals. Slowly she discovers that the ancient curse and the modern experiments are linked, and are causing the violent chaos destroying the world.
Ana joins forces with a band of good-hearted renegades to unmask the evil forces manipulating all of humanity. But she will have to go back to Iran, where she is no longer welcome, and face unimaginable threats, in order to find the heavily guarded tablets of Eden, and use them to break the diabolical doomsday curse.
Bookshelf placement: The novel has a kinship with works by writers as varied as Madeline Miller, Karen Thompson Walker, N.K. Jemisin, and Paulo Coelho. It is literary, with hints of magical realism, mythology and the supernatural. It is highly original, with an intricately plotted Heroine’s journey that draws upon elements of the world’s most ancient religions.
David Snyder is a graduate of both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the student literary magazine. He received his Masters in psychology from Harvard and conducted research in psychophysiology at Harvard Medical School. A former magazine editor and investigative reporter, David is also a composer, an inventor and a fiction writer.
Ana Against the World
By David Snyder
ahnu kulfa alnaad al-linaha
—Ashira, daughter of Anahita, five years old
Garden of Eden, Liqvan Valley, circa 12,000 BC
There is nothing more beautiful in this world than disorganized religion, the woman thought, smiling to herself, in the passenger seat of a white SUV, which slowed to a crawl on the mountains overlooking Eden.
She did not know why this thought kept popping into her head, but it did, incessantly. Religion got a bad rap these days, in her estimation. Real religion, to her, was anything but organized. It bound us to the past, the dust, the musk, our animal spirits, our blood, the heavenly bodies, the planets, our natural lusts and desires. Without it, we would be robots—with no idea who we were or what we wanted. We would be nothing at all.
She often had these thoughts but would never voice them—and certainly not here in Iran. Even if she was Dr. Anahita Ardehi, the world’s most famous Iranian-American scholar of religion: master of languages, maker of clay pots, lover of women and men, woman of flowing dark rivers, child of a goddess, queen of heaven, half Jewish, half Zoroastrian, and wholly herself.
Ana was twenty miles southeast of Tabriz, at the end of a long, scorching summer, when the white SUV finally came to a stop at a scenic pull off in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, looking down upon the golden slopes of the Liqvan Valley.
She felt her face flush warm at the sight of these rolling hills—a sensual, instinctive pride in her surroundings. Magical! Oh yes, this must be the place. How could it not be the garden of Eden? It sure looks like it. The sumptuous curves of mother earth in all her splendor. I can feel you magical Edin, land of Anahita, terraced garden of supernatural rivers and healing waters. A broader smile spread across her face, like a sunrise.
A man got out of the driver’s seat, leaving the door ajar. He stood on the edge of the steep winding road that cut through mountain passes—a thin gray-black ribbon that disappeared under a sky that seemed to cover the entirety of the known world, like a bowl.
Ana climbed out of the vehicle, dressed in black pants, a green tunic with full sleeves, and a purple hijab. She walked to the front of the car, stopped beside him, and let her eyes soak up the breathtaking view.
“I’m sorry that you will soon have to leave, Ana,” Rashid said. He had a dark complexion, salt and pepper hair, and a Mediterranean countenance—chiseled features and large, moody eyes. “At least you have a few more days. A few more days in heaven before they send you back to hell.”
Ana adjusted her headscarf, which had blown loose in the strong summer breeze. Six months prior, she had arrived in Iran from America to help identify the exact location of the biblical Eden. One theory in academic circles pointed toward Iran, the area of Mount Sahand, which towered over the Liqvan Valley.
“I have a few questions about your research findings so far,” Rashid said. “If we are going to turn you loose in this sacred area, we need to set a few ground rules first.”
“Just give me a minute,” Ana replied. “I am stunned and I need a moment to catch my breath. Just let me soak it all in. It is almost too much for my senses.”
He nodded, honoring her request, as she fixed her gazed on Persia, the motherland. If he knew everything she was feeling and thinking at the moment, he would surely say that she was mad, despite their friendship. Her Iranian friends saw her as a fiery, passionate scholar, but even in the cradle of civilization, certain thoughts might terrify anyone. They certainly terrified her.
She patted the tips of her fingers together, thinking of how she might blog about it for her readers.
My friends, in significant life moments, like this journey, I have two stories running in my soul at the same time. This is the Persian woman in me, and there are miracles in my DNA. The first story is of my deepest self and my kinship with this land: the moist caves and rivers and springs, the hawks, the wet-nosed deer and hot stars. Even the vibrating ground beneath my feet, sending coils of energy spiraling upwards in silver strands through my ankles, my thighs, my innermost parts; every door that is open to the universe, and the roaring rivers of blood that connect all to the chambers of my heart, constantly panting, longing to cry out with joy through my golden vocal chords. Oh it is terrifying when I realize who I might be: something bigger—a force. So much more than meets the eye. You have come to me in my dreams of late, Anahita, you have called out to me. Ana! Wake up! Remember who you are! The people need to know!
And that, of course, leads to the second story running through me. This is what we might call the thriller plot, pulp fiction: the news cycle, dirty white paper, fit for a litter box, the same terrifying numbness every day—those things we see with our eyes, the spies, the murders, the kidnappings, the betrayals, the worst of everything, of everyone, cities on fire, brides murdered at the altar, a flash on a television screen or computer monitor, a page ripped from a magazine or thriller novel, straight from the headlines, another serial killer in town and an ice pick through the head. How sad, that this is all they want us to see of ourselves. This is all we are, fodder for tabloids, spewing daily negativity on a second-grade reading level. No. You will not force that on me! I am Ana, descendant of Anahita! I am a goddess in my heart, and the things I see and feel are beyond this pathetic multimedia misery. My actual story is supernatural….
“Ana, why are you trembling? Is something wrong?”
A jolt went up Ana’s spine and she came back to the present, blinked, turned and looked at her companion.
“Oh. Well, no…I am fine…just overwhelmed by the beauty of Iran. This is the holiest place I have ever seen. I feel it in my body. Hope that does not scare you.”
“Not at all,” he said. “I am Persian, too, my friend. We all feel it. It can be a sad feeling though, you know. When you remember how it used to be, and how much things have changed.”
She sighed. “So, you say you have some additional ground rules?”
“Only a few,” Rashid answered. “Mostly, I can say it in one rule. From here on out, until you leave, you cannot go out alone. Do not get any crazy ideas to explore the garden at midnight all by yourself. We must accompany you at all times. By either me, or an official escort. If you don’t and you are found out here alone, you could be shot, and then they might shoot me. Do you understand? Does that cover it?”
His eyes bored into her.
“Yes,” she mumbled. “Yes, Rashid. I understand the rule.”
Ana had spent the last six months combing famous archaeological sites, but had not discovered what she was looking for—a few cuneiform tablets that would match some of those recently found at Chogha Mish, which spoke of a farmer named Adamu. Local lore and legends passed down by Ana Ardehi’s Zoroastrian father described an idyllic Eden situated in this valley, a happy Eden that bore little resemblance to the punitive Eden of common mythology. In the punitive version, Eden was a world where poor little humans were punished for merely being alive, or just being curious, in trees, and snakes and everything else. Who wouldn’t be? What’s evil about just being curious and wanting to explore? Who would make up such a depressing story? And why? Was it a village of people suffering from sadness? In the stories her father had told her, Adamu had two daughters, not sons. They had invented writing, etching their first magical dreams and memories onto red clay tablets that had become lost somewhere out there—in a stream, a cave, or maybe under the branch of a willow tree, hidden in plain sight.
The valley beneath shimmered like an ocean of burnt grass—an endless expanse of ripples and hills walled in by mountains, majestic as skyscrapers, vermilion in hue, almost purple. The world’s first city, built by the forces of nature, not man.
Ana’s thick, silky black hair tumbled out of her scarf and fell across her slender shoulders. In the blue dome of heaven above them, small, impetuous clouds raced one another in a celestial game of tag and then disappeared as quickly as jinn.
“I wanted to unearth at least one tablet here in the Liqvan Valley,” Ana said, wistfully eyeing a straggling, lonely cloud as it broke apart.
“But I think you have already discovered that these religious quests can discourage even the most zealous,” Rashid replied. “On a more optimistic note, the valley is large, and we may discover what you are looking for yet.”
Ana gazed across the expanse of the elusive landscape.
“Maybe. But I am losing faith.”
“Don’t do that!” Rashid exclaimed, his sad eyes begging. “This is not the land of people who abandon their faith. This is the land of the people who keep their faith, no matter what!”
Ana scratched her cheek. “I guess you’re right.”
“Tell me one more time, Ana. What did the tablets at Chogha Mish have to say? They said there were other tablets here?”
“I’m still trying to decipher the new tablets from Chogha Mish. It’s the oldest language we have yet encountered. Most of it we can’t make out. It’s a struggle.”
“But you deciphered the word Adamu?”
“What did it say?”
“Enough to make us think this entire valley was the house of Adam.”
“Like the house of David?”
Ana’s cheeks tingled. The breeze whipped her hijab again, and she reached up to secure it.
“That’s exactly right, Rashid. For centuries, we thought that King David of Israel might have been a myth, like King Arthur. Until we found that stone in Tel-Dan that said b-w-t-d-w-d”—she spelled the letters in their Arabic equivalent for him. “And then it was like a lightning bolt. God be praised. It is the prophet of old. King David himself.”
Rashid raised his head, closed his eyes and put both hands together. “Allah is magnificent.”
Ana waited until Rashid had finished his quick invocation and opened his eyes.
“So the stone we found in Chogha Mish was like that. Mostly hieroglyphics. A singing woman and a cow. Girls playing harps. But there was a very rudimentary scrap of writing that said b-w-t-a-d-m.”
Rashid’s eyes were wide and on fire.
“Yes. But not just Adam, the house of Adam. A hieroglyphic that looked like a mountain range with a small sun over top of it. Then another tablet with seven little mountains.”
Rashid threw his arms up in the air.
“Allah be praised. Ana, listen. This speaks of the seven mountains and the seven gates. Just like the story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta. The journey of Enmerkar’s emissary to ancient Iran, to find the edin of the seventh heaven. It is here.”
“Yes, exactly,” Ana said. “Which could prove that Adam was Persian, not Israelite.”
Rashid did a little dance, twirling around on the hilltop. He clapped his hands, beaming. “I knew it, Ana. What else did you find in Chogha Mish?”
She raised a finger and stuck her hand into the deep pocket of her smock, extracting a tiny notebook.
“There was another fragment—very broken—I am still trying to piece it together.”
Ana showed him a page in her notebook, holding it up to his face. As they stood there in the warmth of the beneficent sun, their cheeks flushed with excitement.
Ah- kul…al…na…ad al-li…ha
“What does it mean, Ana?” He stared at it long enough to know that it was a language he had never seen.
“My Iranian colleagues at Chogha Mish believe it could be the fragment of a motto, or a creed, even a prayer—a rule of law established under the house of Adamu, which may have been here—in valleys or foothills of these mountains. And if our hunch is right, this could have been the only rule of law our Persian ancestors had. We just don’t know what it says.”
Ana folded her little book and put it back in her pocket. Rashid took a deep breath, came forward and took Ana by the hands, in public, in broad daylight.
“You realize this could change everything,” he said. “Everything. For both us.”
“I know,” she replied. “I know, Rashid. That is why I am so discouraged right now.” Her eyes were as moody as his, and almost as dark.
But his eyes now sparkled with hope. “If you are right in what you say, this could be the greatest moment in Iranian history—to prove that we were God’s people—living right here in Eden—long before anyone else even thought to say God’s people. And you would become the most famous and the most beloved religion professor in all of Islam, perhaps the world, even if you pretend to be an atheist—or whatever it is you pretend to be. Even though I know that in your heart you are a staunch believer.”
He let go of her hands and walked to edge of the road, stood on the precipice, his heart swelling with pride for his homeland, his eyes misty with tears.
“But it’s more than that,” Ana said.
He turned around. “What have I missed?”
“If I can figure out what this tablet says, and it gives the original law for living in the garden of Eden, then we will know where we came from, as a people, and we will know where we went wrong as a human race. I’m not sure, but…”
She stooped, scooped up a handful of dirt and raised it to her nostrils. The rich pungent aroma, the flesh of mother earth. The fertile soil of our ancestors, she thought, and let it trickle through her fingers. Like sand through an hourglass. What if all the time in the world was running out?
“We have gone wrong in so many ways, Ana.” Rashid shook his head and exhaled. “It is shameful how many ways we have gone astray. And there is something new every day.”
She shuddered to think what he might say. It was becoming dangerous to even ask.
“What is it now?”
“Have you not heard the news from America?”
“Of course not. I am in Iran.”
“Good point,” he replied. “But it is not good. People are going berserk. Burning everything down. We’ve seen nothing like it. It’s like an apocalypse. We think it must be some ancient curse. People’s brains have been utterly destroyed. As if they are being controlled by some supernatural being of evil. I hate that you have to go back there in a few days. You might get killed.”
On the horizon, Ana caught the graceful sight of a hawk. She pointed.
“Another one! See! How beautiful.” Then she turned to him. “I know. I hate to go back. What is wrong with people, Rashid? I don’t want to face it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Then I wonder, is there something the matter with me? That I would rather stay over here and look for ancient prayers—instead of going home and trying to help?”
Rashid touched her on the shoulder.
“Let’s go back to Kandovan and make a nice pot of Fesenjan. All of your questions have very long answers.”