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The Ruins, by Scott Smith Book Review | SFReader.com
The Ruins, by Scott Smith Genre: Horror Publisher: Knopf Published: 2006 Review Posted: 8/6/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
The Ruins, by Scott Smith
Book Review by Adrienne Jones
Have you read this book?
The Ruins by Scott Smith is a very difficult book to review without spoilers. Although I made several attempts to do so, they all ended up figuratively crumpled into paper balls and tossed in the trash. So if you don't want to know what the Big Bad is, read no further. Sorry, but I just couldn't do a spoiler-free of this one. Why? Because this monster/antagonist is JUST SO COOL that it needs to be mentioned.
Smith combines classic science fiction with a modern, somewhat formulaic horror plot, something that usually doesn't work for me, but in this case, it's perfect. Two young American couples are on vacation in Mexico, where they meet Matthias, a German tourist who seems to have lost his brother. His brother took off with a new girlfriend to an archeological dig somewhere in the nearby jungle (there's always an archeological dig, isn't there? But it's okay, there's no Mummy this time). With a shoddy map and an anguished heart, Matthias convinces the four Americans to go with him, in search of his brother.
The characters in Smith's story are wooden and unappealing, but for once I didn't mind. The women are written whiny and weak, the men pig-headed and blind with machismo. It's like watching a B movie; your lack of emotional connection to the characters makes it MORE enjoyable, because when horrible torturous things happen to them, you get to enjoy it from a nice detached perspective.
The five tourists do find the Ruins, but when they do, it's disguised as a beautiful, welcoming hill covered with the sweetest little red flowers you ever did see. Some Mexican locals storm in with guns and try to dissuade them, as the five are about to step onto the hill. But when one of the girls accidentally steps back onto the flowers to take a photo, the locals change their tune, now forcing the tourists to step ONTO the hill. The gun-toting Mexican locals then form round-the-clock armed guards to assure the tourists don't leave. They're trapped, with little food and water, and seemingly no way to escape without getting shot.
But that's not the worst of it. All those little red flowers? They're part of a vine that covers the entire hill. And that vine...wait for it...is SELF AWARE, and not very nice. Smith doesn't hit us with this right away, but rather spends time on psychological tension first. But the personality the author gives to this otherwise docile plant is truly outstanding, considering the simplicity of the concept. This is no mindless, tourist-eating tentacle, it's intelligent, an aspect revealed with both humor and dark chills. If you're looking for a good classic horror read with high entertainment value, The Ruins will not disappoint.
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I totally see your point, and I think the author probably expected the actual 'human' trials of the characters to affect the reader more than they did. What I liked was the vine. Pretending to be a cell phone to lure them into the pit, then laughing. Tickled me. Made me think good old fashioned scifi cheese.
Posted by Dave on 8/11/2007
I didn't think it was all that great. You mentioned that the characters were wooden, but they were also unlikable. I pretty much didn't care what happened to them, and not being invested in their fate, found the whole thing rather uninteresting.