Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Ruins by Scott Smith

I really wanted to LOVE this book. I wanted to be totally engrossed in a fast-moving story of terror and dread in rural Mexico. This one had all the makings of a great read. Five twenty-somethings decide to take a detour in their Mexican vacation and wind up outside a creepy Mayan village, on some old mining site that seems to be hiding more than a few secrets.

Smith writes in a very straightforward style, although his paragraphs are a bit long and dialog just gets thrown into them. There are no chapters in this book, it just rolls along from start to finish. You get the feeling that you should just read the whole thing at once, and, more or less, I did.

What I like about this book is that it keeps moving forward. Although there are a few flashbacks, you really feel like you're reading the book in real-time. It reminded me of Stephen King's excellent short story The Raft. It had that oh-crap-we're-in-over-our-heads sense of dread that just built itself up steadily. The characters make some dangerous choices in the book, but none that seem all that dangerous at the time. Each next step seems...well, justified. Before too long, though, you know they are in a lot of danger.

To be honest, this will be the type of book that I'll grow to like more after reading it, as time goes on. You have to appreciate a modern suspense/horror novel that is not too cleverly plotted. If there's one thing that can quickly get me out of an interesting story, it's feeling that I'm being manipulated by a writer that feels the need to have a whole lotta plot twists. Smith doesn't do that, thankfully. This book is not predictable, the characters are interesting, and he doesn't blow the ending. The best part of the book, however, is the setting. That little hill back in Mayan country is pretty memorable.

I'll watch the movie, I guess, although I have my doubts that they're gonna get it right: for one thing, the hill looks too dry--where's all the vegetation?

I'm going to hide my main complaint in the comments, as it contains some spoilers and you may want to read this one.

Final grade: B- (but rising).

1 comment:

RichSkyline said...


Okay, here's my main complaint: plants aren't scary! No matter how he tried to make the killer vines seem to be creepy and animated, they never seemed very threatening. They're plants! Plants just aren't scary.