I ll start this review off with a quote from a fellow Goodreads buddy, Edward That s one of the things I loved about this book All the characters were either assholes or idiots And this is the truth.What would happen if a bunch of idiots assholes vacationed in Cancun and stupidly went into the jungle looking for a stranger s lost brother without proper attire, supplies or even at the very BASIC LEVEL, a way to get back home You can read all about one author s imaginative tale of just that very thing The Ruins was recommended to me over and over again in my quest to read good horror I finally found it at a thrift store and I snatched it up even if it had an ugly movie cover which I would never watch This book plays out like a movie in your mind It s very convincingly and plainly narrated with an easy flow that draws you in and pulls you close I never could find a good place to stop maybe because my edition didn t have clear chapter breaks We have clear, easy to identify characters that are easy to relate to I related well to Amy, the one who never wanted to go on this effed up trip to begin with and struggled with not complaining the entire time I would say that this story had a slow burn atmosphere very unsettling and tense for a long time with bursts of terror sprinkled throughout even a few gross outs and some cringe worthy descriptions.I withheld half a star because I think the threat could have been managed one thing kept running through my mind the entire time which would have saved lives but I won t tell you because that would spoil all the fun If you ve read this book and you want to ask me what it was, hit me up on Instagram and I ll tell you HahahaAnyhoodles, in summation Awesome, gruesome, classic horror a thrilling, chilling tale A must for any horror fan. Trapped In The Mexican Jungle, A Group Of Friends Stumble Upon A Creeping Horror Unlike Anything They Could Ever Imagine Two Young Couples Are On A Lazy Mexican Vacation Sun Drenched Days, Drunken Nights, Making Friends With Fellow Tourists When The Brother Of One Of Those Friends Disappears, They Decide To Venture Into The Jungle To Look For Him What Started Out As A Fun Day Trip Slowly Spirals Into A Nightmare When They Find An Ancient Ruins Site And The Terrifying Presence That Lurks There When four American college students and a German tourist go on a foray into the Mexican jungle, searching for the German s missing brother, they have no idea of the horror they will find themselves entangled in Will any of them leave the jungle alive I was in the mood for some horror and received recommendations for this book from two highly regarded reviewers I m proud to say Kemper and Trudi weren t wrong.The Ruins is the story of five people who make a series of questionable choices and wind up trapped on top of a hill with a killer vine terrorizing them It reminded me of The Troop quite a bit in the way the relationships disintegrated as supplies ran low and the vine got and vicious After one stupid mistake, things quickly fell apart I m surprised the characters lasted as long as they did.This book seems to have a polarising effect among reviewers Part of it is probably that it straddles the line between horror and thriller, stymying people who like to be able to slap a convenient label on things The other part is probably the characters I didn t find any of them overly likeable but I didn t hate any of them either Sure, I wanted to slap them around from the moment they decided it was a good idea to go for a romp in the Mexican jungle all the way until the end but that s how horror stories of this type go sometimes.Eric s self mutilation was one of the creepier parts of the book, made creepier at the end when it turned out he actually had vines inside him I felt bad for Jeff, trying to hold things together when everyone else seemed continually on the verge of losing his or her shit I think I would have pushed some assholes down the mineshaft when he came back to find them all drunk.The vine was creepy but that wasn t a surprise since plants are emotionless monsters Just look at the Venus Flytrap or watch how quickly plants overtake an abandoned shed or cabin I didn t have a problem with the plant s intelligence but I will admit that its mimicry was a little far fetched at the end.While The Ruins isn t your grandma s horror novel, it delivers the goods if you re looking for a tale of desperation and creepiness Four out of five stars. Please indulge me while I float this older review for a horror novel that remains near and dear to my heart If you are looking for some genuine thrills and chills this Halloween season, this may be the book for you Happy All Hallow s Read I just don t get the storm of criticism aimed at Scott Smith s second novel, The Ruins Why do people love to hate this book I found the story to be brutally convincing and the characters believable if not always very likable These are college age kids backpacking in a strange country Four of them are American and tend to be not too bright and a lot self absorbed But that s realistic.Sure the story is about man eating ivy and that may strike some readers as too silly to be scary a la Little Shop of Horrors but that s not where the real horror lies anyway The vine is merely a plot device to trap the college kids in the jungle and force them to confront and attempt to survive a series of terrible events.So it s not high brow literature or anything but it is a visceral, visual novel filled with moments of genuine terror Under such conditions of extreme physical danger and psychological stress, the six travelers succumb to various coping mechanisms when they are not turning on each other, they are turning on themselves The situation becomes a fascinating microstudy of human behavior the group in peril scenario we ve seen before in classic stories like Golding s Lord of the Flies, Saramago s Blindness, or Stephen King s novella The Mist So I stand strong in my defense of Scott Smith s The Ruins I just can t figure out why those of us who do seem to be vastly outnumbered The amount of vitriol being launched against this book verges on hysteria and is completely unjustified My advice is to not let the nay sayers keep you away from this book Give it a chance like me, you just may think it s great. Wow, what a disappointment I d been so excited about this I m not a horror novel fan, but this had gotten such great reviews, I figured I d give it a try The trailer for the movie also looked intriguing Unfortunately, you may as well just watch the trailer and read the first forty pages of the book, because beyond that, it doesn t deliver My first issue with the book was the characters they re the most one dimensional people I ve come across in long time Goldilocks had personality It s hard to feel a whole lot of sympathy or empathy for characters who are nothing than stock types the ditzy sexy girl the boy scout etc Smith acknowledges their single dimensions midway through the book when the characters are talking about a film version of their situation and one of the character breaks them all down into types the boy scout the prissy girl the slut the funny guy Too bad Smith never makes the effort to flesh the characters out It s hard to get too worked up about their deaths when you don t feel like there s anything at stake The second problem and a far bigger one, in my opinion , is the lack of pay off Early in the book, the characters end up stranded on a mountain, kept captive by a Mayan village who forces them to stay on the mountain with this monster plant Yeah, yeah, the plant s terrible, it s carnivorous and smart and is able to torture and kill it s captives Once I got to the point in the book where it s clear the characters are stuck on the mountain, I thought, I sure hope the next 400 pages aren t spent just detailing how these people die I sure hope we solve the mystery of where the plant came from, why the Mayans are in collusion with it, and if it s truly a plant at all or an extension of something much ominous below the surface So if you ask yourself the same questions and think you ll get answers later in the book, save yourself the time None of those things are answered and it is, in fact, 400 pages of describing each of their demise Part of the problem stems from Smith s tactic of only writing from the point of view of the American characters If the characters were interesting, it might be worthwhile to see how they handle this awful and confusing situation, but we ve already addressed that these folks are pretty dull I think a interesting approach would ve been to either tell part of the story from the Mayan s point of view or from an omniscient POV, detailing the history of why such a malevolent force is at work in this spot Maybe my perception was skewed from the film trailers in thinking that this might be revealed I found the book frustrating because the characters briefly seem to be going in this direction, mentioning how the Mayans have contained the plant and guessing at why they continue to hold people captive here They also touch on the fact that the plant may not be a plant at all Unfortunately, Smith doesn t explore these ideas either through speculation on the characters parts or by having the characters physically seek out the source of the plant Sure, it may be unbelievable that the characters would risk their lives trying to find the source, but believability went out the window when the plant started talkig Smith already set up that the characters are boring,not so bright, and going to die anyway, so why not have them die in the pursuit of what this thing actually is Overall, I thought the book was pisspoor The first 40 pages are good, the story is tightly wound and propulsive, but after that, you may as well watch any generic slasher flick. Scott Smith s The Ruins is one of the best horror novels I ve read in some time It would be really easy for me to rip into it The premise is, frankly, ridiculous, and its plot is nothing but doom and gloom So why did I love it so much Simply because it was completely convincing, engrossing, and terrifying I don t think I have ever found myself squirming as much while reading as I was for this book s last 20 pages or so.I think The Ruins works as well as it does because of Smith s writing and characterizations There are a lot of negative reviews of this book on this site The most common complaints are that the characters were unlikable, that there were no lofty themes or messages in the story, and that the nature of the threat the characters face in the Mayan ruins where most of the book takes place was impossible to take seriously.I didn t find the characters at all unlikable They infuriated and saddened me consistently, because their flaws were all either ones I see in myself or in other people and am powerless to change, but I never found them unlikable They are drawn so well, in fact, that they really seemed like real people to me And real people in peril are the worst kind of people If you ve ever wondered what your significant other or best friend would do in a situation of extreme peril with you and found yourself feeling sick and worried, then this novel will probably twist your guts up And terrify you.No big themes Again, I liked this If there were, it would have blunted the terror This is a story of a few people in the midst of a crisis over the course of a few days They don t have the luxury of reflection, and neither does the reader This book might not teach you anything, but its immediacy is chilling.As far as the nature of the threat that faces them in the ruins, I can t disagree There are a number of reasons why it s incredibly silly But at the same time, in the context of the story, it s really not I, for one, found it disturbing for a number of reasons.If you re able to read The Ruins and tell yourself, This could never happen, then you ll probably hate it But if you re able to give yourself over to the situation and see yourself in the novel s characters, you will feel a creepy and pervading sense of doom. Requires a decent suspension of disbelief, but it s absolutely propulsive No one plots better than Scott Smith when it comes to events spiraling out of control, and the writing is clean and full of drive Very well done. Stephen King has a short story that I believe may have been entitled The Raft in which four college students head out to an old rock quarry They swim out to a raft in the middle of the lake As the afternoon progresses, they notice what appears to be a patch of oil skimming the surface of the water One of the students dives into the lake for a post coital swim and is mysteriously and grotesquely devoured by the oil patch, his skin pretty much being stripped right from its bones Now horrifed, the remaining students are now making an attempt to get to shore without being overtaken by the patch of oil I was reminded of this story as I read this book I was reminded of Stephen King in general as I read this book It has Stephen King like plotting and character development It is praised by Stephen King in a back jacket critical blurb The only real difference between this novel and the novels of Stephen King is that this book has a better ending Endings Yeah, King pretty much sucks at those.Anyway, this novel concerns two American couples who take a summer trip to Cancun, sort of a last hurrah before school starts up again While in Cancun, they become friends with a German man named Matthias who does speak English and a trio of Greek tourists who do not Matthias announces that he is searching for his missing brother who headed into a Mayan archeological ruin with a hot archeologist he met on the beach The brother never returned Collectively, the two couple, Matthias, and one of the Greeks decide that it might be fun to go check out the Mayan ruins Everything, and I do mean everything, goes to hell from here.If you like horror novels, you should read this book Well paced, well plotted, and just well done overall, this is the best Stephen King novel that Stephen King never wrote. I ve always had this conception that the horror genre, be it books or movies, are meant to be scary So that s how I ve judged various entries in the field Did this book or movie scare me Mostly, the answer is no Real life itself is so terrifying that fictional fears really don t do anything for me After all, no monster springing from an author s imagination is quite so terrifying as my student debt load While reading Scott Smith s The Ruins, it occurred to me that my concept of horror is wrong, or at least strikingly narrow That I was grading horror on the wrong scale To be successful, horror doesn t need to scare you At least not in the BOO sense of the word It should also horrify you Yes, I recognize this should be self evident, that legions of youngsters flocking to Eli Roth s torture porn oeuvre knew this intuitively What can I say I m old, and I m starting to recognize all the things I don t get Anyway, The Ruins isn t frightening, but it is horrific Almost from the start it filled me with dread, creating a weird tension as I longed to read on and hesitated to read on.The setup is rather standard Young people, ostensibly good looking, find themselves in a wee bit of trouble Things get bad before they get worse The setting, of course, is paradise, because there s nothing like inverting the joy of being young, attractive, and in Mexico with the unspeakable terror of being hunted by something inexplicable and perhaps supernatural Jeff and Amy are med students Eric and Stacy are not med students Stacy and Amy are friends All four are enjoying some time on the beach, getting drunk and lolling in the sun They meet Mathias, a German tourist who is looking for his brother They also meet some Greeks, one of whom they nickname Pablo Mathias suggests they go meet his brother at some Mayan ruins He has a crude map and a general notion about what they might find For some reason, Jeff, Amy, Eric, Stacy, and the functional alcoholic, non English speaking Pablo all find this a good idea It does not, in fact, turn out to be a good idea The six get stranded on the ruins for reasons that I will not explain further, at the risk of spoiling plot points Smith is like the Salinger of the modern suspense novel scene He has written two books This is the second, A Simple Plan was the first Both are excellent Both were bestsellers Both were made into movies One of those movies had Billy Bob Thornton in it That movie is not the one based on The Ruins, because there is no place for Billy Bob Thornton among young, attractive vacationers getting themselves into a situation Unless, I suppose, Billy Bob is the situation A Simple Plan came out in 1993 The Ruins followed at the speed of George R.R Martin in 2006 He hasn t published anything since I haven t been able to figure out why This is a shame Because Smith does quality work The Ruins is an absolutely fantastic book that I can t say much about The writing is superb Smith knows how to modulate his prose so that it is at times evocative, at times descriptive, and at other times unobtrusive, as the story barrels forward At the start, the characters sort of blend together But that changes as Smith draws them in firm, bold strokes, revealing personalities and back stories in an effectively poignant way I cared for these stranded people Even Pablo Well, maybe not Pablo This is a battle for survival The characters are put through a desperate wringer that lasts 369 pages in my trade paperback edition Smith grounds things so well in reality that I readily accepted the gradual ratcheting of the horror elements.There are passages in The Ruins that are among the most brutal and graphic things I have ever read And I say this as a person who makes it a point on occasion to discover what is out there in the world of brutal and graphic Yet the gruesomeness is not gratuitous It perfectly complements the tale that Smith has set out to tell When the heat of summer starts to break, when I walk down the grocery aisle and say to myself, I should get some soup, when the leaves overhead turn orange and yellow and red, and fall to the sidewalk where they brown and crumble underfoot, and when the beer I drink comes spiced in pumpkin, that is my window for reading horror Since I only read this kind of novel during the Autumn Halloween season, I don t claim to be an expert I also recognize that horror, like religion and politics, creates wildly divergent reactions in people If you look at the reviews, there are as many 1 star ratings as 5 star ratings I can understand that If you don t accept the central conceit, then all is lost Setting that aside, I still contend that Smith s literary skills are objectively first class He excels at scene setting, characterizations, dialogue, and creating tension In my humble opinion again, the opinion of a man who reads two or three horror novels a year, at best this is a classic It does not have the bleak, thematic brilliance of Stephen King s Pet Sematery, which I hold to be the greatest of all works of horror But it comes close This is a novel that got inside me, insidiously It is vivid and horrifying and ultimately unforgettable.
Scott Bechtel Smith is an American author and screenwriter He has published two suspense novels, A Simple Plan and The Ruins, and adapted them for the screen Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
- 319 pages
- The Ruins
- Scott B. Smith
- 09 October 2017 Scott B. Smith