Clark, June 18, 2008 (view all comments by Clark)
The Ruins is an excellent horror novel. This book literally hooks the reader and doesn't let go, long after the book is over. Smith creates a level of emotional terror in the characters that will be hard to surpass by other authors. It is a bloody and violent book, be forewarned. Overall, this book deserves 2 thumbs up. The Ruins is one of the best books that I have ever read.
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CMAnderson, September 3, 2007 (view all comments by CMAnderson)
I think Stephan King is right. This is the best horror novel of the new century. In this novel, you are presented with the perception of each character as they adventure from vacation to misery. You, in their eyes, suffer with each of them. Oh yes, there is suspense, and curiosity that drives you to turn one page after another. But, who is the hero? In the end, you realize that hope is nothing more than a state of mind, a means to survive. The theme here is to survive in this known but untold part of the jungle. In the end, you realize the true survivor. This novel can hurt as much as it can scare. There is so much desire to guide the characters forward that you fall victim to the presence that consumes them.
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That said, I'll add my thoughts about this movie ...er, book, briefly:
-- It gets a 4 in terms of how fast and completely it sucked me in. I read it in one mesmerized sitting, barely moving to put on a sweater and turn up the lights as the day grew later and colder. Be warned -- don't buy this book without a good chunk of time to read it in.
-- However, it gets barely a 3 in terms of actual story value. Those reviewers, here and elsewhere, that denigrate the story's main antagonist, (I'll say no more about it) as being too far-fetched are missing the point: you have to suspend disbelief here. We're willing to believe in ghosts to read The Shining or Hamlet -- so let's believe what Smith has brought onto the page for his naive Americans to deal with. However, even within the scenario, there are plot holes and twists of logic that I wish a good editor had pointed out. And there are options that, if Smith had had the character take, would have elevated this from a gripping-but-ordinary thriller into a tale with some moral dilemmas and questions posed. Again, I can't say what those options might have been without giving away the plot.
On another note, I got a little tired of the way that the jungle (and the people who live in it) are once again used as a mysterious Other for vacationing white Americans -- in 2006, to repeat that framework without a hint of irony or questioning it at all, and then to paint the native people as nameless, faceless, and incomprehensible ... it's kind of creepy.
(Oh, and to the reviewer who wanted to know why the characters didn't read the journals: if you'd paid attention, you would have seen that the journals were written in languages none of them spoke.)
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Marilynn, October 5, 2006 (view all comments by Marilynn)
I concur with other reviewers elsewhere that this reads more like a screenplay than a novel. That said, it is a screenplay that draws you in deeper and deeper. Characters that appear to be ciphers in the book's beginning slowly unravel their personalities when faced with impending disaster. I did find the resolution depressing and unsatisfying. Not being much of a fan of horror films or novels, you may be assured I won't buy a ticket when the film version appears.
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georgeeeds, August 28, 2006 (view all comments by georgeeeds)
The Ruins has all the makings of a Gothic novel: adventure, claustrophobic atmosphere, and even the castle (in the guise of a hill surround by dense Yucatan jungle). Four college students head off to an end-of-summer fling and get drunk on terror; a terror so pervasive that it creates its own reality. And that is the book's achievement: the writing works like a narcotic, suppressing our own sense of reality, and forces the acceptance of an otherwise absurd premise. So is The Ruins a "beach read"? Not for me, not if "beach read" means "fun and breezy". I never got happily settled into my lounge chair. And no doubt that is Smith's intent, to make readers squirm. This is not a rap, but a warning. The Ruins may well become a classic of the horror genre. Its terrible gloom reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe's dark work, with some 21st-Century tricks thrown in, like the ingenious use of a cell phone. Without chapter breaks, The Ruins demands to be read in a single sitting. So in that sense, it is a beach read, but for the emotionally tough and strong-of-stomach.
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Alfred A. Knopf -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"At long last, Smith follows up his bestselling first novel, A Simple Plan (1993), the film of which received an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, with a stunning horror thriller. Four American friends on vacation in Cancn, Mexico — Jeff, Amy, Eric and Stacy — meet a German tourist, Mathias, who persuades them to join his hunt for his younger brother, Henrich, last seen headed off with a new girlfriend toward some ruins. The four soon regret their impulsive decision after they find themselves lost in the jungle and freaked out by signs that they're headed for danger. Smith builds suspense through the slow accretion of telling details, until a deadly menace starts taking its toll, leaving the survivors increasingly at each other's throats. While admirers of such classic genre writers as John Wyndham or Algernon Blackwood may find the horror less suggestive than they might wish, the eerie atmosphere and compelling plot should appeal to fans of ABC's hit TV series Lost, who will help propel this page-turner up bestseller lists. Ben Stiller's production company has bought film rights. 100,000 first printing. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Anna Godbersen, Esquire,
"There are not a lot of novels suspenseful enough to induce true movie-style nail biting, that demand to be read down to every last word. There are even fewer that feature real people, fully and intelligently drawn. Scott Smith's The Ruins, cinematic and possessed of a firm grip, is such a novel....Smith is a thorough, unfussy writer. Even when the action is heavy he shifts point of view, looks into the thoughts and memories and resentments of every character." (read the entire Esquire review)
by Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly,
"The book of the summer....There are no chapters and no cutaways — The Ruins is your basic long scream of horror. It does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches in 1975."
by Carol Memmott, USA Today,
"It has been 13 years since...A Simple Plan rocked best-seller lists. Now he's back with a story so scary you may never want to go on vacation, or dig around in your garden, again....If you love ABC's Lost and the novels of King and Thomas Harris, you'll love this book."
by Library Journal,
"Once again, Smith deftly explores psychological tension and insidious fears. Fans of Alex Garland's The Beach and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park won't put be able to put this one down. A perfect beach read; just don't stray too far from the lifeguard."
by Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly,
"The Ruins is an old-fashioned horror story...and it's the invasive, intuitive killer that provides the ice-water dread....It's Thomas Harris meets Poe in a decidedly timely story: Smith has...given us a decidedly organic nightmare. (Grade: A-)"
by Laura Miller, Salon.com,
"The Ruins is like all great genre fiction in its irresistible storytelling momentum, but in its lack of mercy, it's more like real life....Scott Smith shows us an aspect of ourselves and of human nature we'd rather not acknowledge. He's such a master, though, that it's impossible to look away."
by Houston Chronicle,
"[A] mesmerizing but unnerving read, a book hard to shake from your mind....[It] should solidify Smith's reputation as a brilliant practitioner of suspense fiction deepened by unsparing portraits of the psyche under stress."
by Baltimore Sun,
"Smith writes in clear, vivid language with elegant sentences. His style appears straightforward enough, until he throws a curve ball. A subtle threat, an implication, it doesn't have to mean anything, but it could, and it's enough to start you worrying."
by South Florida Sun-Sentinel,
"One of the most terrifying, creepy, riveting, and yet also annoying, novels that will hit the bookstores this summer....Despite the outdoor setting, The Ruins has a claustrophobic feel, which adds to the palpations of suspense."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"If character is destiny, the major suspense lies with which one of them, if any, will survive. A compelling set-up and provocative premise, but what should be a page-turner succumbs to a plodding pace."
by Denver Post,
"The Ruins is a shoe-in for best-selling oddity of 2006: a book that makes readers simultaneously shiver with fright and grin delightfully at the entertaining madness of Smith's weird concoction."
by Charlotte Observer,
"Although the basic premise of this highly literate freak-out may be preposterous, Smith's storytelling is rendered in such forceful, evocative prose that the reader will remain by the campfire until the flames die out."
From the author of "A Simple Plan" comes a new novel of unbearable suspense about four friends who slowly come to realize that one unfortunate decision made on their Mexican vacation is leading to an adventure gone horribly wrong.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.