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The Ruins Paperback – February 26, 2008
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Guest Reviewer: Stephen King
Stephen King is the author of too many bestselling books to name here, but some of our favorites include: Cell, The Stand, On Writing, The Shining, and the entire Dark Tower series. King also received the National Book Foundation 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, has had many movies and television miniseries adapted from his novels, short stories, and screenplays, and is a regular columnist for Entertainment Weekly. Keep your eyes peeled for Lisey's Story (October 2006), a new television series on TNT based on Nightmares & Dreamscapes (July 2007), and a graphic novel series based on the Dark Tower books coming from Marvel (2007).
When I heard that Scott Smith was publishing a new novel this summer, I felt the way I did when my kids came in an hour or two late from their weekend dates: a combination of welcoming relief (thank God you're back) mingled with exasperation and anger (where the hell have you been?). Well, it's only a book, you say, and maybe that's true, but Scott Smith is a singularly gifted writer, and it seems to me that the twelve years between his debut--the cult smash A Simple Plan--and his return this summer with The Ruins is cause for exasperation, if not outright anger. Certainly Smith, who has been invisible save for his Academy Award-nominated screenplay for the film version of A Simple Plan, will have some 'splainin to do about how he spent his summer vacation. Make that his last twelve summer vacations.
But enough. The new book is here, and the question devotees of A Simple Plan will want answered is whether or not this book generates anything like Plan's harrowing suspense. The answer is yes. The Ruins is going to be America's literary shock-show this summer, doing for vacations in Mexico what Jaws did for beach weekends on Long Island. Is it as successful and fulfilling as a novel? The answer is not quite, but I can live with that, because it's riskier. There will be reviews of this book by critics who have little liking or understanding for popular fiction who'll dismiss it as nothing but a short story that has been bloated to novel length (I'm thinking of Michiko Kakutani, for instance, who microwaved Smith's first book). These critics, who steadfastly grant pop fiction no virtue but raw plot, will miss the dazzle of Smith's technique; The Ruins is the equivalent of a triple axel that just misses perfection because something's wrong with the final spin.
It's hard to say much about the book without giving away everything, because the thing is as simple and deadly as a leg-hold trap concealed in a drift of leaves or, in this case, a mass of vines. You've got four young American tourists--Eric, Jeff, Amy, and Stacy--in Cancun. They make friends with a German named Mathias whose brother has gone off into the jungle with some archeologists. These five, plus a cheerful Greek with no English (but a plentiful supply of tequila), head up a jungle trail to find Mathias's brother the archaeologists and the ruins.
Well, two out of three ain't bad, according to the old saying, and in this case; what's waiting in the jungle isn't just bad, it's horrible. Most of The Ruins's 300-plus pages is one long, screaming close-up of that horror. There's no let-up, not so much as a chapter-break where you can catch your breath. I felt that The Ruins did draw on a trifle, but I found Scott Smith's refusal to look away heroic, just as I did in A Simple Plan. It's the trappings of horror and suspense that will make the book a best seller, but its claim to literature lies in its unflinching naturalism. It's no Heart of Darkness, but at its suffocating, terrifying, claustrophobic best, it made me think of Frank Norris. Not a bad comparison, at that.
One only hopes Mr. Smith won't stay away so long next time.--Stephen King
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
It contains a few moments of true creepiness. The villain is highly original. And the author skillfully portrays the dynamic of a group under duress. He's also nearly brilliant at capturing each character's inner dialog, fears, and regrets as the story plows unrelentingly to its conclusion.
That's what makes the story compelling in some places and boring in others. Human nature is fascinating, but how terrified can we be when Jeff is reminiscing about the CPR class he took in high school, or Amy is wishing for a shower and a hot meal? And somehow, interesting and intimate as some of their thoughts are, it's hard to care about the characters.
The author's use of detail plays out the same way -- at times it's incredibly effective and gut-wrenching. Other times it's so workmanlike, gruesome scenes become mundane.
That's why this book will probably succeed as a movie. We won't have to listen to endlessly whirring thoughts or read details about braiding strips of nylon tent together to make a rope. A visual medium will let us focus on the best parts of this book: the external terror, the horrible events that unfold, and the evil protagonist.
Read the book and when the movie becomes a blockbuster, you can threaten to ruin the ending for your companions unless they pay for your ticket, too.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book several years ago and i still consider it one of the most entertaining horror/thrillers I have ever read. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Diana Mette
This is probably one of the better scary/suspense novels you will ever read. It is a survival story. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
a total waste of time. Good horror requires that one feels empathy for the victims as they blunder into the void. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The Ruins by Scott Smith is a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page and closed the book. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Glen McDonough
If you enjoy dark books, this is for you! I loved the author's character development. Not a book that you recommend to a more gentile audience...Published 3 months ago by Robert Gamble
What better way to have a send off to start University than a trip to Mexico? For couples Jeff and Amy, and Eric and Stacy it seemed the perfect get away before each goes on their... Read morePublished 3 months ago by P. Newhart
I can't even describe the level of sinister. The sneaking terror that builds slowly until you're surrounded in desperation to leave the ruins.Published 3 months ago by Bethany
Not for readers who want everything to tie up in a nice pretty bow. I loved this book. I do agree that there could have been some better choices in certain areas, but the ending... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Raechel Alexis Gasparac