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The Ruins Paperback – February 26, 2008
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"The best horror novel of the new century."
"The Ruins does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches.”
“The most disturbing novel of the year.” —Time
“Smith’s nail-biting tension is a pleasure all its own. . . . This stuff isn’t for the faint of heart.” —New York Post
“A story so scary you may never want to go on vacation, or dig around in your garden, again.” —USA Today
“A smart, clean-burning horror machine.”
—New York Times Book Review
“A classic horror story, told with mounting, detail. Smith spins it out relentlessly, piling chill on chill on chill. . . . What happens, and needless to say it’s not good, is something readers will race page after flapping page to discover. When they do, they will find–well, better set aside eight or nine hours reading time, keep the lights on, and make sure the plants are still in their pots.”
—Bill Bell, The Daily News
“A fast-paced suspense novel that grabs you and refuses to let go. . . Smith’s characterization and timing–the ability to deliver one quick blow after antoher–makes the book so freakishly fun. . . . The story turns grotesque, but Smith’s command of his characters and their demons is masterful. . . . The Ruins is chilling, an icy dissection of human nature in a hot, horrifying place.”
—John Caniglia, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An exercise in unremitting tension . . . Smith writes in clear, vivid language with elegant sentences.”
—Diane Scharper, The Baltimore Sun
“One of the most terrifying, creepy, riveting novels that will hit the bookstores this summer. . . . Smith sculpts each of the characters, making us care very much about what happens to these young, naive and sometimes selfish individuals. . . . The Ruins has a claustrophobic feel, which adds to the palpatations of suspense. The great outdoors might as well be a dark, dingy basement full of things that go bump in the night as Smith finds new ways to frighten with his setting.”
—Oline H. Cogdill, The Sun-Sentinel
“Reading Scott Smith is like having a rope tied firmly round your middle, as you’re pulled on protesting tiptoes toward a door marked DOOM. . . . Smith is a master of the ‘if only’ scenario, that most foolish and pungent form of regret . . . At its heart, 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 tapped into our anxieties about global warming, lethal weather, supergerms–our collective fear that nature is finally battling back–and given us a decidedly organic nightmare. Grade: A-.
—Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly
“Once again, Smith (A Simple Plan) deftly explores psychological tension and insidious fears. A perfect beach read; just don’t stray too far from the lifeguard.”
“A word of caution to readers, gentle and otherwise: Do not pick up a copy of Scott Smith’s The Ruins if you have anything else you need to do in the next eight hours or so. Don’t start this book if you’re especially weak of stomach or nerves, and above all don’t pick it up if you’re not willing to tolerate some deviation from the usual conventions of thrillers and horror stories. . . . 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. . . . The Ruins is ruthlessly frank about how most of us really behave in extremis. The escalating nightmare of the group’s fate evolves inexorably from their personalities, in a way reminiscent of Greek tragedy, so Smith couldn’t get away with the flimsy figurines that populate more genre fiction. In The Ruins, all of the characters and their vexed interrrelationships are richly and carefully drawn because, in a way, they are the story. . . . 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.
—Laura Miller, Salon
About the Author
Scott Smith was educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. He lives in New York City.
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There were a few reasons for this, imo. It's not a short book, and yet there are practically no time-jumps, such that the entire book takes places during the ~72 hours of the characters' ordeal, which is: six friends who enter the Yucatan jungle to look for a brother who has gone missing. This minute-by-minute narration, from alternating POVs, really drags you down into the predicament. And yet the pace never lags.
Also: my favorite authors are students of their own thought patterns, of the irrational, less-than-split-second emotions that drift through all of us like weather systems. Smith is excellent at capturing these--his inhabitation of his characters is so authentic, so exactly what would happen in this scenario. There are no distractions because of unlikely, forced plot events, or caricature characters.
Smith especially pays attention to those moments we've all had when we tell ourselves to say something, or take an action, and we don't, and the moment of opportunity passes. Or the moments when we want to protest, but remain silent in favor of group cohesion. Or the moments, (I especially relate to this as a traveler), when you realize that you're outside of your comfort zone and need to get back quickly. For instance, you're lost, tired, and dehydrated, and you've noticed that there are no taxicabs in the area. I've been there a hundred times on different trips, nine times out of ten you finally walk into that clearing where a well-lit restaurant, or taxi queue, or the person you're supposed to meet, awaits you, and all of the fears you've been harboring until then just disappear. Of course everything was going to work out! This book is about that tenth time.
Finally, I think that in most horror novels, you get a sense for whether the ending is going to be happy or sad. I was really guessing up until the end in this one. The ending made sense, of course, but it could easily have been different. Fantastic.
I was a bit annoyed that both of the female characters were absolutely useless: spacey, in denial, childish, etc. But to be fair, every character had his or her own personal failure which ended up being the key to his/her undoing, or struggle.
If you're a horror fan and you haven't read this, you need to.
So what about now? After reading it again (a third time), i can completely understand why i liked it in the first place... but at the same time I was disappointed. I feel that i could rate this book a 2 star, or a 5 star and be fine with either rating. SO i am going to settle at 4.
The Ruins follows a group of vacationers on a visit to an archaeological site. The book has a very slow build up before finally going nuclear ~75% through. Reading this book purely as a horror novel, the suspenseful 25%-75%, followed by the insane (!!) 75%-100% make for an enjoyable read. Is the writing great? No. Is the first section of the book boring as f***? Yes.
So. Are you tired of boring, same-old-ending novels? Want something that will shock you? This one is for you.
+ The night dispute/fight and the aftermath was perfect. I just kept thinking of comics that showed a shocked character with an '!' above his head. In this case, that would be me.
+ Characters. The characters might be stereotypical, but the book uses them in interesting ways. It takes the stereotypes, turns them inside out, and then dumps them on the ground.
+ The villain. Lets just take a minute to appreciate the antagonist in this book. If you really think about it, it is 100x as creepy as any alien/monster. The slow creeping/avoid direct conflict is awesome.
- Writing. It sucks. First 25% of the book is a chore to read. Then the book is just 'OK'.
- Plot holes. No explanations of any sort.
- Bloody/barbaric. I was slightly nauseous after finishing the book.
Note: Some characters do die. If characters ending upsets you, then STAY AWAY.
This story is graphic, detailed, terrible, mysterious, yet hopeful. I read half of it the first night I had it and finished it the second night. I didn't want to put it down. Now that I've finished it, I feel sad that it is over and I want more.
The missing star is because Smith's writing varies in level of detail and clarity, it felt like maybe he was rushing through the scene to get to the next. There were a few points where I had to re-read the section multiple times to get a feeling for what was really happening. Overall his writing does not lack in gory details and I appreciate that.