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The Ruins

A book by Scott Smith

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Spooky, But Not Quite Frightening

  • Mar 26, 2008
THE RUINS is a horror novel that follows a group of six people as they travel into the jungles of the Yucatan in Mexico, searching for a missing person. Four of the people; Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy, are close college friends from the U.S. spending one last vacation together. Jeff and Amy are a couple and Eric and Stacy are a couple. While enjoying themselves in Mexico they befriend three Greek men and a German. The Greeks speak no English and have taken to calling themselves by Spanish names. The German is named Mathias and speaks fluent English. The group has a great time traveling, sightseeing, and partying. Towards the end of the trip, Mathias informs the group that he is going into the jungles near Coba to find his missing brother. It turns out that weeks before the Americans and Greeks arrived, Mathias and his brother, Henrich, got into a major fight. Henrich wanted to travel into the jungle with a female archaeologist he had just met, but Mathias was against the idea. Henrich followed the woman and hasn't been seen since. Mathias and Henrich are scheduled to leave in a few days, and Mathias is worried. Jeff agrees to go with Mathias and convinces the others to go along, too. One of the Greeks, who is going by the name of Pablo, agrees to join the excursion, too, while his countrymen are gone for the day. They set out the next morning on what they assume will be a lengthy day trip. Once they arrive at their location, they discover a large hill covered in vines with beautiful red flowers. The hill looks inviting, but is surrounded by barren ground. A careless mistake soon forces them to become trapped on the hill surrounded by Mayans who threaten to kill anyone if they leave. The group doesn't understand at first, but soon realizes that the beautiful plant covering the hill is even more dangerous and deadly than Audrey from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

I picked up THE RUINS to read after seeing a trailer for the movie that's based on the novel. The trailer looked kind of cheesy, but it interested me enough that I decided to read the book the movie is based upon. I soon discovered that the book was hailed by Stephen King and a host of other critics. Despite my interest and the acclaim, I was a bit disappointed with the book.

The book has a great deal going for it. It's written very simply, yet is extremely vivid. The shortest phrases are full of nuances and set up the mood, tone, and atmosphere of the story. Even though we learn no more than the characters first names and at times the characters fall into what appear to be stereotypical roles, Smith turns those roles inside out and offers some very fascinating characters.

Yet, despite these positive aspects, I didn't find the novel all that exciting and my biggest complaint is that I really didn't find the novel scary enough. Make no mistake, THE RUINS is a horror novel. Like all great scary stories it doesn't just involve physical horror (there's some pretty graphic and gruesome episodes), but the story is more interested in psychological horror and how people behave while under extreme distress. Yet, while reading the book, I didn't feel very frightened. All of the elements of a great horror story are in the book, but it just didn't seem right. I felt like I was reading a book that was dressed up to be a horror novel, but the story was just pretending and really wanted to be something else (a mystery, perhaps, or an action-adventure epic).

Overall, a decent attempt at an original horror story, but one that doesn't quite deliver.

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More The Ruins reviews
review by . November 20, 2008
All windup, no followthrough, this very bestseller left me flat despite keeping me reading intently the whole way through. About two-thirds of the way through, you realize there will be no ruins and no rescue, and the book teeters on the brink of "Little Shop of Horrors" parody as it plays out to its predictable end. "Feed me", anyone?
review by . March 19, 2009
The Ruins
    Thrust into a life and death situation, survivors immediately begin planning their means of escape, committed to life; the others surrender to their fear, losing ground in those few vital moments. The characters in The Ruins face more than the usual problems, a threat that is all but incomprehensible, increasingly complex obstacles that require more than the usual human response to danger.     Two vacationing couples in the Yucatan Peninsula, Jeff and …
review by . November 04, 2008
The Ruins by Scott Smith
Two couples, Amy and Jeff, Stacy and Eric, travel to Cancun for a month before going off to college. They meet up with Mathias, a German, who's brother has gone missing. Together, along with a Greek who calls himself Pablo and doesn't speak English or German, they make their way into the heart of the Yucatan, Coba, to look for Henrich.     Warned by locals, by their taxi driver, and by the Mayans near the archeological dig, the six tramp forward into the jungles, determined to …
review by . March 29, 2008
From the very beginning the reader is catapulted into a dark and forlorn tale of doom.  When four friends and some new acquaintances decide to venture out into the lush jungles of Mexico they take a gamble that will cost them the ultimate price. Jeff, Eric, Stacy, Amy, Mathias and Pablo are on a mission to find someone. Mathias informs them that his brother followed the love of his life into a mysterious archeological excavation and that they should go and find them, he ultimately drags …
review by . August 11, 2006
This book is the type that keeps you up very late reading it, because you just can't seem to put it down! The plot races along, and slowly but surely the horror builds until you get to the point where you almost can't stand it. To say almost anything about the plot might be to give away some of the excellent twists and turns from the book, so I won't do that. All I will say is that, if you want a good scare, and don't mind missing some sleep to finish the book, read this!
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About this book


In 1993, Scott Smith wowed readers withA Simple Plan, his stunning debut thriller about what happens when three men find a wrecked plane and bag stuffed with over 4 million dollars--a book thatStephen Kingcalled "Simply the best suspense novel of the year!" Now, thirteen years after writing a novel that turned into apretty great moviefeaturing Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, Smith is back, withThe Ruins, a horror-thriller about four Americans traveling in Mexico who stumble across a nightmare in the jungle. Who better to tell readers if Smith has done it again than the undisputed King of Horror (and champion of Smith's first book)? We asked Stephen King to readThe Ruinsand give us his take. Check out his review below.--Daphne Durham


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).

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Books, Suspense Books, horror books, Yucatan Peninsula


ISBN-10: 0307389715
ISBN-13: 978-0307389718
Author: Scott Smith
Genre: Fiction, Horror
Publisher: Vintage
First to Review

"Don't vacation in Mexico"
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