Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: The Ruins by Scott Smith

I've been having one of those weeks where I must satisfy the cravings of whatever I'm longing to read. I suppose it might be because I've had a really tough week in many ways--the car problems being only the icing on the cake so to speak. Reading is one of my greatest comforts and so the review pile has been neglected in favor of trying to satisfy the demanding reader within. :)

The Ruins has been sitting on the TBR pile for well over a year, but every time I've considered picking it up, the size of it has turned me away. Well not this week. It seemed just the thing for my mood, so I happily tucked it away in my purse yesterday.

Now when I say "it seemed just the thing for my mood" I really had no idea what it was about. I knew it was some kind of horror book that had mixed reactions and had been made into a movie. Based on the title, I actually thought it might be like that horror movie The Descent, or another B horror movie I watched similar to The Descent that I watched. (can't remember the title for the life of me!) Well, it's really not like those, though it has a few small similarities.

I really shouldn't have been put off by the size because trust me, I blew through this book in two days. It's a riveting page turner, full of tension and mystery. I was pleasantly surprised by just how literary it is...meaning it's not your cheap genre horror book, (I apologize for the stereotype!) the characterization is outstanding, the relationships carefully spun and developed, the language satisfying.

The Ruins is about two young American couples who are in Cancun for vacation. There, they meet various new friends from other countries including Mathias a German and three Greeks who call themselves by Spanish names. Mathias's brother left and went to visit an archaeological site with a girl he met, leaving behind nothing but a map. At first Mathias chooses to ignore this, but finally decides he must go after him. The Americans and one of the Greeks decide to go as well.

They set out to this remote location and actually have some difficulty finding it. When they do finally find the location of the map, the nearby villagers surround them and trap them on the hillside.

And so it begins. This is one of those books that tackles the question of survival, and there's something about that kind of story that really fascinates me. (LOST, The Hunger Games, My Hands Came Away Red) But it is a horror novel, so the characters are actively fighting against something that wants to destroy them. To tell you the truth, I was in many ways shocked at how little time actually passed from when they first found themselves trapped on the hill to the end. The tension is thick as they face huge difficulties. And while a lot some ways it seems like nothing really happens. As I was reading through some reviews, I saw some people thought it could have been a short story. I suppose so, but then you'd never have the characterization and interplay between the characters.

This is another story that consumed my thoughts. These kinds of books make it hard to go to work and read blogs or watch TV or you know, sleep. Even after finishing, I had scenes from the book surfacing in my mind. Not everything gets wrapped up in a nice tidy package...much like life, there are unanswered questions, huge unanswered questions. We never know any more than the characters do.

While I'd like to discuss some themes from the book, I fear spoiling it. I think this book is best entered into knowing little about it. I have considered watching the movie, but I have no doubt it will be gory. Perhaps too gory to enjoy. I'll probably cave and try watching it at some point anyway.

So if you have some time on your hands and are looking for a creepy page turner, I definitely recommend this one. It took me just two days to power through all 500 pages and I'm so glad I did.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: there's some language though not as bad as one might expect in real life, a little bit of sex, and definite gore.

I would love to talk about this book with someone! I'm sure many of you have read it, since it was a best-seller and published three years ago. Feel free to chat away with me in comments!


violetcrush said...

I have heard of this book but never thought of reading it. But I love horror books and I might pick it up next time I am in the bookstore. Thanks for the review Amy..

Debi said...

Okay, that does it...I must read this book! I read his book A Simple Plan, geez it must be well over 10 years ago, and I absolutely loved it. But I just wasn't sure about this one, and hadn't really seen anyone talk much about it. Thanks, Amy!

Kelly said...

I thought this book looked good, but I still haven't got around to either buying or librarying (is that even a word?) it.

I haven't had time to watch Lost yet this week, my DVR has it recorded, but it shows a weird symbol next to the name of the show on the list I've never seen before. I'm going to be so mad if I find out the symbol means it didn't record or something like that!

Nicole said...

I'm glad to hear that it is so well written. I like to read some horror from time but I do like my book to have that literary vibe going on so I have to make a special note on this one.

I have never heard of the book before, but ths is ringing bells as a movie. I have to go and check. I'm pretty sure it might be.

SuziQoregon said...

I have got to move this one up in the TBR list. Hmmm - might be a good use of my Borders coupon that expires this weekend . . .

bermudaonion said...

Boy, does that sound good. I could never watch something like that, but it doesn't bother me to read it.

Dar said...

This is on my shelf too Amy and I've been longing to read it. I've heard many good reviews for it including yours now. I really should pull it off the shelf and read it just like you did. Glad you liked it.

Luanne said...

I really enjoyed this one Amy - although there was some graphic stuff, it was the tension. I remember cheating a bit and looking forward because I couldn't wait to see what happened. We watched the movie over the winter and without giving anything away - the ending is differet. But it was a good creepy watch!

J.S. Peyton said...

You're right, the movie is gory! I watched it last year because I was still undecided if I wanted to read the book or not. I don't usually like gory movies, but I liked this one. Enough that "The Ruins" went on my definite TBR list. I'm saving it for this year's R.I.P. IV challenge.

Amy said...

violetcrush I hope you if you do that you enjoy it!

Debi..I really want to read A Simple Plan now! I'm glad to hear you liked it, I hope to get a chance to read it soon.

Kelly...I hope you get a chance to read it and I really hope that you got to watch LOST! is! I almost picked up The Strain today...I think I like horror more than I thought!

Suzi...Borders coupons are always a good idea!

Kathy...if you give it a try, let me know if you like it. It really is a page turner!

Dar...sometimes we just have to give into our longings!

Luanne...really? I'm going to have to watch the movie, I've put it in my queue.

J.S. Peyton..I look forward to your thoughts on the book during the next R.I.P!

SuziQoregon said...

Ha! your review pushed it over to the 'read soon' column ;-) Used my Borders coupon and picked up a copy yesterday - got the trade paper edition which is 384 pages so it seems less of a 'project'.

Ti said...

I am going to read this. Every once in awhile I like a good literary horror book. Thanks for the review.

christina said...

I *loved* this book!

Staci said...

I really loved this book but I don't want to watch the movie because I found the book to be frightening!!! Great review Amy!!

Joanne said...

Awesome review! I was daunted by the size at first too, but once I started reading I was completely enthralled. It's really disappointing to me though when I hear people tell me they aren't going to read it because they watched the movie. I personally found the book to be much better, I think it was that there was more character development which made the second half of the book that much more powerful and horrifying.

Amy said...

SuziQOregon--oh I can't wait to hear what you think!

Ti...I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

Staci...well, it was pretty scary and gory...but I will probably end up watching the movie.

Joanne...isn't the book always better? :)

S. Krishna said...

This book seriously gave me nightmares. I don't usually like horror and I didn't realize what it was when I picked it up. What surprised me is that I actually really enjoyed the book, despite the fact it scared the crap out of me!

Melody said...

I've this book in my pile but just haven't got around to reading it. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Amy!

Anna said...

I saw the movie and didn't like it. The beginning of the movie was boring and the ending was too gory. However, it sounds like the book is great. I'll have to keep it in mind when I'm in the mood for something scary.

Diary of an Eccentric

Debbie's World of Books said...

What a great review! I read this book awhile back and really didn't like it. Somehow just the idea seemed too out there for me. Yet after reading your review it makes me wish I enjoyed it because I enjoyed the review :)

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