Book Review: The Ruins (Scott B. Smith)

Publisher: Corgi

Pages: 528

Release Date: August 1st 2007

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

Review:

The Ruins follows four American friends on a holiday in Mexico as they travel to an ancient ruin site to find the brother of fellow tourist Mathias. Along with Pablo, a Greek tourist, they are trapped on the ruins with no explanation and very little food and water. The Mayans will shoot them if they leave and they’ll die of thirst if they don’t. But there’s something more sinister up there with them.

The book is fairly similar to the film, but there were enough differences for it to still feel new to me, even though I knew the general gist of the plot. The story is told in alternating third person view points between the four friends: Amy, the uptight one, Jeff, the boy scout, Stacey, the ditzy slut, and Eric, the funny guy. That’s a pretty simplified way of describing characters but that’s pretty much how they came across in the book. The characters were pretty 2D and the way it was written felt quite passive at times: there was lots of telling how the characters felt about things and recounting things from the past, so it didn’t often feel like the story was in the present.

I thought it was a shame the story only came from the Americans’ point of view. It would have been good to hear from Mathias, who has led them all up there to find his brother, or from Pablo, who can’t speak the same language as anyone else and also has a pretty crappy time of it – seriously, all the worst things happen to him, poor guy. It was also a shame that the two female characters felt pretty weak: they completely relied upon the men for everything and that was really frustrating.

Despite feeling the book was a little passive, I did really enjoy it. I was just fascinated by the vine and how it was able to manipulate and torment them. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the book doesn’t explain where the plant came from and everything isn’t tied up neatly at the end, but that’s actually one of the things I liked about it. I was happy to see how it trapped them up there and wore them down until it got what it wanted. If it had tried to shoehorn an explanation in I think it would have made the book weaker.

There’s some really gruesome things in this and I got chills reading it sometimes. It may not be the kind of horror that appeals to everyone, it’s almost a character study, setting them up in a horrible situation and seeing how they all react. There’s so much working against them: the Mayans and their guns, their hunger and their thirst, and the vine that wants to pick them off one by one. It’s interesting to see what happens to these different characters in that situation.

The ending might be frustrating but it worked for me, as I don’t like happy endings and this one felt more realistic to me. I feel like I’ve said a lot of negative things but I did really enjoy this one and would recommend it as a creepy read. Also watch the film as it’s awesome too!

4

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