The Ruins, 2006
written by Scott Smith
Part thriller and part horror-adventure, The Ruins by Scott Smith is a novel that at it’s best moments is tense, engrossing and difficult to put down, but unfortunately feels too slow and meandering at times with fairly hollow main characters. It’s a simple enough plot, featuring four friends vacationing before they enter graduate school in Cancun, Mexico. There, they befriend a German man who is about to venture from the safety of the resorts and beaches into the jungle to find his missing brother at an archeological dig site. But, of course, it becomes a decision all of them deeply regret. Revealing any more of the plot would be a disservice to the book, as the mysteries behind the apparent simplicity of the story are original and worth experiencing without anything spoiled.
As stated before, at the best points The Ruins is a very thrilling read. There are probably two or three of these peaks. However, what is apparent early on and slowly confirmed over the course of the story, is that the characters just don’t have the depth to try appeal to and engage the reader. There is much exposition of the characters backstories, with most of the characters getting a decent share of attention, but no one really stands out as extremely interesting or as a leading protagonist. As a result, even though the final act is a fast-paced and exciting conclusion, it doesn’t have too much of an emotional impact and I felt very separated from the characters in the book.
Another problem The Ruins had that really spoiled a bit of the mystery was the rather straightforward foreshadowing. Again, while fairly enjoyable, the reveals of the book failed to shock me with the clues so plainly placed in front of me. Many have described The Ruins as a gruesome book that is hard to stomach at points, but I honestly did not find it too difficult to get through, even often being a squeamish reader in particular. I’ve probably done more complaining here than complimenting, but it’s really a reaction to the book having a good story and pace to it and failing to deliver anything really special. Overall, it’s a fairly quick and unchallenging read that I can’t passionately recommend reading or avoiding. It’s almost right down the middle, enjoyable, but not something I’d revisit or praise.