Review

The Ruins

by Scott Smith



It's been 13 years since the publication of A SIMPLE PLAN, Scott
Smith's bestselling debut novel whose film version received an
Oscar nomination for best screenplay. With a bit of advance
fanfare, he returns with THE RUINS, which may be the first
definitive horror novel of this century.

THE RUINS follows two American couples --- Jeff and Amy, Eric and
Stacy --- on a three-week vacation to Mexico as an interlude to
their introduction to adulthood. While there, they meet a young
German named Mathias and three Greek gentlemen who hang around on
their periphery. It turns out that Mathias is concerned about his
brother, who had been traveling with him but has gone missing while
looking for a young woman. Mathias has a map showing where his
brother is headed and takes it upon himself to go out and look for
him. The Americans impulsively decide to join him; they think that
going into the back country of Mexico on a fool's errand is similar
to a trip to the local convenience store.

To describe what happens and how the events unfold will ruin the
slow cook of Smith's simmering narrative, wherein knowledge comes
dear and hard, and the only thing that's certain is that all is not
right. Told in one long narrative --- no chapters here, no mercy
either --- THE RUINS takes its characters and readers from bad to
worse, in territory that's off the map pages.

But this novel isn't all about terror. Sure, the way Smith keeps
things roiling --- just when you think the situation can't get any
worse, it does --- will hold you velcroed to the edge of your
knickers. But, as demonstrated previously, Smith is a master of
quietly exploring the dynamics of relationships, of getting into
the cracks of individual personalities and laying them bare. I
thought of LORD OF THE FLIES and A SEPARATE PEACE --- and yes, this
book should be on the shelf next to them. I also thought of a
number of films, ones that you see on the classic movie channels
and others that never made it out of the drive-in circuit. If THE
RUINS is ever brought to the big screen, there are bound to be
moments that will send viewers running and screaming down the
aisles.

If we must wait a decade or more between works of the quality of A
SIMPLE PLAN and THE RUINS, so be it. If you read THE RUINS you'll
still remember Scott Smith 10 years from now. And the next time
someone warns you away from a place with so little as a vague shake
of their head, you'll listen!

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

The Ruins
by Scott Smith

  • Publication Date: July 31, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 030727828X
  • ISBN-13: 9780307278289