The Ruins by Scott Smith: Book Review

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the ruins

Two American couples, fresh out of college, decide to go to Cancún for a little R&R before starting grad school in the fall. They end up venturing into the jungle, looking for some Mayan ruins and a fellow traveler’s brother. They’re completely unprepared for what they find there.

I really, really want to give this two stars. That doesn’t seem to be quite fair though, when I seriously read most of the book in one sitting, in bed, without even thinking about getting sleepy. The short sections instead of chapters, rotating through the characters’ POVs, and the desire to see what happens next all combined to keep me rapidly turning pages.

But the characters! Oh, the characters. They shouldn’t have even had names. We could have called them Mr. Boy Scout, Miss Moody, Mr. Comedian, Miss Spacy, Outsider #1 and Outsider #2. That’s about all the personality they got. What little they got beyond that was just enough to make me dislike them. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be happy when the first character died, but I was. “Yes! No more of THAT one, anyway!” is what I was thinking. Mr. Boy Scout was okay, but I don’t think I was supposed to like him. It didn’t seem like anyone else did. And the women! Useless, mindless, hand-wringing, complaining, argumentative, and just plain stupid. The guys were bad enough, but the girls were offensive to women everywhere.

This next complaint might not make a lot of sense without spoilers, but I’ll give it a try. There were some things that had to happen for the plot to play out the way it did, but they were frustrating. I was sitting there (well, lying there) railing, “If you don’t want this to happen, why are you doing things this way instead of that way?!?!? Come on! This doesn’t make sense!”

Once I–mostly–accepted those things and just let the creep factor take over, I was seriously creeped out. After I finished reading, I got worried that I would not be able to sleep, or if I did, I would have crazy dreams. It’s been a while since I was left feeling that way after reading a book. But then, I don’t read very much hardcore horror.

I didn’t know that there was a movie until after I’d finished reading. But I did keep thinking as I was reading that this would probably make a better movie than book. It seems like horror movies can get away with stock characters easier than books can, and this was actually a pretty visual book.

If you’re looking for creepy and aren’t too worried about characterization, go ahead and pick this up. It is a quick, chilling read.

Reviewed October 25, 2009

Read an excerpt.

Have you read this movie and/or seen the book? What did you think? Do you think horror movies can utilize cardboard characters more easily than books can?


Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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1 Comment

  1. I remember this movie a few years ago but never watched it. Didn't realize it was based on a book though. The things we learn. 🙂

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