Book Report: The Ruins by Scott Smith (2006)

This book puts Scott Smith into some mighty fine company. Along with the complete works of Algernon Blackwood, I put this book down with no intention of finishing it.

It is a slow mving, chapterless tale of some American students who go into the interior of Mexico and encounter something horrible. It’s a horror book, blurbed by Stephen King for crying out loud. I meandered through almost a hundred pages of it, not pulled by the plot and not liking the characters much. I turned to find out how many pages the book was, and I caught a sentence beginning the last section of the book: The Greeks arrived three days later. And I knew then how the book ended, with all the characters dead.

So I read the Wikipedia entry for the book to see if I would have liked it. And you know what? It didn’t get better from where I left off reading the book. The conceit behind the book doesn’t lend itself to much scrutiny, ultimately: a strange vine takes over people. It’s only at this one place, the ruins of the title. The local natives have salted a ring around a hilltop to keep the vine there, and they prevent anyone who crosses the threshold from leaving and carrying the eldritch vine with them.

Come on, that’s a conceit for a screenplay, which no doubt is what Smith had in mind. But if the freaking vine kills everyone who comes there, how come people keep saying they’re going there? How do the natives know to keep the vine at bay? I doubt the book answers anything; the plot on Wikipedia seems to be nothing but getting young, attractive Americans up to the Ruins to kill them.

I wasted a couple nights slogging through the first hundred pages. I’m glad I didn’t waste many more finishing the book.

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