So at my second job I have been listening to a ton of audiobooks. For those who have never tried one before you definitely should. They are both enjoyable and super convenient when you don’t have time to pick up a book but have the time to multitask and listen to one. Now that being said, I have listened to many great ones. Some that flew by. Some that made me laugh out loud and make my co-workers give me dirty looks as they walked past me. Some that made me cry -yes, even us tough guys cry at sad parts in books (it really was a sad moment). However, some books are so utterly boring, uninteresting and drawn out that it makes you just beg the book to be over. The Ruins, by Scott B. Smith is that book.
A few years ago I had already seen the film adaptation and thought it was pretty decent as far as horror movies go. I am a huge horror movie fan so when I say its decent that’s a good sign as I think most horror movies kinda suck these days. Anyways, I found out that the movie was based on the book and made a note to read it soon. Needless to say I read it years later and wow was it a let down. The best way to describe it is “Ughhh why won’t this thing just end”. So the premise of the book is four college age young people: Jeff, Amy, Eric and Stacey, go on a last hurrah trip to Cancun before starting medical school and the next parts of their lives (I know right? College people going on a trip that leads to certain death…super cliche). They meet up with a young German man named Mathias who is searching for his missing brother. Mathias convinces the group and a Greek friend they met to help find the missing brother and so they travel to the jungle and get chased up a giant Mayan ruin covered in vines with blood red flowers. Okay, so not a horrible premise. I’ve heard plenty worse. To sum up the 400 page book, the group gets trapped on the hill, find out the vines are evil and then.. well you can guess the rest, it is a horror novel after all and I don’t want to spoil it.
This painful read was literally a 400 page story about character development. While character development is very important to a story it doesn’t take 400 pages to do it. It also helps when you actually care about the characters. The whole time I just wanted these people to die so the book would be over. But no. Of course it had to drag on and on about absolutely nothing. Smith tried to describe setting but honestly, there is no setting. The whole thing takes place on the ruins and once they describe it once it doesn’t EVER change. I had to go through 9 out of 12 discs before the first person died and then another 2 discs after that for the next person. That is just unacceptable when it comes to a horror novel. No, that’s not true. If the book is good or interesting then its fine. But for this its just mind-numbingly boring. Even when a character was dying Smith still tried to develop the character… Like WHY?! Literally it was like “I’m stabbed in the chest… one time at the zoo..” Just no. Just die and go away so the book can end and I can move on and be done with all of you. Out of all the characters, Stacey was the least annoying as I felt she was the most real(ish). There was one moment in the book when they joked about their lives being turned into a movie and which cliche they each would be. I guess that was pretty funny.
I suppose the whole struggle to survive premise was good and could be realistic if there was ever a situation where people were trapped on a hill with killer vines that could talk, make smells and eat you. Or maybe that’s just me being bitter about this book. I guess I should also say that the book isn’t completely horrible. It’s not completely without merit. It was actually well written so that’s always a plus. Another good thing is its a horror novel with an interesting premise, which can be hard to come by. So look at that! Two positive things about the book.
So, is the book worth the read? Well, that is up to you to decide. Do I regret reading it? Well, mostly. Too late to look back now. I’ve moved on to better books. So, I kinda hate to do this, with my librarian education and all, but seriously… just go watch the movie. It’s an hour and half, the characters still kinda suck but it takes a whole lot less time than reading the book. (Also they greatly change character roles around so that sucks – but if you’re only watching the movie, who cares!). Just give the book a pass and save yourself the agony of this snore fest.
PS. Check out the trailer here!
I couldn’t agree with you more Eric this book was moronic and it is kind of sad after his first book was so good. Of course when he drops Ben Stiller’s name in the credits for the book that was kind of a giveaway.
Not sure how old you are guys, but your review and the James’s post reflect a 15-year old.
Eric: “Huge horror fan” and “Character development” get mentioned in your rant, thought obviously you’re not into those. The Ruins as a book is a rather dark story, leaves a reader with dread and a quick reality check. The scenes in the book are “dragged out” because, say in the Pablo character’s case – somebody’s falling in a shaft, then being lifted up on a worn rope using a worn-looking windlass cannot be told in 5 pages, you see. I get that you’re doing audio books, which can be good, though moaning about “changing discs” is a funny innuendo there, as we turn pages normally, when it comes to books, but you must be the swiping kid of the 21st century, cell phone firmly in hand and fasforwarding into films while reading Facebook. You wanted characters to die, yes? Well, as a [ small time ] horror fan myself, I don’t mind ’em dying either, but I kinda dig if those characters have style and the narrator keeps it real as ,much as it’s possible in the universe of horror fiction. In that case [ get a grip, kiddo! ] I can even root [ no pun intended ] for characters and feel some sort of negative, sad or surprise when some actually dies in a book. That’s coz the development of characters were good. Now, if the setting was boring [ have ya been to Mexico? Or in Europe? ] I can imagine how exciting places you’re visiting in your spare time. This tale [ The Ruins ] is full of stuff you’d have to grow up to understand and the literature Scott [B] Smith is using is really great where art is concerned. Art… do you like it? As for the film version: that’s a good ride and the book’s author being the script writer we actually get a double story, as in the book they talk about what the film – if they made one of them – would be like and the movie came out to be quite similar. joke, gettit? Then of course with the strange changes the flick imposes on the audience, we get to see “another timeline” of the story, meaning, what would’ve happened if other characters do stuff their pals did in the book. Mix up the roles, the characters and you get a similar tale, still worth watching after reading the book – or the other way around – … these are the stuff that horrors and thrillers are worth reading, watching. They’re on a different level and you can’t just sit down waiting for a kill and that’s it; you sit down to enjoy a tale, to immerse in that strange world you’re about to visit via the story and kills will happen, perhaps before ya even notice. Yet, people nowadays read / listen to audio books, watch horors so they “belong”, so they can “stick out” but not really understanding or respecting the art itself. We canwitness this by looking at most of the horror films made in the 2000s; the family- and, snowflake friendly creations with their jump-scares and ghosts, the children that never get killed, the politically correct dialogues so nobody gets offended, so on… attitude and impostors ruined the horror cinema when they started to want to please ones like you… Well, Scott Smith didn’t wanna please you, buddy, and I’m pleased as his book in question remains a strong one, for a mature audience.
For the comment from James: —- nothing, really, just try to enjoy reading and one day you’ll have your individual opinion too…