Remember not so long ago I happily suckered myself into a "buy 3 books, get 1 free" deal? Well, I got through two of the books, but then pretty predictably I ran out to get 2 new books that I just had to read right now! I'm serious, I need a 12-step program for book buying! And to boot, both these books were a rare foray into the hardcover editions... but with my discounts they really didn't end up being all that much more than my usual trade paperbacks. (How's that for a rationalization?!?)
So in its first week of release, I ran out to get Scott Smith's The Ruins. Not unlike a debut music CD that you loved, you got out and get the artist's next work with a sense of anticipation. This book is Smith's follow-up to his blockbuster debut, A Simple Plan... that is, if you can call something a "follow-up" when it takes over a decade between a first and second book!
Like most regular readers, I suffer from "book amnesia"... so I can't really tell you much, if anything, what A Simple Plan was about... heck, this memory loss with books I read just this year, let alone from a book read 10+ years ago. But what I did remember was that it was good and I liked it... and that was enough to make me purchase The Ruins with little hesitation.
I pride myself on my book selections. Since I have started "reviewing" books here on W&C, you may have noticed that most of them get glowing reviews and I recommend them. So you know what that means...
While this book isn't a clunker, it is probably the closest thing to a clunker that I have read in some time. As with any other "art form" (movie, theater, etc.), the high expectations I put on this book is partially to blame for my lack of enthusiasm. From what I remember of A Simple Plan was a page-turning thriller... and The Ruins is more of a horror book... now I knew this going in (and horror is not high on my favorite genre list), but I still expected a thriller-esque aspect to the novel.
The plot is a basically fodder for a third-rate horror film (which it will likely end up being, Ben Stiller's production company has bought the rights). A group of six young people venture off into the jungles outside of Cancun looking for the brother of one of the group who has not been heard from since heading off to an archeological dig. They find him, but then the trouble begins... and unspeakable and graphic horror ensues.
So what's the problem? The characters are not very engaging, likeable, or particularly well-developed. I never was ever overly concerned about their fate(s)... and that's an issue when their lives are constantly in the balance. And by what? Well, that's the other issue. I found the "evil" force to be almost laughable. I am not giving away too much when I say this is pretty much Little Shop of Horrors without music or humor. Now I am willing to suspend disbelief and "go with it," but I was never totally creeped out by it.
That said, I still read it at a pretty good clip... didn't mind picking it up each night for the past week or so and knocking out 20-30 pages. It was entertaining and readable... but I was hoping for a bit more, a bit more substance. But no regrets...
It's an alright, innocuous paperback beach read... on Amazon it seems like people are either loving or hating it (not much middle ground)... so, who knows, it may have just not been my thing.