Books: The Ruins

There are many qualities for which one might recommend a novel . Profundity. Innovation. Eloquence. Erudition. A book may skimp in one nor two elements, but make up for it by excelling in other areas. Take, for instance, The Ruins by Scott Smith. Here’s a book which, on a scale of 1 to 10, scores about a 2 in every conceivable category, except for “readability” where it clocks in at about a 27.

Seriously, this book is like a 48-hour meth addiction. I bought in from a grocery store one morning when I had a one hour wait before me at had forgotten to bring a book along; I finished all 528 pages of it at 11:30 PM the following day. These were work days, mind you, so it’s not like I was sitting in the back yard under my apple tree all day; I was reading the book over my lunch “hour”, on the stationary bike at the gym, at stoplights …

Which isn’t to say it’s a great novel. Far from it. There’s not a whole lot of profundity or innovation or eloquence or erudition. Think early Stephen King without the character development. Just a lot of page turning and wondering where the hell Smith is going with this.

Smith previous penned A Simple Plan, a fantastic thriller that was turned in an equally riveting film. Apparently they also made a movie of The Ruins, but … well, let’s just say it hasn’t been as well received. Frankly, that doesn’t surprise me, as the allure of the novel is precisely in it’s Summer Bookability. This is the quintessential airplane book, something to cleanse you palate between “good” books or just get lost in for a day or two. That would be damning with faint praise perhaps, if The Ruins aspired to be more than that. But it does not. Judged by the goals Smith clearly had in mind–to write a compulsively readable thriller–the novel is an unqualified success. And if that’s all you go in expecting, you won’t be disappointed.

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11 comments.

  1. I got about 50 pages in and I kept waiting for something truly interesting to happen. Frankly, readability aside, it just wasn’t worth even the hour it would have taken to finish it.

  2. Good book, very readable. It won’t be showing up on any literary guild’s list of the 100 best novels in the English language anytime soon, but that’s not really the point.

  3. Thanks for this. Some people at work were raving about this book. I was kind of interested in it, but these people also loooooooooooooove Dan Brown. One of my coworkers did go see the movie and said it sucked worse than any movie ever. Now I know what to expect from the book!

  4. I think I read this last summer. I remember slogging through the first 50 pages and kinda hating all the characters, then flipping through the rest of the book just to see what was going to happen. Then thinking, “Well, I’m glad I didn’t actually READ the rest of that.”

  5. Yep, based on “A Simple Plan” I got suckered into buying “The Ruins”. I figured it was written to be easliy converted in to a (B) movie script. Won’t even waste time leeching the movie!

  6. I HATED it. And I read the whole dang thing. Yeah, it went really fast but jeebus.

  7. The ending was very unimaginative and disappointing. But I should have expected that from this book, given the beginning and the middle.

    The sole reason it was a page-turner is that it offered no place to conveniently stop; it was one long chapter.

    Nonetheless, it gave me the heebee-jeebies and I kept turning those damn pages.

  8. I read that piece of dreck – oops, is my bias showing? – last summer and hated it. Couldn’t for the life of me understand why everyone (at the time) was raving about it. I’ve since realized that if I’d read in in 3D book form, I might’ve thought the same as you. But I can only read audiobooks (due to shoulder/neck pain) and it was interminable, aggravating, poorly written and I’ll stop now before I start frothing at the mouth again. That said, I did think it might make an OK movie and saw it last week. It’s an alright movie, provided you expect nothing more than mindless entertainment.

  9. “A Simple Plan” was the most riveting novel I have read in years. I think I finished it in 36 hours. Great stuff. Thanks for the tip on “The Ruins” — I had not heard of it.

    PS Obama sucks.

  10. It was thoroughly mediocre. Just creepy enough to keep me reading it, but not good enough to make me glad I did so.

  11. Good lord that sucked.