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.