The Ruins

by Scott Smith | Horror |
ISBN: 9780307278289 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 5/21/2022
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, May 21, 2022
I got this softcover at the Tyngsborough Public Library book sale, for another release copy.

When the book first came out, the reviews made it obvious what the "monster" was, and I had the impression that it would be a very simplistic story about devil-plants, but it was much trickier than that. And even if the steps required to get the main characters into a situation from which they could not easily escape seemed a little manipulative (!), the characters as presented were more than capable of walking into trouble. In fact, for much of the book, I found myself wanting to shake each character for one bad decision after another. I didn't even like the characters very much, and most of them didn't care for each other either. [The author may have done this on purpose, considering how things turn out!]

In many respects, the "horror" aspect of this story is being stuck in a strange country with people whose habits drive you up the wall: the person who seems incapable of enjoying herself with others and yet can't abide being alone, so she hangs around with everyone else and mopes; the one who's always late; the know-it-all; the whiner... Their various quirks and flaws contributed to the manner in which the group winds up trekking off to an archaeological dig in search of a stranger's missing brother, even though at every step of the way I kept shaking my head and muttering "BAD idea!" There was even the obligatory Worried Peasant who, upon finding out where they were headed, tried to warn them away; a horror-story tradition since Bram Stoker's Dracula if not before, but did they listen? Noooo! And even when encountering the strangely-watchful and distant villagers, do they turn around and head back? Of course not! And yet one can imagine making the same choices, even while wondering if it's the wrong thing...

Once the characters find themselves trapped and under attack at the dig site, the story turns into a war of attrition - a psychological war for the most part, though the foe eventually reveals much more powerful weapons, ones that could have ended the whole story much earlier. [Apparently it likes to toy with its food!] There are some truly marvelous gory/icky/nasty scenes here, and situations that would make even the most cohesive group have trouble deciding what to do; the game of "what would you do in this situation" often has no good answers at all. Many of the characters wind up going into some sort of shock fairly early on, and others get introspective - one line I really liked was from one of the more competent characters, musing about memories of his childhood: "It frightened him, in fact, how accessible it was. He knew that being a child now, waiting for someone else to save him, would be as easy a way to die as any other."

The book's certainly not without flaws; for one, the title is more of a tease than anything else, as the dig-site where most of the action takes place may indeed be ruins but we never get more than a cursory description of it. I was hoping for a notebook to be discovered that would provide some background about the place (with or without some clue as to the origin of the baddies), but no such luck - if there were any such writings, the characters weren't interested in looking for them. [That would be just like them, actually, but it was still frustrating!] And somewhere around the middle of the book I found myself thinking it was taking too long; how on earth was the author going to provide enough story to fill the rest of the pages? But things did pick up, and even though the whole thing's pretty much a one-note story, I found it a very effective one.

[The 2008 film adaptation tweaks the story a bit, but for the most part is faithful - up to and including making all the main characters dim and/or unlikable! There's a TV Tropes page on the film, with some comments on the book as well.]

Released 1 mo ago (5/22/2022 UTC) at Little Free Library, Westbrook Dr in Nashua, New Hampshire USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I left this book in the Little Free Library on this very warm day; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

** Released for the Movie challenge. **

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