19 August 2007

The Ruins by Scott Smith

I’ve always liked Stephen King’s tales of horror, though oddly, never been a huge fan of the movie adaptations (with a few exceptions, such as The Dead Zone). TV has been a bit more faithful to his works, but they sometimes fail to capture the true nature of what King’s books are about, which is what happens to the people when things fall apart.

Scott Smith, who back in 1993 wrote the thriller A Simple Plan, returned in 2006 with The Ruins, a horror novel that is creepy in many ways, yet very familiar in others. Two couples, who are preparing to return to college in the fall, venture to Canc n for a vacation. They hook-up with a German tourist, who is searching for his brother, who vanished a few days earlier with some girl who wanted to take him to some ruins in the forest. A Greek man, also tags along.

A language barrier is the least of these peoples problems, as it seems the local people are trying to prevent them from going. They seem to know something, yet the six ignore them.

All too soon, though, they realize that ruins they’ve been in search of -and the people they are looking for, hold a terrifying secret. There is a presence at this site, one that will drive them to their demise.

As a whole, the book is well written, if not filled with stereotypical twenty something kids, with the females coming off as unappealing and annoying. While I can picture in my mind the cast of the forthcoming movie (cause Smith goes out of his way to point out the size and weight of each of the characters -not a “normal” human among them, but male and female models; skinny and beautiful) of the book, its that exact reason why I found the novel distracting. Horror movies and books depend on stupid people doing stupid things -though the karma is they get what they dissever in the end. And these arrogant, spoiled college students seem to be the cream of the crop. There blundering into areas that the should not have blundered into, is so unoriginal. It often reminded me of films where the heroine ventures into the dark room calling out “Who’s there?” I mean most people would just beat a path out of there.

Even the much older Mathias seems a bit dumb, not putting two and two together until its much too late.

Still, I give Smith props, as I feared the book was going to be more of a slasher than real psychological horror. It’s overlong, to be sure, but it transcends more typical horror of the slice and dice variety. And while the young adults are beautiful, I kind of liked the parts were the doomed group begins to wonder who’ll play them in the movie version of this unfolding horror.

It’s a good read, but I was never spooked out by it. But maybe because I’ve read Stephen King so much that I cannot be frightened anymore. Plus, I see these people -these idiots making the most basic mistakes - and wonder why I should even care about them.

I think that says more about me, though?

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