Scott Smith’s The Ruins is pretty good–definitely worth a read. The plot is as simple as any good horror novel should be: a group of people in their twenties end up in the Mayan jungle, trapped by natives on a hill where sentient, ravenous monster vines eat people.
OK, so the story is silly, but here’s what it has going for it: Smith is a terrific writer. He lays down the narrative with authority, and balances his silly story with absolutely zero sympathy for his characters. They’re not bad guys, just spoiled, ignorant losers who you don’t feel especially connected to.
With that being said, I do have a few quibbles (warning–very minor plot spoilers):
1. If the vines are so powerful, why do they need to toy around with people and wait for them to be weak and make mistakes? Why don’t they just grab everyone and kill them right away?
2. Why don’t any of these college kids think to set the vines on fire? They make a couple of small fires and, at one point, even a Molotov cocktail. Shouldn’t someone have thought of using fire as a weapon against this organic, fairly stationary enemy?
3. None of these college kids had a cell phone on them? Really?
4. Why is it called The Ruins? The ruins they’re ostensibly seeking are hardly an important part of the story, and the actual setting is really just a hill in the jungle. Shouldn’t the book have been called The Hill or, even more appropriately, The Vines? I suppose The Ruins is a moderately more spooky title than either of those…
Still, it was a fun, quick read and I enjoyed it.
Final Grade: B