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Scott Smith ‘The Ruins’ Review


Written by: Kate Genet

I recognized this book straight away as the basis for the movie of the same name – and when I checked, yes, Scott Smith also wrote the screenplay. I enjoyed the movie, but I loved the book.

First of all, Smith’s writing is superb. He keeps a firm grip on his story the whole way through, never one for moment stumbling. It’s not often I’ve found a book written in third person omniscient that works so very well, giving the story a unique and fascinating tone. It almost puts the story one step removed; the narration is never coloured by the intense emotions the characters are going through, it reports everything with the same, almost detached, interest. For a writer, reading this book was a fascinating experience of the craft and art; as a reader, I was hooked on a storyline that made me want to look away but kept me there, unable to desert the characters as they dealt with a situation that became increasingly desperate.

Like a lot of horror stories, looked at dispassionately, the events of the book are outrageously unlikely. It is a credit to the writer, that while I was reading it, I believed every word. It didn’t seem impossible at all – it felt frighteningly real, and I spent the pages asking myself what I would do in that situation, deciding that if I ever was, I would do this or that, but probably, in all reality, exactly what the characters in the book did.  It’s a rare story that can make us put away the real world so completely.

The prose, so dispassionate, was hypnotising. The setting – the hill, the burning sun, the noxious vine – all so finely portrayed that I could have been there. With a story that depended on the setting for the story’s action, Scott Smith did a terrific job of making it real, believable, and so utterly horrifying.

It’s not a new storyline, of course, in its broadest strokes – what story is, these days? A group of young people, isolated, battling the dangers of their environment, struggling to hold themselves together and survive as individuals, and a group – no, it’s not strictly original, although the details are, and anyway, it just doesn’t matter, because it’s done so well. It seems strange to say that a book with such fantastical features is also incredibly realistic, but this one is. The characterizations are spot on. The characters react in ways that are shocking while we read, but in reflection are completely in tune with human nature. They fall apart, just like we would in that situation.

That’s part of where the real horror in The Ruins lies. Read it, and see if you agree. You can order it right here.

Rating: 5/5

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About The Overseer (1653 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

3 Comments on Scott Smith ‘The Ruins’ Review

  1. Wayne C. Rogers // August 20, 2014 at 12:51 am // Reply

    Just to let the fans of Scott Smith know, both A Simple Plan and The Ruins are now being sold at Cemetery Dance Publications in beautiful, hardcover, signed editions. They’re almost sold out so if you think you might want one, don’t waste any time in checking the books out.

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  2. Matt Barbour // August 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    Kate I agree the book is better than the movie. The concept works better as a novel than as a film. Also, I find it fascinating that you discuss believability… in speculative fiction you are often asked to suspend some disbelief. Sci fi and fantasy readers do this easily but for some reason Horror readers seem to be a harder sell. Even when writing about vampires and zombies, we want it to be plausible. I think that is possibly what sells us on the situation. We have to believe it could happen to us. Given that I worked for many years as an archaeologist, I suppose this one hit a bit closer to home for me than most horror.

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  3. Vitina Molgaard // August 21, 2014 at 8:56 pm // Reply

    I also found this recognition of the fact that we as readers want to believe that the fantastical things which occur could really happen. Very nice review and I enjoyed your point of view here. Vitina Molgaard

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