Tuesday, March 25, 2008

THE RUINS by SCOTT SMITH

Scott Smith is the author one other book, A Simple Plan, which came out a number of years ago, and which was made into a well-received movie. I neither read the book nor saw the movie. I have read The Ruins, however, and can highly recommend it.

The Ruins is a classic story of man versus nature, with a horror twist. Four friends--two American couples, Eric and Stacy and Jeff and Amy--have gone down to Mexico for their summer vacation. While there, they meet up with Mathias, a German traveler whose brother has gone missing after meeting a girl and following her to the site of an archaeological dig. The four Americans, Mathias, and a Greek who speaks no English or Spanish, but calls himself Pablo, head out to the jungle to find Mathias's brother.

The six find the site after being warned away by the locals. Trouble is, the locals only speak Mayan, and so the kids don't know why they're being warned away. Unfortunately, once they stumble upon the deserted site, the Mayans pull out the guns and bows and arrows, and won't let them leave.

And then it gets scary.

There are no birds, no wildlife, not even any insects...and no signs, except for their abandoned possessions, of the archaeologists who'd been working the dig. The six are injured or brought low, one after another, and even when they finally figure out who, or--not to give an excellent plot point away--what is out to get them, there's absolutely nothing they can do about it.

I've talked about books or authors that elevate a genre, and Scott Smith appears to be another of those. His prose is elegant, he switches smoothly and effectively among the points of view of the four American characters, and he falls prey to none of the cliches of the genre he's chosen this time around.

The Ruins is out this month, and I recommend it for a smart, scary read.

What I'm reading now: Poison, by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

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