Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Review: "The Ruins" (A+!)

This book has been on my "to read" list for a very long time, but I only recently got to it. I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first so that was the catalyst for me finally settling down with it. I ended up devouring it all in one go, finishing at 5am ... and well, let's just say it took me five minutes to even set the book down after reading the last line.

There is just something about this book that, much like the vines, crawls underneath your skin and stays with you. Rarely do horror novels stay with me or even scare me, but this one did. When I finished the novel, I had this moment of wondering what I was supposed to do. It felt like I needed a therapy session, especially with the incredibly bleak ending. I don't know what I was expecting, but the ending just completely floored me. Needless to say, it took me awhile to get to sleep and school the next day was a haze.

The thing about this book is, Scott Smith takes a plot that seems vaguely ridiculous and makes it work flawlessly. I have to admit, when I found out that the so-called villain were vines - or at least that's how they are described - my knee-jerk reaction was one of "oh this is gonna suck." I was wrong. It turns out to prey on what I think is genuinely frightening - something invading your body, making you crazy and turn on yourself, as well as everyone else around you.

The book's also not short on blood. Or any kind of violence at all. The characters, crafted and developed so well, are hard to let go of because you feel genuine empathy for them. They aren't even necessarily making stupid decisions, they just don't know any better. (SPOILER) So when one of them is suddenly forced to amputate both of his friends legs, or when one of them is going batshit insane, you really do feel for them. (END SPOILER)

I highly recommend this novel, although if you like your horror fiction just as simple entertainment, this is probably not for you. It is a profoundly disturbing story that even I found hard to read. I also guarantee that from the moment you open the book, you will be swallowed into a Ruins black hole and not reappear for at least four hours. Definitely give yourself the time to read and don't plan anything for awhile. Include an extra hour for recuperation time. And possibly therapy.

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