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The Ruins

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Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine. Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

319 pages, Hardcover

First published July 18, 2006

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About the author

Scott Smith

7 books812 followers
Scott Bechtel Smith is an American author and screenwriter. He has published two suspense novels, A Simple Plan and The Ruins, and adapted them for the screen.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

(from wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,136 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
May 29, 2020
“The vines covered everything but the path and the tent’s orange fabric. In some places, they grew thinly enough that Eric could glimpse the soil underneath – rockier than he would’ve expected, dry, almost desertlike – but in others, they seemed to fold back upon themselves, piling layer upon layer, forming waist-high mounds, tangled knoll-like profusions of green. And everywhere, hanging like bells from the vines, were those brilliant bloodred flowers…”
- Scott Smith, The Ruins

I’ve always had this conception that the horror genre, be it books or movies, are meant to be scary. So that’s how I’ve judged various entries in the field. Did this [book or movie] scare me? Mostly, the answer is no. Real life itself is so terrifying that fictional fears really don’t do anything for me. After all, no monster springing from an author’s imagination is quite so terrifying as my student debt load.

While reading Scott Smith’s The Ruins, it occurred to me that my concept of horror is wrong, or at least strikingly narrow. That I was grading horror on the wrong scale. To be successful, horror doesn’t need to scare you. At least not in the BOO! sense of the word. It should also horrify you. Yes, I recognize this should be self-evident, that legions of youngsters flocking to Eli Roth's torture-porn oeuvre knew this intuitively. What can I say? I'm old, and I'm starting to recognize all the things I don't get. Anyway, The Ruins isn't frightening, but it is horrific. Almost from the start it filled me with dread, creating a weird tension as I longed to read on and hesitated to read on.

The setup is rather standard. Young people, ostensibly good looking, find themselves in a wee bit of trouble. Things get bad before they get worse. The setting, of course, is paradise, because there’s nothing like inverting the joy of being young, attractive, and in Mexico with the unspeakable terror of being hunted by something inexplicable and perhaps supernatural.

Jeff and Amy are med students. Eric and Stacy are not med students. Stacy and Amy are friends. All four are enjoying some time on the beach, getting drunk and lolling in the sun. They meet Mathias, a German tourist who is looking for his brother. They also meet some Greeks, one of whom they nickname Pablo. Mathias suggests they go meet his brother at some Mayan ruins. He has a crude map and a general notion about what they might find. For some reason, Jeff, Amy, Eric, Stacy, and the functional alcoholic, non-English speaking Pablo all find this a good idea.

It does not, in fact, turn out to be a good idea. The six get stranded on the ruins for reasons that I will not explain further, at the risk of spoiling plot points.

Smith is like the Salinger of the modern suspense novel scene. He has written two books. This is the second, A Simple Plan was the first. Both are excellent. Both were bestsellers. Both were made into movies. One of those movies had Billy Bob Thornton in it. That movie is not the one based on The Ruins, because there is no place for Billy Bob Thornton among young, attractive vacationers getting themselves into a situation. Unless, I suppose, Billy Bob is the situation. A Simple Plan came out in 1993. The Ruins followed (at the speed of George R.R. Martin) in 2006. He hasn’t published anything since. I haven’t been able to figure out why.

This is a shame. Because Smith does quality work.

The Ruins is an absolutely fantastic book that I can’t say much about. The writing is superb. Smith knows how to modulate his prose so that it is at times evocative, at times descriptive, and at other times unobtrusive, as the story barrels forward. At the start, the characters sort of blend together. But that changes as Smith draws them in firm, bold strokes, revealing personalities and back stories in an effectively poignant way. I cared for these stranded people. Even Pablo. Well, maybe not Pablo.

This is a battle for survival. The characters are put through a desperate wringer that lasts 369 pages in my trade paperback edition. Smith grounds things so well in reality that I readily accepted the gradual ratcheting of the horror elements.

There are passages in The Ruins that are among the most brutal and graphic things I have ever read. And I say this as a person who makes it a point (on occasion) to discover what is out there in the world of brutal and graphic. Yet the gruesomeness is not gratuitous. It perfectly complements the tale that Smith has set out to tell.

When the heat of summer starts to break, when I walk down the grocery aisle and say to myself, I should get some soup, when the leaves overhead turn orange and yellow and red, and fall to the sidewalk where they brown and crumble underfoot, and when the beer I drink comes spiced in pumpkin, that is my window for reading horror. Since I only read this kind of novel during the Autumn/Halloween season, I don’t claim to be an expert.

I also recognize that horror, like religion and politics, creates wildly divergent reactions in people. If you look at the Amazon reviews, there are as many 1 star ratings as 5 star ratings. I can understand that. If you don’t accept the central conceit, then all is lost. Setting that aside, I still contend that Smith’s literary skills are objectively first class. He excels at scene-setting, characterizations, dialogue, and creating tension.

In my humble opinion – again, the opinion of a man who reads two or three horror novels a year, at best – this is a classic. It does not have the bleak, thematic brilliance of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which I hold to be the greatest of all works of horror. But it comes close. This is a novel that got inside me, insidiously. It is vivid and horrifying and ultimately unforgettable. Even on the bookshelf, I can feel the book watching me, daring me to reread it.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,825 followers
May 24, 2017
Scott Smith’s wrote one of my favorite crime novels with A Simple Plan that released in 1993. Thirteen years later came his second book, The Ruins which instantly became one of my favorite horror novels. I’ve got my fingers crossed that sometime later this decade he’ll write another one and maybe it’ll turn out to be the greatest sci-fi epic I’ve ever read.

The concept here is dirt simple. Idiots go somewhere they shouldn’t and bad shit happens. In this particular case four American college students, two boy-girl couples, are on vacation in Mexico where they meet several other tourists from all over the world. A German named Mathis tells them that his brother got smitten with a woman and followed her to an archaeological dig in the jungle, and that he needs to retrieve him before their flight home. The Americans and another Greek fellow decide to join him and set out on an impromptu adventure following a hand drawn map to a remote location.

A bunch of unprepared and ill-equipped tourists wander off into the jungle? What could possibly go wrong?

After they find themselves trapped on a hilltop by something that defies belief the young people endure thirst, hunger and injuries and have to consider extreme actions in order to survive.

The sub-title of this book could almost be A Series of Bad Decisions, and that’s one of the aspects that made it unique for me. A lot of horror is based around punishing people for their actions. Frankenstein gets his monster for daring to try to change the natural order. Jason slaughters teenagers for acting like teenagers. In The Ruins there is no single moment of arrogance or failure of character to point out as the thing that bring about the situation. (Although there are plenty of small examples of rotten behavior that make it that much worse.) Rather it’s just the sunny optimism that everything will be OK that puts these kids in a leaky canoe headed up that fabled Shit Creek with no paddles.

Smith does a great job of playing off the human nature of being in a bad spot and wondering how you got there only to have the sickening realization that you knew for a while that you heading into trouble, but you somehow talked yourself into staying the course it with the assumption that everything would work itself out.

The characters themselves are a departure from what you get in most horror novels these days. Yeah, I know some people hated them, and they truly are a pack of insufferable dumb asses for a large part of the book. But I think what some readers really didn’t like about them was that they did act the way most of us would in those circumstances. For example, Jeff tries to play the hero, and while you can empathize with his frustrations with the others he’s also being a complete douche bag for not acknowledging the bigger picture. The others also act with varying amounts of denial and panic.

What’s interesting is that there are no easy answers as to how they should be behaving. (Serious spoilers here.) So there’s this uncomfortable push-pull between the traditional concept of doing every single desperate thing you can think of to survive versus realizing that you’re fucked and just giving up. That’s the grey zone where this book operates and part of what I found so compelling about it.

I’ve seen some complaints about the nature of the threat, and I’m not sure if that’s still considered a spoiler or not so I’m throwing it under a tag. However, I’m only discussing what they’re facing while not giving up any plot details.

So this one retains its high spot among my personal rankings after reading it a second time. It’s not your typical horror tale, and it’s a gruesome story that shows people behaving poorly in dire circumstances which makes it an uncomfortable read at times. But isn’t that the point?
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 16 books1,515 followers
May 19, 2020
Horror is my least favorite genre but real read horror if it's well written and The Ruins is wonderful. I loved it. I read The Simple Plan and loved the prose and the characterization between the two brothers. I thought Simple Plan would be a one and out and then The Ruins came out. I bought because of how much I loved Simple Plan and was not disappointed. I wish he would write them faster. The Ruins is more about the relationship between friends when put under extreme stress. So if you like well written horror stories grab up this one you won't be sorry.
David Putnam Author of The Bruno Johnson series.
Profile Image for Campbell.
5 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2008
Wow, what a disappointment. I'd been so excited about this-- I'm not a horror novel fan, but this had gotten such great reviews, I figured I'd give it a try. The trailer for the movie also looked intriguing. Unfortunately, you may as well just watch the trailer and read the first forty pages of the book, because beyond that, it doesn't deliver.
My first issue with the book was the characters-- they're the most one dimensional people I've come across in long time. Goldilocks had more personality. It's hard to feel a whole lot of sympathy or empathy for characters who are nothing more than stock types-- "the ditzy sexy girl"; " the boy scout" etc. Smith acknowledges their single dimensions midway through the book when the characters are talking about a film version of their situation and one of the character breaks them all down into types ("the boy scout" "the prissy girl" "the slut" "the funny guy"). Too bad Smith never makes the effort to flesh the characters out. It's hard to get too worked up about their deaths when you don't feel like there's anything at stake.
The second problem (and a far bigger one, in my opinion), is the lack of pay off. Early in the book, the characters end up stranded on a mountain, kept captive by a Mayan village who forces them to stay on the mountain with this monster plant. Yeah, yeah, the plant's terrible, it's carnivorous and smart and is able to torture and kill it's captives. Once I got to the point in the book where it's clear the characters are stuck on the mountain, I thought, "I sure hope the next 400 pages aren't spent just detailing how these people die. I sure hope we solve the mystery of where the plant came from, why the Mayans are in collusion with it, and if it's truly a plant at all or an extension of something much more ominous below the surface." So if you ask yourself the same questions and think you'll get answers later in the book, save yourself the time. None of those things are answered and it is, in fact, 400 pages of describing each of their demise.
Part of the problem stems from Smith's tactic of only writing from the point of view of the American characters. If the characters were interesting, it might be worthwhile to see how they handle this awful and confusing situation, but we've already addressed that these folks are pretty dull. I think a more interesting approach would've been to either tell part of the story from the Mayan's point of view or from an omniscient POV, detailing the history of why such a malevolent force is at work in this spot. Maybe my perception was skewed from the film trailers in thinking that this might be revealed.
I found the book frustrating because the characters briefly seem to be going in this direction, mentioning how the Mayans have contained the plant and guessing at why they continue to hold people captive here. They also touch on the fact that the plant may not be a plant at all. Unfortunately, Smith doesn't explore these ideas either through speculation on the characters' parts or by having the characters physically seek out the source of the plant. Sure, it may be unbelievable that the characters would risk their lives trying to find the source, but believability went out the window when the plant started talkig. Smith already set up that the characters are boring,not so bright, and going to die anyway, so why not have them die in the pursuit of what this thing actually is?
Overall, I thought the book was pisspoor. The first 40 pages are good, the story is tightly wound and propulsive, but after that, you may as well watch any generic slasher flick.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 24 books4,125 followers
March 2, 2023
I'll start this review off with a quote from a fellow Goodreads buddy, Edward
"That's one of the things I loved about this book. All the characters were either assholes or idiots."

And this is the truth.

What would happen if a bunch of idiots/assholes vacationed in Cancun and stupidly went into the jungle looking for a stranger's lost brother without proper attire, supplies or even at the very BASIC LEVEL, a way to get back home?
You can read all about one author's imaginative tale of just that very thing!
The Ruins was recommended to me over and over again in my quest to read good horror. I finally found it at a thrift store and I snatched it up! (even if it had an ugly movie cover--which I would never watch)
This book plays out like a movie in your mind. It's very convincingly and plainly narrated with an easy flow that draws you in and pulls you close. I never could find a good place to stop (maybe because my edition didn't have clear chapter breaks?)
We have clear, easy to identify characters that are easy to relate to--I related well to Amy, the one who never wanted to go on this effed up trip to begin with and struggled with not complaining the entire time!
I would say that this story had a "slow burn" atmosphere--very unsettling and tense for a long time with bursts of terror sprinkled throughout--even a few gross outs and some cringe-worthy descriptions.

one thing kept running through my mind the entire time which would have saved lives but I won't tell you because that would spoil all the fun! If you've read this book and you want to ask me what it was, hit me up on Instagram and I'll tell you! Hahaha
Anyhoodles, in summation: Awesome, gruesome, classic horror--a thrilling, chilling tale!! A must for any horror fan.
Profile Image for Aaron.
355 reviews34 followers
August 30, 2007
Stephen King has a short story (that I believe may have been entitled "The Raft") in which four college students head out to an old rock quarry. They swim out to a raft in the middle of the lake. As the afternoon progresses, they notice what appears to be a patch of oil skimming the surface of the water. One of the students dives into the lake for a post-coital swim and is mysteriously and grotesquely devoured by the oil patch, his skin pretty much being stripped right from its bones. Now horrifed, the remaining students are now making an attempt to get to shore without being overtaken by the patch of oil.

I was reminded of this story as I read this book. I was reminded of Stephen King in general as I read this book. It has Stephen King-like plotting and character development. It is praised by Stephen King in a back jacket critical blurb. The only real difference between this novel and the novels of Stephen King is that this book has a better ending.

Endings? Yeah, King pretty much sucks at those.

Anyway, this novel concerns two American couples who take a summer trip to Cancun, sort of a last hurrah before school starts up again. While in Cancun, they become friends with a German man named Matthias (who does speak English) and a trio of Greek tourists (who do not). Matthias announces that he is searching for his missing brother who headed into a Mayan archeological ruin with a hot archeologist he met on the beach. The brother never returned. Collectively, the two couple, Matthias, and one of the Greeks decide that it might be fun to go check out the Mayan ruins. Everything, and I do mean everything, goes to hell from here.

If you like horror novels, you should read this book. Well-paced, well-plotted, and just well-done overall, this is the best Stephen King novel that Stephen King never wrote.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,929 reviews10.6k followers
February 26, 2014
When four American college students and a German tourist go on a foray into the Mexican jungle, searching for the German's missing brother, they have no idea of the horror they will find themselves entangled in. Will any of them leave the jungle alive?

I was in the mood for some horror and received recommendations for this book from two highly regarded reviewers. I'm proud to say Kemper and Trudi weren't wrong.

The Ruins is the story of five people who make a series of questionable choices and wind up trapped on top of a hill with a killer vine terrorizing them. It reminded me of The Troop quite a bit in the way the relationships disintegrated as supplies ran low and the vine got more and more vicious. After one stupid mistake, things quickly fell apart. I'm surprised the characters lasted as long as they did.

This book seems to have a polarising effect among reviewers. Part of it is probably that it straddles the line between horror and thriller, stymying people who like to be able to slap a convenient label on things. The other part is probably the characters. I didn't find any of them overly likeable but I didn't hate any of them either. Sure, I wanted to slap them around from the moment they decided it was a good idea to go for a romp in the Mexican jungle all the way until the end but that's how horror stories of this type go sometimes.

Eric's self-mutilation was one of the creepier parts of the book, made creepier at the end when it turned out he actually had vines inside him. I felt bad for Jeff, trying to hold things together when everyone else seemed continually on the verge of losing his or her shit. I think I would have pushed some assholes down the mineshaft when he came back to find them all drunk.

The vine was creepy but that wasn't a surprise since plants are emotionless monsters. Just look at the Venus Flytrap or watch how quickly plants overtake an abandoned shed or cabin. I didn't have a problem with the plant's intelligence but I will admit that its mimicry was a little far fetched at the end.

While The Ruins isn't your grandma's horror novel, it delivers the goods if you're looking for a tale of desperation and creepiness. Four out of five stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
643 reviews4,266 followers
April 20, 2021
Best book I’ve read so far this year? Yep. One of the best horror books I’ve ever read? Yep.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,416 followers
October 8, 2012
***Please indulge me while I float this older review for a horror novel that remains near and dear to my heart. If you are looking for some genuine thrills and chills this Halloween season, this may be the book for you. Happy All Hallow's Read!

I just don't get the storm of criticism aimed at Scott Smith's second novel, The Ruins. Why do people love to hate this book? I found the story to be brutally convincing and the characters believable (if not always very likable). These are college-age kids backpacking in a strange country. Four of them are American and tend to be not too bright and a lot self-absorbed. But that's realistic.

Sure the story is about man-eating ivy and that may strike some readers as too silly to be scary (a la Little Shop of Horrors) but that's not where the real horror lies anyway. The vine is merely a plot device to trap the college kids in the jungle and force them to confront (and attempt to survive) a series of terrible events.

So it's not high brow literature or anything but it is a visceral, visual novel filled with moments of genuine terror. Under such conditions of extreme physical danger and psychological stress, the six travelers succumb to various coping mechanisms; when they are not turning on each other, they are turning on themselves. The situation becomes a fascinating microstudy of human behavior -- "the group in peril" scenario we've seen before in classic stories like Golding's Lord of the Flies, Saramago's Blindness, or Stephen King's novella "The Mist".

So I stand strong in my defense of Scott Smith's The Ruins; I just can't figure out why those of us who do seem to be vastly outnumbered. The amount of vitriol being launched against this book verges on hysteria and is completely unjustified. My advice is to not let the nay-sayers keep you away from this book. Give it a chance; like me, you just may think it's great.
Profile Image for Adam.
253 reviews206 followers
August 23, 2008
Scott Smith's The Ruins is one of the best horror novels I've read in some time. It would be really easy for me to rip into it. The premise is, frankly, ridiculous, and its plot is nothing but doom and gloom. So why did I love it so much? Simply because it was completely convincing, engrossing, and terrifying. I don't think I have ever found myself squirming as much while reading as I was for this book's last 20 pages or so.

I think The Ruins works as well as it does because of Smith's writing and characterizations. There are a lot of negative reviews of this book on this site. The most common complaints are that the characters were unlikable, that there were no lofty themes or messages in the story, and that the nature of the threat the characters face in the Mayan ruins where most of the book takes place was impossible to take seriously.

I didn't find the characters at all unlikable. They infuriated and saddened me consistently, because their flaws were all either ones I see in myself or in other people and am powerless to change, but I never found them unlikable. They are drawn so well, in fact, that they really seemed like real people to me. And real people in peril are the worst kind of people. If you've ever wondered what your significant other or best friend would do in a situation of extreme peril with you and found yourself feeling sick and worried, then this novel will probably twist your guts up. And terrify you.

No big themes? Again, I liked this. If there were, it would have blunted the terror. This is a story of a few people in the midst of a crisis over the course of a few days. They don't have the luxury of reflection, and neither does the reader. This book might not teach you anything, but its immediacy is chilling.

As far as the nature of the threat that faces them in the ruins, I can't disagree. There are a number of reasons why it's incredibly silly. But at the same time, in the context of the story, it's really not. I, for one, found it disturbing for a number of reasons.

If you're able to read The Ruins and tell yourself, "This could never happen," then you'll probably hate it. But if you're able to give yourself over to the situation and see yourself in the novel's characters, you will feel a creepy and pervading sense of doom.
Profile Image for Chrissy.
96 reviews87 followers
July 17, 2022
I've read this a few times over the years, it's a proper page-turning horror. Excellently combining psychological, supernatural and gore. Drunken holiday becomes trapped nightmare with grim consequences. Better than the film.
Profile Image for Tracy .
765 reviews12 followers
February 20, 2022
'The Ruins' has to be one of the most terrifying novels I have ever read. Horrifying to imagine that 2 twenty something couples were enjoying one last hooray (before going off to various jobs and grad schools) on the sunny beaches of Cancun one moment - and the next having life as they knew it upended in ways their worst nightmares couldn't envision. The four of them wake one morning after heavy partying and decide to help another hotel patron (they partied with) find his brother. He shows them the note he found stating he went in search of a girl he liked who is on an archaeological dig in the ruins. The location is also hours away - in the middle of the jungle. His brother also left a vague map indicating the approximate location. The revelers think it would be a great adventure to share with their friends and family back home, and decide to assist with the search - while also taking a much needed break from the nonstop imbibing and hangovers. None of them could have predicted the horrors they would soon endure when they got into the van - laughing and naive - and went rolling off the hotel grounds for a "fun" day of exploration. What ensues is not only extremely graphic, but (even more so) psychologically mind-bending. Highly recommend to all my fellow hardcore horror friends.
Profile Image for Nancyc.
39 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2008
I just finished reading The Ruins by Scott Smith. If you plan to read it, stop here, because I'm about to take a stroll through it.

Reading The Ruins as a writer, got through the first 75 pages and asked myself how this writer managed to get me to follow these people into the jungle when I didn't particularly like any of them.

The Ruins is about four recent college grads on vacation in Cancun, who go off on an adventure to help an acquaintance find his brother. The college grads are comprised of two American couples, Eric and Stacy and Jeff and Amy. Although they have distinct personalities, none of them stands out as a person I would follow on a day trip away from the beach. When their German friend, Mathias, tells them that he must travel to an obscure Mayan archaeological dig to retrieve his lovesick brother, Jeff volunteers himself and his friends to keep him company. And let the foreshadowing begin.

None of the Americans really seem happy to leave the beach. Eric is so hung over, I expect his eyes to start bleeding, Stacy doesn't seem to think about whether she wants to go or not...she just follows Jeff's lead and remains the classic follower until there's... um...no one left to follow. Amy whines about going but then remembers she's been criticized for whining and summarily shuts up and goes. And I follow right along with them, thinking, "They're not really prepared. Do they know where they're going? Should they trust Mathias?" They have a hand-written map, where public transportation only takes them within 15 miles of the spot. The bus ride is ominous, the pickup truck ride to the trail head is stressful, the truck driver tries to warn them, they encounter an entire town of Mayans who try to stop them, and Amy continues to snap photos. At the last minute, a smiling Greek, bearing the gift of three bottles of tequila, joins them.

That the Greek speaks no English is only one of the language barriers the Americans encounter. They can't talk to the Mayans either. And the Mayans are clearly trying to tell them something kind of important. Something like, Don't Step Onto The Hill With The Red Flowering Vine. They do, of course, and that seals their fate. Looking back, I don't know why I didn't predict the end. They all die. There are no heroes, no survivors. Their collective penchant for sniping at each other and their private pools of fear and self-doubt take them straight to their deaths.

That pretty red-flowered vine turns out to be a carnivorous plant with super human abilities. It can mimic them in their own voices and knows just what to say to hurt them better than a kid sister with a crush on her sister's boyfriend. When hunger makes them swoon, it can engulf the hilltop with scents like freshly baked bread or steaks barbecuing. Yep. It's one mean plant. But the two couples, the German and the Greek never really question what it is or why the Mayans feel the need to keep them on the hill at gunpoint. They never try to find a weakness in their enemy. Nor do they work to make a plan to escape. They wait, hoping that the Greek's companions will come for them. Two other Greek men, who don't speak any English, Spanish or Mayan, are their only hope for survival from this situation.

Is there a message here? Something beyond entertainment? The Ruins does break a lot of formula expectations. No survivors, no heroes, no escape plan. They are four Americans, newly graduated from college, affluent, white and ready to begin adult life. By American standards, they are four young people who have the world by the ass. Yet they are not prepared to survive any difficulties. In fact, they are all basically lead to their deaths, whining and longing for another drink.

Another thing that Smith does is he keeps them all alive for an agonizingly long time after their fate is sealed. I kept expecting people to start dying off. But no one dies until more than 3/4 of the book is gone. Once the first one dies, though, Jill comes tumbling after... they drop pretty quickly. The sad part is, I'm grateful to see them go. They're the kind of people you might have a drink with at a tavern and never remember any of their names an hour later.

Okay...since I said at the beginning that I was going to go through the book, I don't feel like I've spoiled anything for anyone. Just thinking it through.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews757 followers
July 22, 2021
How have I gone this long without reading this book?! I’m legit kicking myself for not reading it sooner because it is BEYOND brilliant. I was instantly sucked in and kept compulsively turning the pages to find out what would happen next. I knew disaster was just waiting to strike and I was THERE for it! A big factor in my enjoyment of this book was the characters. They were either assholes or idiots or a stunning combination of both and their incredibly stupid decision making is what led to the best parts of this story and I so enjoyed watching them suffer slowly and terribly. After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever set foot in a jungle or visit any kind of ancient ruins without being utterly terrified.
Profile Image for ✨Bean's Books✨.
648 reviews2,920 followers
September 28, 2019
OMG it's finally over...
I don't say that because this book was bad. To the contrary, I say that because I have spent the last week trapped on a hilltop with these 6 characters as they slowly deteriorate. It was maddening!
So the premise of the story is that these 6 characters go off looking for a Mayan temple in an effort to find Mathias's wayward brother who had left days before with some girl he had just met. She is said to have been a part of an archaeological dig in a ruined Mayan temple. When the friends stumble upon this temple they find that not everything is what It seems.
Okay can I just say that this book gets 5 stars purely for yuck factor. Yuck!!! I mean seriously, this book completely made my skin crawl! I have a problem with things being underneath my skin such as intravenous needles and it got to a point where I almost threw the book down because I could not handle it. And the book is so well written and the scenes are so well described that you can see and even FEEL everything perfectly in your mind's eye.
Let's talk about the movie for a second, Scott Smith was good enough to write the screenplay for the movie which was awesome because it did the book justice, it really did. The problem that I have was the switching around at the character roles. It really messed me up because, now having read the book and because the book came first, I feel as though the movie kind of screwed things up a bit. That and although the movie was very graphic in some parts, it really did not bring to life the death scenes as the book did. In the book it goes through each character's death through their own point of view as they are dying which is some pretty deep shit if you ask me! The movie just doesn't give you those feelings that the book does. Also the film doesn't make you feel as hopeless as the book does.
But never mind all that. The book was fabulous to say the least. The film started off as one of my favorite horror films but the book has definitely taken a higher place on the mantle for me as far as horror is concerned.
I can't say it enough, YUCK!!!! 🤮
Very very well done and I highly recommend it to those with a strong stomach and a love of horror.

Or you can watch my review here:
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,228 reviews170 followers
August 3, 2022

The power of syntax and lexico

And it's just a mindfuck, hail!

the hardcover edition received, HELLYEAH

life is ephemeral, many books in ours just can't get the chance of being read twice, but absolutely not for this book \m/

the author's next book, how much longer shall we wait?
Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,773 followers
August 28, 2020
Decent read, had some redeeming qualities, but in my humble opinion, could have explored so much more (jungle, abandoned mines, Mayan culture / curses, strangers banding together for survival). If you like body horror, you’ll enjoy this book. Will watch the movie as well for comparison.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,342 followers
September 21, 2017
Requires a decent suspension of disbelief, but it's absolutely propulsive. No one plots better than Scott Smith when it comes to events spiraling out of control, and the writing is clean and full of drive. Very well-done.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,736 reviews940 followers
August 17, 2019
This is one of the books set aside for the Horror Aficionados May reads. Up until now I had heard that this book was fantastic, scary, and thought provoking. Remind me to never trust people again when they mention a book is scary, my idea of scary is apparently different. This book had a lot of gross situations that tried my stomach, but that was about it.

So, this tale begins in Mexico (Yucatan peninsula). We have four Americans who are on vacation before they go off and start school. There is Eric and his girlfriend Stacy and Jeff and his girlfriend Amy. The reason why I wrote it that way was the simple fact that Stacy and Amy may as well be named Frick and Frack for as much attention as Mr. Smith pays attention to them over the course of this book. This book was primarily about the issue between the boys in this book. We all know that girls are stupid.

The foursome befriends a German tourist named Mathias and some Greeks, one specifically named Pablo. Mathias is trying to find his brother Heinrich who has run off to find the love of his life (he says) that is off to do an archaeological dig. And this is how I know I am a terrible person. If I am on vacation, and one of my friends says, "hey, let's go with this guy we just met to go find his brother." I would lower my sunglasses down, look my friend right in the eye, and ask them had they lost their damn mind. Bah.

The group of now 6 decides this is something smart they should do and off they go with a poorly drawn map to find Heinrich. After Amy is warned by their driver (I think it was Amy, honestly I can't even remember, and I refuse to go back and re-listen) about this being a bad place, the group goes forward. Coming across a Mayan village, the group finds a hidden path and chooses to take that. And that's where things go from bad to worse for the group.

I am not going to spoil what happens to the group or what they find except to say that I had a hard time believing it and maybe it would have been set up better if Mr. Smith had set up a prologue or something describing the "bad" thing and how the hell the "bad" thing was even able to do what it did because it made no damn sense at all. I am going to keep saying "bad" thing because why not be repetitive in this review, the entire book was repetitive to the point it almost made me bang my head to knock myself unconscious.

I am not even going to get into the characters because they all as one had no depth. They were six faceless characters who kept making dumb decision after dumb decision. Being trapped and you decide to just sit in the sun and get drunk on tequila? You also take some of your water to wash the pee off your foot because some splashed on you when you went to the bathroom? I mean good grief.

Seriously, this was one of the worst books I have ever listened to. I think it was a combination of poor writing and the lack of life in Patrick Wilson's voice. Let us not speak of his horrible attempts at an accent for Mathias and when he voiced Amy or Stacy. It was terrible. There was no inflection in the man's voice at all. He might as well have been reading the Sunday papers out loud to a blank wall.

The setting of the Yucatan peninsula wasn't very well used. We just had a lot of Mayans who were sitting around and did not speak English or Spanish, but could hold guns/bows and arrows, etc. Riddle me this. If you know a place is dangerous, wouldn't you put up something besides some fronds to keep people out? Wouldn't you go around and ask someone who does speak English/Spanish to put up a Danger stay out sign? I mean the driver who took the group there spoke English and apparently knew what was going on in the area, so what the holy hell was going on there? I mean I guess the Mayans were in on it? Or not, who knows, this book doesn't do a great job of world building so there is a lot of guessing going on.

The ending was anti-climatic. It wasn't shocking, wasn't surprising in the least, and then I rolled my eyes at what looks to be same shit, different day, with another group. So do I recommend this?

Profile Image for Cody | CodysBookshelf.
724 reviews210 followers
April 19, 2017
It'd been a while since I read a book that horrified, sickened, and amazed me in equal measure; The Ruins did all those things with ease. I was shocked at just how much I loved this novel. I did not expect it to totally blow me away. The characters are mostly unlikable and infuriating, and I must admit I had trouble reading about them at first, but that's the point — being trapped in the jungle and fighting for one's life brings out the very worst in a person.

This is a brutal, agonizing read. There are no chapter breaks, and because of that it feels like a knife slice to the jugular. Scott Smith is unwavering in his quest to horrify the reader; you can almost imagine the maniacal grin he wore as he doled out pain and suffering to his unsuspecting creations.

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet: I really loved The Ruins. In fact, it's probably in my top five horror novels — it's that damn good. It pushes every button, as good horror should. I can't wait to check out this author's debut novel, A Simple Plan.

This was a buddy read with my friend Sadie. I had the time of my life. :)
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,660 reviews5,141 followers
June 1, 2023
I knew this book had a lot of fans, but I didn't know what to expect and, for some inexplicable reason, didn't expect to love it this much. I was completely blown away by how fantastic and terrifying this book was, though. I cringed, I wanted to cry, I felt legitimate dread for these characters, and all the while, I was fully sucked in. I've been having a hard time getting totally pulled into stories lately, but I read this 500+ page book in 3 days, and it would have been less than that if I'd had more free time over that timespan.

Though shit hits the fan around the 20% mark, the build-up for The Ruins is a little bit slow, but it's worth every moment, because it introduces you to the cast of characters in such a way that they feel so real. They're very flawed, ultimately complex characters with a layer of authenticity that I don't see mirrored often by other horror authors; I felt like I could have known any one of these tourists, or could have even been one of them, and so I couldn't help but root for them right to the very end.

Above all else, there's a sense of bleakness and misery permeating this entire story that is inescapable, and it's all I could think about even when I wasn't reading, making it an incredibly unputdownable book that I feel will stick with me for a long time to come. The Ruins feels like a masterpiece of the genre and I am so glad that I finally experienced it for myself.

Content warnings for:

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Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
662 reviews
July 9, 2016
The buzz is that this is an extremely graphic novel so I have put off reading it for several years. Now that I have read it, or listened to it actually, I'm not going to disagree with the buzz but I am going to say that this was easily one of the best horror novels I've ever read. I wouldn't change a thing about it.
Profile Image for Coos Burton.
767 reviews1,300 followers
May 20, 2022
El libro es casi tan maravilloso como lo imaginaba. Desesperante hasta niveles insospechables, angustiante y un proceso agónico, pero a la vez con todo lo bueno del terror (más específicamente, el horror botánico).

Adjunto mi video-reseña para más detalles, una comparación libro vs. película sin spoilers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usPy4...
Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,631 followers
August 28, 2019
Catch-up Review 4 of 4:
This book has been on Mt. Vine Covered Hill TBR for 9 years, 10 months, 1 week, and 5 days as of today. I added it on October 16, 2009. Obama was still in his first year. There were still only four Song of Ice and Fire books out, and the fifth was nearly 2 years away. There were only TWO MCU movies in existence. TWO. There are 23 out now. THAT is how long this book sat on my shelf. I don't know why any of that matters, but when I saw how close it was to being a full damn decade this has sat on my shelf before I got to it, I thought I would share, because I wish I would have read it long before now.

But I can't complain, because reading this now meant that I got to read it with a bunch of the awesomest pantsless folks I know (and I don't mean Pablo, though I'm sure he's great, if only we could understand him): Delee, 2.0, Ginger, Licha, and new to the party but leaving her pants at the door, Vivian. It was a fun one. Well... as fun as isolation, death, and dismemberment can ever be! :P

OK, so on to the review. As usual, there may be spoilery stuff, be forewarned!

Quick and dirty premise: Two early 20s couples are on vacation in Cancun, and decide to venture out to an archaeological dig with a fellow traveler whose brother went there (chasing a girl) and hasn't made it back yet. They are accompanied by "Pablo", a Greek guy who has tagged along, despite not speaking the same language as any of the people he will encounter. So the 6 of them make their way out to the site, and despite being warned away several times, make their way up the hill but then are unable to leave.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It got into my head and I kept wondering what was happening when I wasn't reading it, and I love when books do that, so in that way, it was a definite success.

So, let's knock out the nitpicky stuff first:
I don't think that the writing was as clean as it could have been. This book has this shifting character perspective style, not in chapters or segments as most books do, but more like fluid, constantly shifting style. Think A Casual Vacancy, but not quite as skilled or seamless. It was effective enough, though, and on the whole it worked, but I did think that there were some confusing sections where it was unclear who the "he" being referred to was, or who's perspective we were seeing through, etc.

I also thought that there were some confusing descriptions of the action, which meant that I had to read some sections a couple times to understand what actually happened.

I think the pacing could have used a bit of work, honestly. I didn't mind the build-up over the page count, but the fact that 90% of the "action" happened in roughly 100 pages at the end, it really just made it feel unbalanced to me.

I also thought that Stacy and Amy, for all their differences, often felt like the same person, a generic girlfriend character, especially when arguing with their boyfriends. They talked and acted the same ("Can you do X, honey? Can you do that?"), despite being described completely differently in their mindsets. Stacy is a space cadet type, one who is kind of oblivious to the world around her, one that is kind of absently selfish, flirty, flighty, etc. Amy is more a sullen, depressive type. She doesn't often want to do what others are doing, but doesn't want to be alone either. She is described in the book as preferring to hang out with the group doing something she hates rather than be alone doing something she loves. So, she will go along... and then hold that shit against you when she doesn't enjoy it.

So... Yes, they were best friends, for some reason (because the book said so), but were very different people, so to have them SOUND exactly the same, was a bit strange to me.

I didn't really like any of the characters, but I think that it doesn't really matter. This wasn't really the type of book that is trying to tug the heartstrings and really gut you when something happens to one of them... it's a horror thriller. So it works. But more on the individual characters in a bit.

Some things I really liked:
I loved how this book got in my head. I wanted to know what was going to happen. And, despite my slow progress, it is actually a very quick read for 500+ pages. If I had made more time to read, instead of just trying to squeeze a bit in before bed (and then staying up way too late), I probably would have knocked this out in 2-3 days. Easy. It's readable. It's compelling and intriguing. It's like a trainwreck you can't quit stop looking at, because you need to know what happens next.

I didn't love the individual characters, but I was absolutely fascinated to what happened to them - well some of them. Some of their fates are a study in psychological trauma and horror, and it was really great for that aspect. But some enacted that fate on me, while the character had a more... standard physically traumatic experience.
Honestly, I think the more that I think about this aspect, the more I like the book. It's one that has grown on me, even as much as I was enjoying it while reading.

Some thoughts on the characters:
Eric: I think Eric's story ended up being my favorite... whatever that says about me. LOL ERIC himself wasn't my favorite, by any stretch, and mostly I found him to be a whiny, insecure, immature dude. BUT, he did go down into the mine for Pablo, and he did risk his own life potentially to stay with him. So there's that.

Pablo: Man I felt bad for him! Everything that happened, and he was completely alone and unable to communicate at all. That's heartbreaking to me.

Jeff: Mr. Boy Scout... Who decided to go on this trip on a whim and woefully underprepared, but made the best of a bad situation with whatever he could to help them survive once they were trapped. He had a savior/hero complex. He saw himself as a sort of tragic hero, the one who has to always make the hard decisions to do what needs to be done, to wade out into the rapids so that others may cross, etc. I was not actually bothered some of the decisions he made. I actually think that it was in survival-mode character for him.

OK - other topics:
I wish there were actual ruins in this book called The Ruins. I mean, yes, the mine "counts", but I would have loved for this to be set among actual recognizable-as-Mayan-ruins ruins.

One of the member's reviews mentions Kukulkan as being the god that this story may have been inspired by. I think she may be on to something there, not only for the coloring (dark green and red), but also because Kukulkan was said to preside over sacrifices at Chichen Itza.

I also found that there was a sacrifice pit in Chichen Itza, the Sacred Cenote, which was a sinkhole that sacrificial victims would be dropped into as an offering to the gods. And, that they'd often use arrow sacrifice rituals, where the victim was circled and shot with arrows, and how important the sacrifice dying slowly was. This really seems like bits and pieces of these rituals and relics were borrowed, and changed up a bit, for this story, but there are definite similarities. The way that the Mayans circle the hill, the way that they prefer arrows over the gun (though maybe that's more for practicality), the way that they forced them up the hill but didn't kill them outright - instead making sure that they died slowly - a proper sacrifice.

The journals: I would have definitely wanted to know more about these, and it bothers me that we didn't. It breaks the Chekhov's Gun rule. (If you're not aware, this is the principle that states "every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed; elements should not appear to make "false promises" by never coming into play.")

OK... this review was totally overlong and yet totally lazy, because I essentially stole my discussion posts and threw them in here. But it counts. Overall, I really liked this book, and I'm sorry I waited so long to read it.
Profile Image for Michelle .
258 reviews78 followers
April 22, 2022
I watched the movie based on this book a few years ago and loved it. So, when I heard so many people talking about how great the book was, I thought I might as well give it a go. And I'm so glad I did!!

Maybe all we can do is wait and hope and endure for as long as we’re able. The food will run out. Our bodies will fail. And the vine will do whatever it’s going to do.

There is no downside to this book - great writing, fantastic plot, relatable characters, twists and turns, and dark unexpected moment. I loved every minute of it. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Patrick Wilson, and I honestly could have listened to it forever. 5 stars!!!
Profile Image for Rodrigo.
1,056 reviews409 followers
June 27, 2021
Me ha encantado!! Un libro que va de menos a más.
Al principio pensaba que sería algo relacionado con una ruinas y alguna maldición, pero no, que equivocado estaba.
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,065 followers
November 17, 2014

Are you lost?

Jeepers – this novel was hard to read! Not because it was bad by any means, but because of the harrowing situation the author creates for his characters.

The Ruins features some pretty explicit descriptive imagery. I’m not sure whether I would describe it as an overly “gory” novel though. The blood and guts sequences are treated with the clinical detachment of a surgeon: that’s to say, it’s pretty bloody but isn’t all that messy. Except, of course, when it is…

What really got to me was the psychological build up. I kept imagining myself or a loved one in a situation like this.

[He] had the urge to vomit, his tongue going thick, bile rising in his throat.

While I didn’t particularly care much for any of the characters, I found The Ruins to be a fairly tense, visceral read. I had sweaty palms on more than one occasion, and could almost physically share the sensations experienced by the cast. But, to be clear, don’t expect too many character dimensions here.

She didn’t like the rustling sounds. It seemed as if more were happening out there than the wind could account for.

Smith writes in an easy to read, almost conversational style, which speeds things along.
All in all, it was actually pretty good. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but this is perhaps a good thing. Stephen King seems to have enjoyed it, at any rate (he wrote the blurb).

She hated it for being able to move, for its hunger, and its malevolence.

The Ruins has some layers if you are prepared to look for them. I have a number of questions and thoughts which I can’t discuss here because they would amount to spoilers. It isn’t groundbreaking, but if you’re a fan of survival horror, or creepy crawly stuff in general, you might want to check this out. [I have not seen the film, so I have no opinion on that]

3.5 stars

How does it know? How does it know? How does it know?
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