Book review of The Ruins

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Buy your copy from The Ruins starstarstarstarno star Author: Scott Smith
Publisher: Knopf (2006)
Genre: Fiction/Horror

The long-awaited new novel by the author of “A Simple Plan,” Scott Smith, poses a pair of intriguing predicaments: one for its readers, and another for its critics.

For the reader, “The Ruins” serves up a vague yet enticing premise: A group of twentysomething vacationers leave the safety of their Mexican resort to seek the brother of one of their companions, who disappeared in search of an archaeological dig among some Mayan ruins. What they find en route is an unrelenting nightmare.

For the critic, the quandary is how much of the nature of the group’s quest to reveal. It’s not a question of giving away spoilers; to reveal the book’s ending, or even its major plot points, would be bad form. No, for the critic it’s a question of balancing the need to serve one’s readers with the desire to preserve as much reading enjoyment for those readers as possible. Allow me to explain.

Smith’s publisher, Knopf, appears to be purposely holding back one key aspect of “The Ruins” from the book’s press materials, synopsis and cover blurbs…because they believe that to reveal that aspect would immediately diminish the market for the book. Again, it’s not the ending; it is something that is established within the first 60 pages (and remains an issue for the remainder of the novel), something that makes it distinctly different from Smith’s phenomenally successful debut, and something that, were potential buyers made aware of it upfront, might cause them to reconsider paying the book’s $24.95 cover price.

“Hmmph,” they might sniff after reading the inside cover, were this information to appear there as it ought to. “That’s ridiculous. I don’t read books about X.”

And so the question you must ask yourself, then, is whether you want to know what ‘X’ is. This review covers both options. Just like the characters in the story, you must choose which trail to wander down, which step to take next.

So, dear reader, which path will it be? Will you choose to be forewarned, and therefore forearmed – but perhaps less excited about the journey as a result? Or would you rather proceed in blissful ignorance, allowing the marketing team to achieve their goal unhampered by a prudent word of caution?

The trail splits here. Choose your path wisely, for there is no turning back.

Click here for the “Ignorance Is Bliss” route

Click here for the “Forewarned Is Forearmed” route

~Deb Medsker