Sunday, October 17, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy, Day 68

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Ruins
by Scott Smith

The Ruins (Vintage)A group of young people go for a trip to an archaeological dig in a remote jungle of Mexico. Once they arrive at the site, local villagers will not let the travelers leave, even threatening to kill the travelers if they attempt to leave. The group is forced to remain on the hill where the ruins of the dig are located, all the while dealing with an evil entity that is killing them one by one.

It sounds like pretty basic B movie stuff, and it is. The Ruins, by Scott Smith, is that type of novel. The plot isn't overly complicated, and the characters aren't even likable. Also, some of the events that take place seem a little silly. Again, B movie stuff. Which is probably one reason why this novel, and the movie upon which its based, aren't the most popular.

What is great about this novel, what is truly fantastic about it, is its pacing. Without a doubt, this is the best paced novel I've read in at least 20 years, possibly longer. The horror in this novel (which I'm intentionally not identifying because it would give away too much of the plot) literally creeps up on the victims slowly, ever so slowly. Many of the deaths are quite gruesome.

But that's not the best part of the story. Again, it's the pacing. I don't believe I've ever read a novel in which the situation seems to keep getting worse and worse and worse for the characters, and just when you think it can't get worse, it does so. Again and again and again. It's a seemingly never-ending jolt of fear. I use the word "seemingly" because, of course, the tale must conclude. Eventually there are no more victims.

Unless Scott Smith, in true B movie fashion, decides to do a sequel. And this tale is ripe for such.

Up next: The Pillars of the Earth

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I liked it pretty well and thought to it had some admirable creepiness. I did think it was a big slow at times, although I never found myself losing interst. Seems like it could have been shortened a touch.