The Ruins by Scott Smith is a horror novel with elements or gore, third-world countries, and college students.
Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking (Well, no, I don't... but that's not the point. I'm trying to say something here, all right?). You're thinking, Saquarry, that sounds all good and fine, but isn't every single horror movie like that? Especially those new-fangled horror movies with all of that "torture-porn" type of stuff... or "gorn" or a million other words to describe the same thing. Aren't there a ton of different movies like that, you're probably thinking.
Well, you're not wrong, but take a look at the title of this review. Go ahead, I'll wait.
So, yeah... you so the "Book Evaluation" thing there too, didn't you? Yeah, this isn't a horror movie. (Well, it was made into one in 2008, but that's not the point, all right?) This is a horror novel with elements of gorn and torture-porn and all that good terrible, terrible stuff... well, kind of at least... but not quite too...
Now, yes, this book is disturbing. Highly disturbing. I would never recommend this novel to anybody who has a week stomach or cannot take even vaguely disturbing stuff in stride.
I think of myself as being very well-abled to handle any kind of horror, in novel form or otherwise... but even I found myself slightly disturbed at some parts... and really disturbed at others.
The premise of this novel is simple. Some college friends, two groups of couples actually) go to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and see the third-world first hand. It starts getting bad when the four college students meet up with a German man and three Greeks who go by Spanish nicknames. The German man, Mathias, has a brother who met a female archaeologist and went to her dig site with her. Mathias really wanted to meet up with his brother again, so the four Americans, Mathias, and one of the Greeks, Pablo, go to the archaeological dig site to find Heinrich, Mathias' brother.
After trying to be dissuaded the six decide to take the plunge to the ruins...
Oh, this can't be good...
It isn't. A bunch of villagers surround the ruins once the six get to it. They also find it strange that an area around the dig site has been salted so that nothing can grow in a large circular area around it. Weird, huh?
Well, Pablo gets hurt after they all think they hear a cell phone in a large hole. They take him up and try to help him out of the dig site, but the villagers surrounding the ruins won't let them go past... they even seem willing to kill to keep the six of them from leaving the dig site.
Oh, this can't be good. Why would they do that? Well, what about that phone that was ringing before? Did they ever find it?
Heh heh... Let's just say that something odd stirs amongst the ruins...
Now, I'm not going to give this story away. The movie is quite a bit different from the novel and the novel is much better. The novel is much scarier even though the visuals on screen in the movie are supposed to be really nice. I prefer the descriptions of the book.
I have to say that this was one of the few legitimately terrifying novels I have ever read. It is disgusting and hard to read at points. The ending is legitimately depressing. I've never read another ending like that in my entire life and I kind of hope to never do so again. It felt like being kicked in the gut multiple times especially with such well-written characters.
This book is well worth reading... much more so than most terrible modern horror novels that aren't Clive Barker, Stephen King, or Peter Straub (Or House of Leaves for that matter, but I'm not going into that one yet.). Seriously check it out if you like horror and feel you can handle it. If not, take my word for it. This novel is wonderful and disturbing... it's hard to read... but also impossible to put down. Have fun sleeping soundly one you've finished it...