Smith’s book has been on my to-read list for a while. I have had a life-long love affair with horror novels…both the truly creepy (Peter Straub’s Ghost Story springs to mind) and the truly schlocky (just about anything by John Farris) but I don’t read them too much anymore. Still, The Ruins came with quite a pedigree. Smith wrote A Simple Plan a kick-ass book about how the discovery of a crashed plane and millions of dollars irrevocably changes the lives of three average guys. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
The Ruins follows the fortunes of four friends on vacation in Mexico. They go to the site of Mayan ruins with Mathias and Pablo to search for Mathias’s missing brother. What follows is an entertaining enough story of pure fantasy- meaning that the horror they encounter isn’t the worst thing to happen to them. (And it’s not all that believable, even for a horror fan.) Smith’s true talent is in scraping at the dark things people do to each other and themselves when they find themselves in a bad place.- For my money though, A Simple Plan does a much better job of making us both wince and shudder.
Stephen King called The Ruins “the best horror novel of the new century.” I’m a King fan, but I’m going to have to disagree. If you want to go to the dark place, read A Simple Plan or better still, read King’s classic, It.