The Ruins

The RuinsThe Ruins by Scott B. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a little late to the game, but when I finally got around to reading this strongly written novel, I found myself unable to put it down. Smith masterfully conjures characterization and detail with an economy of words. I’ve heard criticism that the characters are too “annoying” to root for, but because of Smith’s sure hand I found them more to be authentically drawn early twenty-somethings (which I suppose could make them automatically annoying). Their actions and reactions may not always be heroic, but they’re never unrealistic or without relatable motivation. They are authentically human, and as such I had no trouble sympathizing with and rooting for them. Smith deserves extra points, too, for coming up with an original and creative threat to these characters, and for keeping the pacing up in what is essentially a single, confined setting. I was so caught up in the story and the characters that I really didn’t want this novel to end. I thought it was a compellingly crafted character study of people dealing with an extreme situation.

My one complaint is that the Mayans are portrayed without much humanity. They are the inscrutable Other, complicit in what befalls the protagonists, but I would have liked to see at least a moment of doubt cross a single Mayan face, a look of regret or even helplessness. Instead, they remain alien, unknowable, an incomprehensible threat, and I can only imagine how much more complex the story could have been had the Mayans been as well drawn as the other characters.

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



News & Updates

  • 09/22/2020 — Anais Nin at the Grand GuignolAna├»s Nin at the Grand Guignol by Robert Levy My rating: 5 of 5 stars Dark, sexy, and written in a suitably decadent prose style, Robert Levy’s supernatural take on historical figures Anais Nin, Henry Miller, June Miller, and real-life star of the Grand Guignol Paula Maxa will leave you breathless.…Read more »
  • 09/17/2020 — Harrow County, Vol. 2: Twice ToldHarrow County, Vol. 2: Twice Told by Cullen Bunn My rating: 5 of 5 stars Emmy’s long-lost twin sister Kammi visits Harrow County to meet her sister and claim her power, setting off a dark chain of events that turns the haints against Emmy.…Read more »
  • 09/09/2020 — Underworld DreamsUnderworld Dreams by Daniel Braum My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is Daniel Braum’s best collection yet, filled with stories that exhibit a masterful sense of ambiguity and explore the tension between the personal and the profound.…Read more »
  • 08/28/2020 — Harrow County, Vol. 1: Countless HaintsHarrow County, Vol. 1: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn My rating: 5 of 5 stars A fun, fast-moving setup to what I expect will be a highly enjoyable series, COUNTLESS HAINTS combines writer Cullen Bunn’s masterful use of atmosphere and setting with artist Tyler Crook’s vibrant watercolor illustrations to create something truly compelling.…Read more »
  • 08/26/2020 — Survivor SongSurvivor Song by Paul Tremblay My rating: 5 of 5 stars Paul Tremblay steps away from the ambiguous, maybe-supernatural horror novels he’s been writing over the past few years to present a realistic tale of survival amid a scientifically-based epidemic.…Read more »