by Christopher O’Halloran (@BurgleInfernal)
Sex and the City brought about an activity that swept the nation. Which of these four friends did you identify with? Were you a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? This characterization exercise could not be contained. It spread to other shows. Which Golden Girl were you? Which Friend on Friends? Buzzfeed and many other ad-splattered websites you can find on Facebook built entire business models off this method.
As first noticed by @ChelseaPumpkins, The Ruins continues the trend. Are you a leader like Jeff? Are you a whiner like Amy? Do your roaming hands have a mind of their own like Stacy? Is following a group of early-twenty year olds who don’t speak your language into certain death your idea of a fun time like Pablo?
The only way to find out is to take a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula to investigate The Ruins…
BEHIND THE PEN
Scott Smith (born July 13, 1965) is an American author and screenwriter who tortures his fans with the fact that he has written only two novels: A Simple Plan (1993) and The Ruins (2006). Both were adapted into films based on Smith’s own screenplays with A Simple Plan earning him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
A NO-SPOILER SUMMARY
Two young couples have their Mexican vacation interrupted when the brother of a new friend disappears. Left with a hand drawn map and an insistent sense of adventure, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. A careless step and hostile Mayans harsh their vibe, and Jeff, Amy, Stacy, Eric, and their new friends Pablo and Mathias find themselves on a vine-covered hill with every priority shifting to surviving the elements, and the terrifying presence that lurks there.
VOICES FROM WITHIN
Before the discussion began, those of us listening to the audiobook gushed over the narrator Patrick Wilson—an actor noted for his roles in Phantom of the Opera, The Watchmen, The Conjuring, and Insidious. “I LOVE Patrick Wilson!” gushes @auntiemaim. “Anyone who sits in the middle of the venn diagram for horror and theater is cool in my book.” His delivery enhances the tension and breathes life into the characters.
“When I started this book I felt every character was unlikeable,” says @Gully, “then I realized most defects these characters have are defects I or my friends have, and I forgive them for it without issue.” The writing of these characters is where Smith really shines. He does a great job of making them deeply flawed in ways that we hate to relate to. We can easily see ourselves making the same dumb decisions, losing our cool in the same way, stumbling into situations way out of our league. Above all, Smith makes them human. Which allows us to feel a sick schadenfreude for them as they don’t deserve the horrors that befall them, but kind of deserve the horrors that befall them.
The plot begins immediately and doesn’t take a break. We begin with a call to action as Mathias introduces this adventure and Jeff rallies the troops. From there, we quickly are introduced to mystery after mystery. Terrible event after terrible event. An endless string of torture that includes an assault on body and mind, and exacerbates existing conflicts between these best friends. The momentum sucked in many HOWLers—many kept reading past previously agreed upon stopping points! “This book is like frigging Pringles,” says @BetamaxTapes. “I’m already down one can and ain’t stopping for no monday chat. See you on Friday, suckers!”
This read occurred at a time when some HOWLers received their second COVID Vaccine, so many spent the first section fighting side effects that added to the delirium of this wild story. They felt feverish with characters battling infection, experienced headaches and sore muscles with our cast as they were wrung dry by the persistent hands of dehydration. Did any of our HOWLers end up drinking their own piss? Well that’s something only a member would know…
WELCOME TO THE BLURBS: HOWL SOCIETY MEMBERS’ REVIEWS IN THEIR OWN WORDS
- Have you ever gone camping and had an unfortunate meeting with poison ivy? This book is like that, except it’s amped up to eleven and happening to people who deserve it!
- Gripping and page turning! Best consumed in one go. For fans of isolationist horror. Quickly told and well written.
- The Ruins takes no time to wrap you up and seep right into your bones. From page one, it’s as if readers are stuck on a sweaty, sticky Mexican excursion with all of the people you hated in high school and there is no end in sight. One of the best horror novels of the contemporary age.
- Give me the rapid breakdown of group dynamics and an inescapable nightmare scenario any day! This book ticked all of my boxes – a strong sense of place, a host of unlikable but uncomfortably relatable characters, and the evil outdoors. This is easily one of my favorite horror novels of all time.
- If you want to relive the excitement of those first nights you spent as a kid crouched under a blanket with a flashlight and a paperback, try The Ruins. I regret not having read it sooner.
- The Ruins… the book where everything is gruesome and the people don’t matter! Came for the body horror, stayed for… well, the body horror.
- This story was so much fun and I really enjoyed it. Some of the characters were a bit insufferable but they are supposed to be, I do think (and they were super fun to hate on!). The body horror was absolutely epic. I also got a kick out of the movie. All around a fun book!
If, like me, you just watched the Friends Reunion on HBO and have a hankering for seeing a group of close-knit 20-somethings exploring the bonds of their relationships, The Ruins will satisfy that itch in the exact same way! Unless I’m misremembering and Friends didn’t involve mutilation, creeping danger, urinating in bottles, and desperate attempts at survival no matter what…