Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Audio book review: Late at night while you're sleepin' poison ivy comes a creepin' around

the ruins CD coverFour young Americans about to enter graduate school or begin new jobs back home are relaxing in Cancun, Mexico, soaking up too much sun and tequila. At their hotel they befriend a group of Greek men and a German. The German’s brother has gone missing after becoming smitten with a woman and following her to a Mayan archaeological dig in the jungle. The only clue to his whereabouts is a crudely drawn map to the ruins.

The Americans are up for a little adventure and decide to assist the German in his search. One of the Greeks tags along. It’s not long before they regret the trip and realize what a fatal mistake they’ve made, but by then it’s too late. There’s no turning back from what awaits them at the ruins. It is ancient, unrelenting, slow to reveal itself...and it won’t allow them to leave.

Language barrier is an underlying ominous theme in Scott Smith's The Ruins. The Americans have trouble communicating with the Greeks. They all have trouble communicating with the bus driver who takes them to the ruins and tries to warn them away, with the villagers who greet their arrival with silence and stares, and, most tragically of all, with the last man who unsuccessfully tries to prevent their entrance to the ruins.

The Ruins is read by actor Patrick Wilson (Running with Scissors, Little Children, The Alamo). The music is a perfect accompaniment to the suspenseful story, kind of slow and sad and resigned to the inevitable fate of the characters.

Scott Smith is a pro at making us squirm as we watch his characters do stupid things, which lead to more stupid things, which starts the ball rolling to a most unpleasant denouement.

On the face of it, The Ruins may seem so different from Smith's earlier novel, A Simple Plan. One is about a group of intelligent twentysomethings on a trip to Mexico, the other is about a simple married man and his dimwitted brother and sidekick in Ohio. But as each story unfolds and the characters begin making choices that fly in the face of common sense, we realize just how similar they are.


Search the JCLC catalog for Scott Smith's works. His novel A Simple Plan was made into a feature film starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton and Bridget Fonda; directed by Sam Raimi.

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