The Ruins

This is the kind of story I love reading. Unique, mysterious, engrossing, and unsettling. And it all starts so innocently with a group of friends living it up while on vacation in Mexico. From there, they meet another tourist who invites them to go see some off-the-beaten-path ruins. I do love these exciting and fun openings that lead into a grim and dire predicament. The contrast makes for a hell of a wallop when the horror starts.

  • Novel: The Ruins
  • Author: Scott Smith
  • Published: 2006
  • Cover Artist: Peter Mendelsund

The Ruins cover


The Ruins’ simple and straightforward setup allows for the horror to take center stage and be the complex element of this story. As the characters become trapped atop the ruins, a malevolent force seemingly present in the setting itself begins to terrorize them, torturing their bodies and minds.

The horror spreads and expands as the characters learn they are willing to do dark things in order to survive. Secrets are kept and revealed. Relationships are made and broken. Risks are taken, and blood is shed. And it still isn’t confined to just the threat of the ruins and our own characters—the locals are forcibly keeping our characters from leaving the ruins.

How the turmoil manifests itself upon each character is shown through their own unique POV chapters, making for very different reading sections. The changing perspectives keeps the story interesting and highlights the difference between what is said and what is thought.


As if taking a few cues from Gothic horror, the atmosphere, setting, and events are subtle, darkly suggestive, and mysterious. Is the creeping horror solely biological or is there a malevolent sentience? Did the characters truly hear what they think they heard? Are the characters spiraling into delusion or are their suspicions warranted?

The disquieting uneasiness of something malevolent and unseen in an apparently docile setting makes for some great atmosphere. It reminded me somewhat of Japanese author Koji Suzuki in Ring (which the movies are based on). Indeed, a lot of Japanese horror movies have given me this similar feeling.


Although not new, The Ruins is a high-quality, unique read that should definitely be checked out. The writing is tight; Smith seems to demonstrate a streamlined style that moves the plot along quickly, conveys images and actions clearly, and evokes tension expertly. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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