Thursday, February 19, 2009

Botany 101: Plants don't eat stupid tourists people

There's something to be said about a non-prolific author coming out with his new book. We just can't wait to get our hands on the next book by Donna Tartt, Ian McEwan, and Michel Faber, just to name a few. We eagerly anticipate their next work because we somehow have the inkling that it's gonna be good (probably because it took too long to write). At the other end of this spectrum are those that churn out at least a book a year -- King, Patterson, Steele, Grisham, et al. These are the true businessmen in the publishing world. The way they write novels calls to mind a production assembly line: the final work is "okay," but it's just like the rest that came before it.

Scott Smith's first novel, A Simple Plan was a pleasant surprise when I read almost 10 years ago. I bought it at a bargain bookstore while waiting for a friend. After several hours, I found myself unable to tear myself away from the riveting plot and the believable characters. His second novel though, The Ruins, is another matter altogether. The Ruins, which is basically a horror story, has been a long time coming. Smith's fans, who were floored with his first novel,

In The Ruins, four Americans, a Greek, and a German are taking their vacation in Cancun when they decide to head to the tropical jungles to find the German's brother who has gone missing. It turns out that the jungle is home to plants of the carnivorous variety. This sad bunch of tourists find themselves trapped by these plants which are unexpectedly hell-bent on eating them.

Readers expecting to be scared shitless by this premise are better off reading R.L. Stine's young adult horror novels. The Ruins is terribly and wrongfully lengthy to sustain the creepy and dread factor. Does Smith really need more than 300 pages to kill all his characters by tropical flora? His characters, which I won't even be bothered to remember their names, fall into stereotypes. As expected, one of them comes off as the only rational person in the group; the rest are simply plant fodder. The gory and suspenseful scenes, while they're the meat of the book, taste bland and too overdone. Most of the time, you're just reading the hysterics of the characters.

I had no doubts that the book would not appear in bestseller lists. Unless you read the book reviews, Smith doesn't give a clue regarding the horror device he employed in his second novel. This ploy would have been ingenious if the book was half as good as A Simple Plan. But because it only made your expectations even higher, your disappointment after reading The Ruins is greater. And sorry, Mr. King, this isn't the "best horror novel of the new century." Perhaps you should lay off writing blurbs for a while.

Read this book if and only if:
  1. You live in a touristy town and wish its visitors would just drop dead.
  2. You don't know that plants are autotrophic (i.e., they can make their own food).
  3. You're clueless why "Little Shop of Horrors" was brilliant without being serious.


Rhett said...

the movie version was worse. blech!

Peter Michael C. Sandico said...

Ang ganda na ng blog ko. Thank you.

Jack said...

Just found this in the "You also might like" feed. I read this book right around this time. Horrible, but not in the sense the author was going for. I try to avoid hyperbole, but this may very well be the Worst Book I Have Ever Read, with not a single redeeming feature.

Having read the book, I passed on the movie...