The Ruins by Scott Smith: Death by Mayan’s

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I first heard of this book “through the backdoor” as it were. I’d seen the film first. I can somewhat hazily remember liking it. It wasn’t anything to write home about, as far as I can remember, but the film did strike a chord with me. I discovered that it had been made from Scott Smith’s (no relation) book of the same name.

I discovered the book whilst perusing the many available books on Amazon. My eye caught a blurb by the horror Meister himself Stephen King. He gave what I thought was a glowing recommendation of the book. That to me was a seal of approval and I then ordered a hardcopy of the book.

It was only after getting said book that I realised that the glowing recommendation was for his first book, A Simple Plan. Upon learning this disturbing and misleading fact, I raised my clenched fists to the sky and cried, “Damn you Amazon!”

Not really. I did, though, mutter a slight curse at my obvious gullibility and no, I do not want to buy prime real estate in the swamplands of Florida… Or do I?

I haven’t read Mr Smith’s first novel, but I am going to since I trust Stevie King implicitly. But for now, I’ll just focus on the book I have read.

The Ruins is set in Mexico (obviously since the Mayan’s don’t come from any other part of the globe) and it follows the deathly journey made by a group of young people who are just starting out in the world. Jeff and Amy are medical students. Stacy and Eric are happy-go-lucky kids who have drifted together. Eric has been hired as an English  teacher and Stacy has no idea what she is going to do.

This group of four have been joined by Heinrich and Mathias, two German men who happen to be in Mexico on holiday and three Greeks who, since no one can speak the language are referred to as Don Quixote, Pablo and Juan. When Heinrich runs off to some Mayan ruins in pursuit of a female student who is working at the site and then seemingly vanishes, Mathias decides to find him.

Jeff, Amy, Eric, Stacy and Pablo decide to accompany him on what appears, on the face of it, to be a lark and an adventure. Unfortunately for this small band of “explorers” when they eventually find Heinrich they also find something deadly amongst the ruins. After being trapped on the archeological site by neighbouring villagers, the group must try to survive until help arrives.

Jeff, the Eagle Boy Scout, is the leader and he must struggle to keep them alive as well as try to find a way out of their deadly predicament.

This was a great read. I honestly cannot remember if the film adapted from the book was a faithful representation of the story. I’ve down-loaded the film and I’ll watch it soon so I can make an accurate comparison.

Smith does a good job of fleshing out all his characters and paints a great picture of the young people who don’t let language barriers stop them from connecting with other people.  Unfortunately this lack of language skills is what helps to trap the happy-go-lucky group in the ruins.

The only drawback to the book was some of the actual characters themselves. I bonded with Jeff and with the “spacey” Stacy but none of the others had traits that made them personable enough to connect with. And the “foreigners” like Mathias and especially Pablo, did not have enough development either because of the language barrier (Pablo) or lack of character information due to personality (Mathias).

Despite my “disconnection” with some of the main players, I did feel a lot of empathy for the group and their fight for survival. Smith has also introduced a “Big Bad” that was properly creepy and downright scary! And this big bad was nasty and cruel. I can’t tell you what it is, you’ll have to read the book to get that. But it not something you’ll forget about after you’ve read it.

A real 5 star book with just a couple of 3 or 4 star moments. Keep an eye out for Mr Scott Smith, both his books thus far have made a bit of a wave in the literary community. While I try to chase down a copy of his first foray into the horror/suspense/thriller genre, I’ll be looking for any new books he may release.

Author Scott Smith (no relation)
Author Scott Smith (no relation)

The End of the World as We Know it?

So according to certain “scholars” the world is going to end tomorrow. Or, I guess more accurately, in about 6 ½ hours (give or take a few micro-seconds). But the six some odd hour’s thing is just a guess since the Mayans did not actually say when on the 21st the world was actually going to end.

Now don’t get wrong here, I am not thumbing my nose at the Mayans or the scholars who “deciphered” the calendar that suddenly stops on the 21st of the 12th 2012. I will have to admit that I don’t care enough to spend too much time searching the net for additional references to the day the world ends. I probably should though just to be on the safe side.

I don’t want to wake tomorrow morning and waste my time being superior and doing the “See! I told you this was a load of bull pucky;” only to have everything blow up in my face at noon or twelve midnight of the 21st of December.

I know that they came up with this really awesome calendar and that’s great! But do we really think that a race of people who practised human sacrifice could predict the end of the world? Really?

If these ancient Mayan’s were so clever, why did their civilization collapse? Oh sure, a 200 year drought may have had something to do with it, but, they also could have been overthrown by folks who did not fancy being the latest sacrifice to the Gods they worshipped.

In fact, if I have the “facts” straight, their wonderful calendar does not “state” that the world will end on the 21st. It just does not go beyond that date. There could be a lot of different reasons for this.

  1. They could have gotten tired doing all that etching in stone and laid down for a rest. While they were resting, the civilization collapsed and no one cared about finishing the calendar.
  2. Maybe the royal Mayan calendar maker died (or was sacrificed) and they could not find another one.
  3. They might just have gotten bored. After all some new neighbours might have moved in next door and they needed to make them feel welcome.
  4. Last, but not least, perhaps they lost their version of the Abacus they were using and they didn’t have enough fingers and toes to finish the calendar.

But seriously why does anyone believe that an ancient civilization could tell when the world was going to end. I’m pretty sure that the lack of dates past a certain time does not indicate the end of time or dates.

Folks have been saying that the world’s going to end a lot. Okay, most of these folks are religious cranks that usually belong to a cult and believe that angels are going to descend in a space ship and take them to heaven. Of course not all cults believe this, some just think they need to be at a certain place or they’re going to miss the “heaven” train.

Talking to a bank teller today, the subject of the world ending tomorrow came up. “Well, if the world’s ending tomorrow, I’d better wish you a happy Christmas now.” He was laughing when he said it. After we finished laughing at his funny remark I wondered if I still needed to send out Christmas cards this year. I could always send them late with the excuse that I wanted to save money on the postage, especially if the cards would never get there anyway.

But on a different note altogether, I saw somewhere that it was being predicted that the world wasn’t going to end tomorrow, but that all things electrical would cease functioning for three days.

What?

I’m still not sure where this one came from, except I know for sure that it would not have been from the Mayans. Unless of course they really were that advanced and had written on their calendar that electricity would not only be invented, but, that it would be down world-wide for three whole days starting on the 21st.

Now that would be impressive. Not enough for me to believe it, but enough for me to give the Mayan’s more credit for telling the future than I have so far.

Still, if by some chance they were right, I’ll never know and that is how it should be. If we all knew when world was going to end I believe that we would all be a pretty miserable lot.

But if you don’t hear from me after tomorrow…