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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006 - 03:39 pm:   

It's difficult for me to read right now. I have to get large print books and even then I can't read for very long, Much of what I want to read I can't because it's not in large print format. So I try to be discriminate about my reading choices. I resist most popular fiction, but afer much persuasion I was led to read The Ruins by Scott Smith. What an absolute piece of crap. I kept reading the thing, despite my growing sense of betrayal. I actually finished the book just in case the last word would compete some magical spell. Sad to say, it did not.

The book is written in a simple style that draws one in and seems to have a faint literary cachet--Hemmingwayesque, one might say. Here's a sample:

"They stopped at a well, in the center of the village, peering about, waiting for someone to approach them, not sure what to do if this didn't happen. The well was deep. When Stacy looked over its edge, she couldn't see its bottom. She had to resist the urge to spit, or pick up a pebble and drop it in, listening for the distant plop. There was a wooden bucket on a slimy coil of rope. Stacy wouldn't have wanted to touch it. Mosquitoes hovered in a cloud around them, as if they, too, were waiting to see what might happen next."

(This paragraph, chosen at random, is perhaps not the best pararaph in the book, but it is most assurredly not the worst.)

If you've ever been in a cloud of mosquitoes, you're well aware that they're not waiting, they're feeding. On you. And you don't stand around and wait for them to finish, you run for cover...especially in that part of the world, where mosquitoes are big and voracious. But that aside, the style soon becomes tedious, a tiresome drone, because it is laden with none of the insight or poignant juxtapositions that mark the work of a good writer. The main characters are so resoundingly average in their reactions, that none such are possible. When they are privy to strong emotion, even when they die, their thoughts are conveyed in this same droning, banal voice, and at other times, their thoughts are stated in simple declarative sentences that are italicized ("Shock," thought Amy." "He means the vine," Stacy thought." "Clean the knife." Ad Infinitum). Their responses come across as so bland and anti-illuminative, it seems that they must all be on Xanax or else their personalilties are modeled after that of the protagonist of See Dick Run. It is a book without emotional nuance and complexity,

I can't fucking believe that thinking people believe this is a good book, but it's thinking people who recommended it to me. It's trite, stupid and thoroughly unoriginal. Steven King compares it to The Silence of the Lambs. Not a good comparison. Compared to this, The Silence of the Lambs is Dante's Inferno and A Simple Plan is Doestoyevsky.

I won't get into the absurd evil at the heart of the story--I wouldn't want to spoil it for any potential, though in truth I don't believe it can be spoiled. This is a wretched 586 pages (large print edition) and can only be classified as a page-turner in the most literal sense of the term, i.e., one must turn the pages if one seeks to read it. That this is considered by some "a work of art" is a sad commentary on the state of art in our culture. It's not a work of art, but proof positive we are grading on a curve these days. It's a horror story, the same old horror story--attractive young flesh put in harms way by their own folly--that has fueled hundreds of B movies. It's unconvincingly told, rife with inaccuracies and cliches. Thunder clouds are "ominously dark" and skies are "darkly ominous." There's a fine distinction here. It's full of clumsy and careless writing: for example, the skin around a wound is "noticeably hot." Duh! To be fair, there are intermittent sections of decent thriller writing, but they make the book feel so patchy, one almost wishes they weren't there.

In sum, to parahrase the book: "The Ruins is shite," thought Lucius.
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PM
Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006 - 04:43 pm:   

Can your eyes be saved? (perhaps by those magic lasers?)
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MarcL
Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006 - 05:38 pm:   

Oh well, I was just posting elsewhere that I was enjoying it. I was taking the Xanax affect as deliberate. They've just arrived at the outskirts of the ruins where I'm at. Guess I've got a big let-down in my future.

Also in my future, large print books. Lately I've been browsing that section of the library to see what's in store for me.
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Mikal Trimm
Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006 - 05:56 pm:   

Golly, Lucius! Can I send you a story so you can further ruin your eyesite and bury me as well? (Joking, joking!)

I liked 'Simple Plan' back when I read it, but even then the story carried me through--SS's writing did not make the grade, and I struggled with it throughout. (Liked the movie, though, and didn't have much argument with the way they changed the ending, which is pretty amazing for me.)

(Reading 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell' right now, for which I have very few negative comments, if any. Eco's newest is next.)

Have you read "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane (guy who wrote 'Mystic River')? Now that is a piece of work...wow!
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Friday, September 01, 2006 - 05:39 am:   

So I'm much better off listening to Ruins (Japanese band) than reading The Ruins?

I've seen people raving about it, and the people raving about it tell me what I need to know. Some of them are the same people who read Robert Jordan or talked about how great the Davinci Code was. Sadly I can never get these supposed book fans to try more interesting books.
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MarcL
Posted on Friday, September 01, 2006 - 10:00 am:   

I'm 100 pages in and still turning pages. That's more than I can say for CELL. On the other hand, comparing just pop bestseller-type horror novels, King seems to know and like his characters and assumes that you're going to feel the same way about them, so from the moment you're first thrown in with a random grabbag of humanity, he gives you lots of little details to grab onto. Smith's characters are presented in such a way that you can't assume he cares about them in the least; the style is remote, detached, with the characters lost in little chain of association mind games that are inseparable from padding. I don't think this bodes particularly well for Smith's potential popularity...it's not much of a crowd pleasing strategy.

I find myself editing the book as I read, stripping out all the inner chatter, and trying to imagine what the book would look like if it were purely observational. This puts the less believable elements right up in your face. It's what will be left when this ends up as a movie.
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MarcL
Posted on Saturday, September 02, 2006 - 10:46 pm:   

I'm about halfway through THE RUINS. He certainly shares King's obsession with bodily fluids, and plays it for gags (literally). But I'm still not convinced the book sucks.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Sunday, September 03, 2006 - 09:03 am:   

" ... the one about the kid with the high fever ... "

Oh, yes! "A Day's Wait." That story had a profound impact on me. When I first read it, I had just sold a story to F&SF. This was my first professional sale, back around '94. It was a nice little piece of fluff, I guess, and I was proud of it. I went out and bought the current issue of the magazine on the stands, which I think had a cover of a dragon all decked out like a movie star, eager reporters thrusting microphones into its face. That magazine happened to be sitting next to me when I read "A Day's Wait" in The Complete Stories of E.H. When I finished it (not even three pages!) I sat back and thought about its disproportionate power, its economy, its simple, aching beauty ... and then I happened to glance down at the movie star dragon. I stopped writing (and reading in the genre) for eight years.
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MarcL
Posted on Sunday, September 03, 2006 - 01:43 pm:   

Well, I finished it. There was no reason to actually read most of the last 100 or so pages, and in that sense it was a failure. I think for a straightahead horror novel, it was okay; but given the fact that the premise is a hard sell, he piled way more on than it could possibly support.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, September 03, 2006 - 01:45 pm:   

"I think for a straightahead horror novel, it was okay..."

Yeah, probably. But with my eyes the way they are, I was expecting a helluva lot more.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 08:44 pm:   

Would Stephen King had raved about Scott Smith's THE TATERS?
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 08:55 pm:   

"Oh God!" she screamed. "They have EYES!"
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 09:04 pm:   

According to Amazon, Ben Stiller's production company has the rights to this.

You have to admit, it's ripe for a comic makeover.

Especially the bit with the hat.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 09:06 pm:   

Can you see Ben Stiller in it? Zoolander was horror enough.
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 09:23 pm:   

I think Stiller would be perfect for the role of the dog in the back of the truck:

Mr. Peepers
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, September 04, 2006 - 09:50 pm:   

Is that from the cover? The large print edition is different. Yeah, I see what you mean.
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 12:06 am:   

That's actually a screenshot of Chris Kattan as "Mr. Peepers" from Saturday Night Live.

It kinda sorta looks like Ben Stiller as a dog, though. Maybe. A little.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 05:44 am:   

Oh, yeah. Doh! Christ, you had me fooled. I thought it might be a detail from the cover art or something.
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MarcL
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 10:48 am:   

rofl@lucius.com
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 11:04 am:   

what's this? An email address? What for?
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MarcL
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 11:48 am:   

I'm not laughing @ you, Lucius, I'm laughing with you.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - 02:02 pm:   

Gotcha, I just didn't know if the email led somewheres.

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