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Old April 14 2008, 11:03 PM   #117
Spaceman Spiff
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Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

I finished The Ruins last night. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, because the characters remained pretty shallow and made some silly mistakes which made it hard to connect with them.

That said, it's a gut-wrenching story, because even if it's hard to identify with the characters, they're put through some awful paces. You empathize with them just by default of being human.

There's nothing in the way of human sacrifice, though. It's all about the vine. It's sort of a straightforward monster story, in a way. We're not given much information about where the vine might have come from (some people didn't like that--I don't really care, unless it has some sort of meaning), but it does a whole lot more than simply grab people and get under their skin. In fact, it's got some abilities which I'm curious to see how they pull it off in the film without seeming silly.

But Smith is a good writer. He builds some pretty good tension, and there were a few stretches where I couldn't put it down.

I've seen some people say that it would have worked better as a short story, and that might be true from the perspective of pure plot, but despite the length, I don't think Smith really dawdles anywhere. It's funny to admit that, after previously complaining that he'd spent 50 pages (mass market) on one character rescue. But given its placement near the beginning of the novel, it makes sense to ground the reality of the danger they're in as soon as they get to the ruins.

I don't know if I think it's the best horror novel of the 21st century so far (per Stephen King's cover blurb), but it's a pretty tense tale.

...

I've got more updates on stuff I've bought recently--a Waldenbooks nearby is closing down, and they were selling all of their stock for 40% off, so I cleaned up--but I'll save that for another post.

I've just started Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. The fact that he's Stephen King's son is the worst-kept secret in horror fiction, but it's got me curious. Plus, you have to like the premise: "Aging rocker buys a ghost on the Internet."
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