There can be something so unrelentingly creepy about killer plants. Pop culture is peppered with terrifying flora, from the shambling Triffid menace to the murderous Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. As a kid, I remember being endlessly fascinated by an episode of Seaquest DSV featuring an invasive carnivorous cutting that nearly sank the submarine and killed all the crew.
So when I picked up a copy of The Ruins, I noted with excitement the paperback cover adorned with thick green vines and blood red flowers. Could this book recapture the creeping fear of ferocious flora…?
In short, nope.
The tale begins with two couples holidaying in Cancun. They are described as young adults, but throughout act more like horny hopeless teenagers. There are the male characters: the strapping hero and the comic relief, and the females: the nag and the airhead. And if you think for a second that the book might deconstruct these worn-out tropes, you would be sorely mistaken. They join with a jovial Greek and a typecast stoic German to travel to a remote Mayan village in search of the German’s missing brother.
They studiously ignore the repeated red flags along the way and set foot on the site of the ‘ruins’, which is just a hill covered in vines with a mine-shaft within. Despite a complete lack of equipment or evidence, this is allegedly the site of an archaeological dig. Never mind, the archaeological dig has absolutely no bearing on the tale of woe that follows. After a misguided and reckless trip down the mine-shaft, the Greek is seriously injured and the band of idiots slowly (VERY slowly) figure out that they are in a deep amount of #$%&.
I’m going to completely spoil the story now, so that I can fully vent my annoyance.
These kids (I shall call them that, as that’s the way they behave) last three days. THREE. DAYS. Mind you, they are equipped with water (which is replenished by regular rainfall), some food and supplies, and shelter in the form of a tent; yet they cannot bloody keep themselves alive long enough to be rescued. And do they die because the hill happens to be covered by a menacing, evil, plotting vine? Not really! The vine certainly disposes of their corpses with ease, but generally they just get themselves killed because they are completely hopeless idiots.
Take, for example, their second night stuck on the hill. Do they build a fire? Come up with a plan for escape? Test the vine to determine whether it has any weaknesses? No no no. They get plastered on tequila and fight. The women have a cat-fight. The men stare broodingly into the middle distance. No-one with a vagina in this story is also equipped with a brain. The women complain and make poor choices and act like toddlers, the men get hand-jobs and act like they are in charge while achieving precisely nothing.
I’m so angry that I gave my time to this book. To top it off, the ending was the most dissatisfying waste of time imaginable. No answers, no intrigue. Just more idiocy.
And, despite the title, not a single ruin was actually featured through the entire novel.
1 pee-jug out of 5. What a waste.