The Ruins by Scott Smith, Narrated by Patrick Wilson

Scott Smith pulls no punches with The Ruins, delivering an increasingly disorienting barrage of horrors until the reader arrives at what can be the only conclusion this story could have. There will be no ersatz happy ending shoehorned into the tale Smith shares with the progressively uncomfortable reader. I must rip that bandage off right away. The Ruins is a horror story that mingles body horror with the terror of isolation and the unknowable.
While on vacation in Mexico, two couples befriend a German tourist who was on a holiday of his own with his brother. When Mathias’s brother doesn’t return from an archaeological dig he’d ventured off on, the two couples and another tourist–one of a trio of Greeks who speak no English–join Mathias in his search. The journey takes them deep into the jungle of the Yucatan, far from the beaches and resorts crowded with revelers.
Following a crudely drawn map, the group manages to find themselves approaching a vine-covered hill where Mayan locals accost them for unknown reasons, though seemingly attempting to keep the tourists from venturing any closer to the mound across the clearing. When one of the tourists backs into the vines while trying to capture a photo of the language barrier-hampered exchange taking place, the Mayans’ attempt to keep the six of them from approaching the hill transforms into a merciless bid to keep the tourists from venturing back across the clearing.
As misfortune and decreasing odds of survival strain the group’s optimism and belief they’ll walk away from this misadventure unscathed, it gradually becomes clear that they’re facing something insidious and terrifying that defies comprehension. Discovering the truth behind the Mayans’ desperate need to keep the six of them confined where they are, threatens to push the group of friends and acquaintances beyond the limits of what they can endure.
Scott Smith does an excellent job of balancing the threats, making the experience feel as claustrophobic and intense as he can without placing the reader in similar circumstances. Between the Mayans patrolling the perimeter of the hill, the diminishing supplies, the environment itself, and the terrifying life inhabiting the mound, it’s always up in the air which hazard will prove to be the deadliest.
Patrick Wilson’s narration is both professional and competent, effectively differentiating the characters and articulating the narrative. He also successfully tackles Mathias’s accent and aloof character without dropping the ball.


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