|The Ruins Author: Scott Smith
Publisher: Knopf (2006)
FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED
Ah, so you have chosen the path of full disclosure. Well done. You are obviously the cool-headed, practical one -- like Jeff, the Eagle Scout in Smith’s story.
And, like Jeff, you might be both dismayed and incredulous to learn that the hapless group of vacationers in "The Ruins" is terrorized by…a bunch of plants. Sentient, malevolent, man-eating plants, to be sure…but plants just the same. Vines, to be specific.
It’s preposterous. Can you imagine being Smith’s editor, taking the meeting in which Scott first pitches his idea for the new book? A book his fans have been waiting 12 years to read?
Smith: “Well, it’s about these killer plants down in Mexico, and how they try to eat a bunch of twentysomethings…”
Editor: “Heh-heh-heh. That’s hilarious. No, seriously, what are you writing about?”
Smith: “No, really: that’s my book. I was watching "Little Shop of Horrors" on TBS, and it got me thinking. That’s some scary stuff, that man-eating plant. I mean, Rick Moranis and Steve Martin played it for laughs, but there’s real scare potential there. I’ve got the book half-written already. It’s good, I swear!”
Editor: “Sure it is. Hey, excuse me for a sec; I need to make a phone call. What’s your agent’s number again?”
But before you write off the book just because its premise is admittedly ludicrous…sit tight for a moment. Let go of your preconceptions as to what is and is not an appropriate topic for a “serious” adult novel. Consider walking just a bit further down the path.
Because the thing is…Smith is right. There is real scare potential in the idea of carnivorous plants. Think about it: Plants are harmless, right? They’re just landscaping. We take them for granted. We make assumptions about what they are and are not capable of doing, and we laugh at the thought of any of these salad greens posing a serious threat. All the more reason, then, that should a form of plant life arise to challenge these assumptions -- to, in fact, subvert all of our beliefs about what constitutes a plant -- we might just find ourselves in terrible trouble.
That’s what happens to Jeff, his girlfriend Amy, and the rest of their friends, and the results are harrowing. Trapped in a confined space with the devious, merciless vines, Jeff and the others are forced to rethink their position in the food chain as they fight for survival and await a cavalry that may never arrive.
And the vines aren’t the only thing threatening the clan’s existence: The group is low on food. They’re largely dependent upon rain for their water. They’re beginning to get irritable with one another. Two of them have already sustained grave injuries. And the Mayan farmers at the base of their camp intend to finish them off if the vines don’t.
So: Still say you’re too highbrow to read a book about a bunch of killer plants…or have the vines already caught you in their grasp?
They have, haven’t they?
See? That’s what happens when you take them for granted.