Monday, November 27, 2006

Book: The Ruins, by Scott Smith (2006)

Sometimes I go months – years – without reading any horror fiction. Then I read two books in a row.

You can see why Smith would try the genre if you’re familiar with his first novel A Simple Plan or the film adaptation which Smith wrote. Plan moved like a bad dream, with the main character aware of every terrible thing bearing down on him yet powerless to stop it.

But The Ruins plays out like a full-blown nightmare. Four young, happy-go-lucky Americans take a cheap vacation to Mexico before getting on with grad school and their adult lives. They meet some Europeans much like themselves, one of whom has a brother who has vanished while visiting an archeological dig. They decide to take a day trip to track him down and ...

I won’t even attempt to describe what follows, for fear I’ll make it sound ridiculous. It’s like something a fevered ten-year-old would cook up in his first night away from home at summer camp. It starts bad and goes downhill (well, technically uphill) from there. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. I had to know just how much worse things were going to get.

The Ruins didn’t truly terrify me, because it’s about an outdoor excursion gone awry. You’ll never find me in these situations. I won’t even venture to 7-Eleven without a flare gun and an all-in-one tool.

TV: Fill In My Blank

Yes, I watched a documentary on the history of Match Game, and I don’t care who knows it. When I was a kid, Match Game was the height of sophistication. It taught me all I know about the art of the double entendre.

I enjoyed the clips of the earlier, more “cerebral” version of the show. (Not too cerebral, though; one of the celebrity guests was Jayne Mansfield.) But I refuse to buy the documentary’s contention that Richard Dawson was Match Game’s villain. Dawson was the game’s best player. He made the show. I have patterned my life on his teachings.