Daily Archives: December 18, 2011

Review of “The Ruins”

The RuinsThe Ruins by Scott B. Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have an immense amount of respect for Stephen King and that is the main reason I picked up this book. “The best horror novel of the new century.” said the master of horror. I’m sorry Mr. King, but I disagree. Yes, there were some elements of this book that were extraordinary. But they were not enough to balance an unnecessarily slow start during which I found I didn’t really care much about any of the six people who the story follows as they make one mistake after another on the way to disaster. There was a lot of character development, but none of it helped me invest any emotion to be spent when horrible things happen to them later in the story. And what happens to them does make one squirm, no doubt about it. Looking for blood and guts? Skip to the last 150 pages, you’ll get plenty.

The writing in parts of this novel is as good as you will find in this genre. But Mr. King would have had us caring about these characters in fewer words, and used the savings to torture us all the more in the meat of the story. The blurbs that Mr. Smith attracted almost seem to have been written about a different book entirely. Even the title leads the reader astray. “The Ruins” would indicate something elaborate, worthy of curiosity and exploration. Be warned… it is only a hole in the ground, and one that is scarcely described. A more honest title would have been “The Plant-Covered Hill”… boring, but true.

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Zapped by the Christmas Spirit

Zapped by the Christmas Spirit

In some years, the spirit of Christmas comes over me gradually. Around Thanksgiving, joy and goodwill accumulate in my heart at about the same rate as the pounds being added to my waistline. During the years of creeping Christmas, I am aware of the change in the same way I notice the extra weight. In the back of my mind, I know they both are growing; the increasingly warm, sweet glow from one lends me an air of contentment that I think is visible to the world; I know the world can see the increasing inches added to my belly. The knowledge that the wonder of the season will fade much faster than my holiday paunch is a bittersweet spice that adds an urgent but undefined taste to the succulent holiday meals, colorful wrappings, and bright lights.

There have been years that I never found that Christmas spirit at all. Work pressures, illness, financial issues; the reasons varied for why, on Christmas day, I would find myself dredging up memories of how that seasonal cheer felt, so that I could present a smiling face to family and friends. The result was like splashing a fresh coat of white paint over a dirty wall. I was certain the imperfections would bleed through; the stain of a forced gaiety more obvious as a result of the contrast with those whose spirit was heartfelt.

A big little reason for Christmas cheer

This year I kept expecting it to come early. Because of the presence of my newest grandchild in the house, early snowfall, the excitement of my book release, and the planned visit of my eldest son, I anticipated a long and jubilant immersion in an ocean of holiday cheer. Day after day, I patiently awaited the magnetic pull of Christmas.

And, day after day, it didn’t come. I did a ten-day fast just before Thanksgiving and afterward, stayed at a proper and consistent weight; that hasn’t changed despite the temptation of holiday treats. I wondered if my lack of Christmas spirit this season was somehow tied to my lack of a growing waistline.

Don’t get me wrong – the late fall and early winter has been among the most exciting, rewarding and joyful periods in my life. Still, until last night, that extra spark that could light my inner Christmas fire had yet to be kindled.

Then, during my run last night, it hit me like a lightning bolt out of a cold and perfectly clear night sky. The electric thrill pushed me in happy anticipation toward home, eager for the happy days ahead. My rushed and sappy Dailymile post was the result of an overdose of Christmas spirit…

White satin was rent and scattered along the shoulder of the road as I ran out into the chilled evening. An unexpected moisture hovered above the ground and tickled my face. Faint embers burned low upon the darkening horizon as the night sky became a blanket of black satin spread with millions of crystal shards. I whisked my way through a dim landscape, entranced by the narrow necklace of gems that sparkled across the northern fringe of the earth; city and sky decorated for the approaching season of joy. An early Merry Christmas to all my DM friends.

I call it the writer’s version of a sugar-rush. Such hyper-flowery prose would likely drive an editor crazy.

Yesterday, we trudged through snow to claim a fresh tree from the flanks of the Snowy Mountains. I danced with my six-week old grandson to the magical sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra while my oldest son performed a different magic in the kitchen. Later in the evening, my wife and I went shopping for a few extra Christmas surprises; little things, but I believe thinking about the want and needs of others, and trying to fill them in any way possible, is part of what makes the season special.

In the wee hours of the morning, while the house absorbed a transcendent stillness from those who lay dreaming within, I sat alone on the sofa beneath the bare tree, reading a book while the crisp, eager, evergreen scent wafted around me, feeding my new-found spirit, and whispering “Merry Christmas”.

If this is your first visit to my blog, WELCOME! I hope you’ll snoop around some. And I would love to have you follow by using the button in the right column.

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