Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

When good BLURBS go bad

First of all, I didn't buy Scott Smith's The Ruins because of a blurb. So in no way am I claiming to have been misled into a hardback purchase because the Master of Horror, himself, indicated that The Ruins was "your basic long scream of horror."

Ooooo...hold up. Had to dab at the drool. I love the prospect of a good horror story.

But those words weren't were what prompted me to get Smith's book. It was a very small, easily missed mention in Elle magazine, on one of those Top 10 lists or Things that are Hot. Amazing how a few lines can turn your head.

I believe it was a whole 10 word sentence that said something to the effect "American tourists vist Mexican ruins and everything goes to hell." Or someththing like that. It really picqued my interest.

My mind was made up. I was getting the book.

When I caressed my copy and saw King had blurbed The Ruins, my enthusiasm was reinforced. I consumed the book in 24-hours. Actually less. And...well, it was a good book. But it didn't live up to the hype of the blurbs.

This concerns me for two reasons:

1. What if something like this happens to me?!?! What if some really cool author blurbs my book. Then someone picks it up because of said blurb, reads DRAMA and is like, wasn't all that.

The disappointment I feel, right now, in The Ruins has me feeling more than a wee bit self-conscious.

2. Dang it, I was really really hoping The Ruins would live up to the blurbs! I was seriously hyped for it to rock me.

I walked away feeling like I do when I see a movie based on a book, slightly let down. I kept waiting for the chills or the ecstasy that comes with having a blurb fulfilled.

Although, I think The Ruins may be one of the few books that easily can become a super cool movie. In particular here are the portions of the blurbs that built my expectation and inevitably left me empty (spoiler alert: content below may reveal plot points):

King said "Smith intends to scare the bejabbers out of you, and succeeds."

JMO, but I felt like the story took too long to get to the scaring my bejabbers away. And, if I'm being brutally honest...well, it never did.

King said, "It does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches..." That movie Open Water? Now THAT, does for island vacations what Jaws did for N.E. beaches. But, in Smith's book, the people's vacation was actually going pretty durn smoothly until they left for the ruins. And it's not like they went on some innocent hike and things went all crazy, which can happen to anyone and is a scary thought. No, the characters went pretty far out of their way before trouble struck. How many of us plan to do that on vacation?

Carol Memmott, of USA Today said, "What Stephen King did for cars with Christine and for dogs with Cujo, Smith does for creepy foliage." see, there was the line that really had me salivating. I've ready 99% of King's work, Christine and Cujo among them. And let me tell you, King is the master of taking the most innocent person, place or thing and turning it into something that can send you screaming into the night.

So, that line by Memmott was the clincher for me, and ultimately why I ended up so disappointed.

King has this way of weaving a story together full of plenty of backstory. The reader is rarely left wondering "why?" the evil person, place or thing was evil.

Cujo caught rabies from a cave ful of bats. Christine was owned by a pedophile or some such sick bastard.

It's the backstory that pulls you in and allows you to read the rest of a King horror with a sense of satisfaction that you know something the characters don't. And, yeah, it's a little sick, but you take some perverse joy in knowing why they're being terrorized.

Smith never, ever tells us the origin of the evil foliage. And damn if it didn't leave me angry.

Where had these strange vines come from? Why did they enjoy feasting on people? How come they were so darn smart? How, honestly, were they contained to this one large hill in the middle of nowhere?

I kept waiting and waiting for this nugget of info to be revealed. The closest Smith ever got amounted to about a paragraph of dialogue, which revealed nothing since the characters had no way of knowing how the vines came to be the man-eating creatures they were.

I'm not hating on this book. I wanted it to be a thrill ride. I wanted to be scared. I wanted to walk away with a new author in my arsenal of "Must read, do not pass go when their next book comes out."

And, to clear the record, I'm not comparing Smith to King.

I like for authors to stand on their own and not mimic another author. I didn't want Smith to be King. However, having been nurtured on King's horror, I'm hard to please...I suddenly realize.

No bitterness on my part. How one feels about a book is subjective. King and I just have to agree to disagree on The Ruins.

I just wish I could get rid of this sense of longing for the answers. Someone give me backstory on these vines so I can sleep at night!


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