by Nick Cutter
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Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins in this frightening novel written in the bestselling traditions of Stephen King and Scott Smith. Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons. Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.
The Troop by Nick Cutter is a horror fans dream come true with its unique characters and spine-tingling, belly-flopping, eye-covering tale. Compared to Lord of the Flies and the Ruins and proclaimed to be in the style of Stephen King, Cutter’s tale lived up to the praise. I was compelled to keep reading even as part of me longed to forget. Mini review: Creep-tastic realistic horror with a “breakfast club” of characters. I could not set this down even when I wanted to.
A group of Boy Scouts along with their troop leader Dr. Tim Riggs set up camp on a remote Island of the coast of Prince Edward Island. The boat that dropped them off on this uninhabited island is set to return Sunday morning. When the kids are in their bunks, the doctor is sitting on the front porch enjoying a little nip, when a stranger appears on the island. He is haggard and obliviously ill as he collapses on the cabin doorstep. By morning, he will have infected one of them and unleashed a bio-engineered horror. The tale that unfolds is terrifying and not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
Told from multiple perspectives we are fist hand witnesses to the catastrophic, terrifying events that unfold. The troop is made up of a complex if not cliche group of young men. Cutter did an excellent job of fleshing them out and giving us insight into their personalities. While the characters were a tad cliché the multiple povs helped flesh them out beyond their typical stereotypes. The boys are all fourteen, and this is perhaps the last year for camping and boy scouts. Kent, the leader, is all alpha male. He is both the jock, and antagonist of the group. Newton is the nerd; he is overweight, intelligent and has a mother who smothers him with good intentions. Max is kind, even tempered and looks to help others. Ephraim is quick to anger and has difficulty both intellectually and socially. Shelley is the boy who upon closer inspection, you know is off. He makes you uncomfortable, but he avoids that by blending into the background and appearing to fit in.
The Troop has some similarity to Mira Grant’s Parasite but brings us up close and personal with the results of man’s interference with nature. The flow of the tale kept me engaged, as we rode piggy-back and watched from inside each boy’s head as the terror unfolded. Cutter unleashes his imagination from his odd metaphors to the grizzly details. I love horror, not a movie fan, but I love reading it and while I wasn’t terrified in the sense that I had to keep the lights on, it did give me pause when eating or watching infomercials. This is not for the squeamish. There is oozing, puss, and icky moments that have you feeling your lunch as it edges up your throat. Like Parasite, Cutter delivers information at the beginning of each chapter. We get firsthand accounts from the residence, parents, research notes, recordings and are witness to the federal investigation that occurred in the aftermath. All of these elements were riveting and helped us understand what was happening and terrified us at its implications. As we returned back to the island and another perspective these mind-blowing revelations were always at the forefront of our thoughts.
Fans of the horror genre, and stomach churning gore will want to check out The Troop. This tale sticks with you long after you close the book. I found myself thinking of it and squirming at the images that came to mind.