Title: The Troop
Author: Nick Cutter
No. of Pages: 368
Origins: Gallery Books
Release Date: 25 February 2014
Bottom Line: Gripping, horrifying, and unforgettable
“Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there—which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier. But for some reason, he can’t shake the feeling that something strange is in the air this year. Something waiting in the darkness. Something wicked . . .
It comes to them in the night. An unexpected intruder, stumbling upon their campsite like a wild animal. He is shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—a man in unspeakable torment who exposes Tim and the boys to something far more frightening than any ghost story. Within his body is a bioengineered nightmare, a horror that spreads faster than fear. One by one, the boys will do things no person could ever imagine.
And so it begins. An agonizing weekend in the wilderness. A harrowing struggle for survival. No possible escape from the elements, the infected . . . or one another.
Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity . . . and terror hungers for more.”
Thoughts: The Troop should come with a warning label: “Read at your own risk. Some scenes are so disgusting they may make you sick to your stomach.” However, that type of warning label might detract some readers from picking up this thrilling and terrifying story. To avoid the novel because of a few nauseating scenes would mean missing out on a compelling story about greed, survival, and the depths to which people will sink to achieve both.
The action starts immediately with the newspaper articles about the Hungry Man and his strange antics. The palpable sense of foreboding hits the reader full force when the scene moves to the Hungry Man’s point of view, and readers instinctively know that whatever answers await to be uncovered are not going to be good. Tension continues to build through each shift in point of view and each jump in time. The imaginative use of interview transcripts and news articles published after the events on Falstaff Island provide readers with important clues as to the scope of the issue and its origins. They also add to the ongoing horror as readers understand just what faces the boys on the island. Indeed, what the boys must face is the stuff of which the worst nightmares are made.
The Troop is the type of story during which there is no respite from the terror or the suspense. Readers hoping to catch a break during one of the shifts in narrator find themselves sucked into a different type of horror than the recently departed scene. Mr. Cutter draws on man’s ability to do unimaginable harm in the name of “the collective good” to add depth to his old-fashioned monster story and does so with aplomb. In the end, determining who or what exactly is the monster is the question that will haunt readers for days, if not weeks, upon finishing the novel.
The Troop follows a fascinating trend in apocalyptic pandemics wherein the origins are something innocuous that falls prey to the machinations of businesses and/or governments. Mr. Cutter brings together this trend with an acerbic commentary on the greed which drives such genetic manipulations. His brilliant portrayal of fear, the unspeakable actions of the infected, and many gruesomely realistic descriptions create an unforgettable novel that grips and haunts readers.