Nick Cutter’s novel, The Troop is “deeply disturbing.”
I am a hardened connoisseur and writer of the horror genre and I was delightfully appalled by the no holds barred, gut wrenching plot the author provided in one of the most gruesome books Stephen King (he reviewed it, too and gave it a thumbs up) and I have read.
A man infected with a bioengineered disease escapes from a research lab operated by let’s be blunt- a mad scientist. The experiments began with the intention of making billions from producing a diet pill made from the hydatid tapeworm. Unfortunately, although the test subjects experienced massive and rapid weight loss, they were driven to eat anything they could stuff into their mouths to quench their insatiable hunger, such as rotten fish, furniture stuffing, rocks, and even their own body parts. After assessing the severe side effects of taking the pill, the mad scientist decides his worm pill might provide the US military a new weapon of mass destruction.
So, the emaciated infected man’s first stop after his escape is at a diner where he consumes five hungry man breakfasts, each consisting of four eggs, three buttermilk pancakes, five strips of bacon, sausage links, and toast. And, between the courses, he eats all the napkins from the container on the table.
After eating this enormous quantity of food, which ruptured his stomach lining, he stole a truck and then a boat to make his way to Prince Edward Island. As bad luck would have it for anyone crossing his path, he encounters an unfortunate scoutmaster and five fourteen year old boy scouts who had just arrived for their annual exploration of the island.
Tim Riggs, the scoutmaster and Town’s medical doctor, who for some unknown reason ignores the man’s condition and skeletal appearance, tries to help the poor soul by giving him food and shelter. The scoutmaster’s futile attempt to be a good Samaritan in keeping with the Boy Scouts of America help thy fellow-man philosophy leads to a journey into hell for all concerned.
The author takes us deeply inside the minds and sometimes even into the anatomy of the characters thrown together on the island. What began as their typical Boy Scout outing becomes their worst nightmare for real. The youths are cut off from civilization on an island whose waters are infested with sharks, without food, (the intruder and one of their own ate it all) without phones or computers, and without the adult supervision of the scoutmaster. In addition to these hardships, the youth’s parents can’t rescue them due to a military quarantine, and one of their own, who they have known since kindergarten, is a batshit crazy sociopath.
As in Lord of the Flies, when the scoutmaster falls ill to the contagion, the boys are forced to govern themselves, and for the first time, are faced with making life-and-death decisions themselves.
Hark! Be aware The Troop is graphically disgusting, and in addition to the human mental and physical torture and depravity, it includes severe animal and insect abuse. If horror is not your cup of tea, I don’t think Nick Cutter’s gruesome novel is a read you will enjoy. The book is expertly written, having all the elements of excellent writing and the author should not be criticized because certain readers prefer a cuddly teddy bear to Nick’s brand of ugly, depraved, drooling horror.
As in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Cutter’s mixing of current happenings with court transcripts, interviews, and media circumspection after the events taking place on the island added a significant degree of realism to his super-fantastic story. I also enjoyed the author’s choices of metaphors and similes.
The one negative I had with the overall story was the absurdity of the scoutmaster’s actions regarding the overtly sick intruder, who threatened the lives of everyone in his troop. I found myself shaking my head quite a few times as I said to myself, “No way any sane person would ever do that.” But, as you know, these annoying, nonsensical actions by the characters are present in almost every movie and TV show we see to build suspense and fear, especially horror flicks.
So, horror fanatics, breakout the vomit bags and enjoy the horror of The Troop.
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