Do you know how hard it is to kill something? Nothing wants to die. Things cling to their lives against all hope, even when it’s hopeless…You hold on to life until it gets ripped away from you. Even if it gets ripped away in pieces. You just hold on. ~ from The Troop by Nick Cutter
I’ve read a lot of horror novels in my day, although admittedly most of them were when I was younger. I’m a fan of Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and of course, Stephen King, who said about this book,
“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. The Troop by Nick Cutter is the scariest, creepiest, most disturbing novel I’ve read in years. Perfectly marketed as a Novel of Terror, The Troop is a book best read during the daytime with the lights on so that you can avoid the inevitable nightmares you’ll be plagued with if you read it before bed. There were scenes in this book that were so unsettling that I had to put the book down and go back to it later, and I read it during mornings. Described as part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later (Thinner by Richard Bachman also comes to mind), this is one exceedingly freaky, well-paced read.
The Troop is the unforgettable tale of Scoutmaster Tim Riggs and the scouts of Troop Fifty-Two: five fourteen-year-old boys who head out for a weekend wilderness survival expedition (meaning no cell phones) on deserted Falstaff Island in the tiny fishing community of Lower Montague, Prince Edward Island and come into contact with a strange, extremely thin man who changes the course of their lives. One by one members of the troop are infected with a bioengineered, parasitic hydatid worm (originally created in a laboratory to be used in a weight loss product) that infuses them with a hunger that cannot be satiated and causes them to do things that they never would have imagined they were capable of. What is certain to become the infamous “kitten” and “turtle” scenes immediately come to mind and if I’m ever locked in a dark closet I will surely lose my mind.
Kent (popular jock), Max and Ephraim (best friends: one calm, the other explosive, but well liked by others), Newton (overweight nerd) and Shelley (odd duck) are a tight-knit group of teenage boys who have grown up together and evolved as boy scouts from Beavers to Cubs and from Scouts to Venturers. We learn about their backgrounds and personalities as the story unfolds and as a result we care about them (or most of them because let’s face it, no one cheers for a sociopath) which makes it all the more upsetting to witness their individual transformations during the most terrifying experience of their lives. Indeed, something wicked this way comes!
Divided into three graphic and gory parts: The Hungry Man, Infestation, and Contagion and scarier than any ghost story I’ve ever read, The Troop is so frightening because the cause of its horror is something that could conceivably happen. Many of the chapters are prefaced with either newspaper or magazine article, geographical survey report, excerpts from scientific papers, evidence logs from the police investigation and sworn testimony of individuals involved with the events occurring on FalstaffIsland. As we are given more of the details surrounding the development and legacy of the Modified Hydatid worm, we’re pervaded with dread and feel increasingly sicker about the fate of the boys.
I’m wondering if author Craig Davidson will wish that he didn’t use the pseudonym of Nick Cutter for The Troop after its release later this month as it will undoubtedly be a bestseller and a huge success for him.
I loved this book and the only reason it didn’t get a 5 star review from me is because the boys’ characters are fairly clichéd, albeit enjoyable. However, this story stayed with me from the time I finished reading it until I wrote this review (a month), so if you read one horror novel this year, it has to be The Troop.