Title: The Troop
Author: Nick Cutter
Publisher: Gallery Books (Imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Coming Soon: January 7th, 2014
Source: ARC via Netgalley
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.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a horror genre reader. I’ve probably read all of two horror books in my life and never really ventured much further than that probably out of self-preservation. But I just couldn’t pass this one up. The cover is just so haunting and draws you in to that little island of horrors. Then there’s the premise: Boy Scout camping trip gone horribly, horribly wrong. The idea is such a blend of innocence and survival that you can’t help but wonder where boyhood would end and survival instincts would take over.
At first I didn’t necessarily like this book. In fact, I thought about putting it down numerous times and not coming back to it. The primary source of this urge was due to some really horrifying animal abuse/torture scenes. The story is not necessarily about this, but there is one person in this book that is depraved beyond belief and in getting to know him and his psyche we stumble upon some stuff that gives you a very good overall picture of how awful of a person he really is. After having read a few of these scenes I skipped over one that started out with a cat. I don’t know how bad that one got but I couldn’t even fathom putting any more of the kind of torture this boy was clearly capable of into my head. It was literally starting to make me sick to my stomach.
I should probably note that there were some animal abuse and killing scenes that didn’t involve this boy. But I personally didn’t find them as revolting because they weren’t done without a purpose and with the sole intent of hurting another living thing. They were still horrible to read, but the scenes involving this one boy were the most disturbing in my opinion.
However, once I got past the majority of this particular boy’s inner thoughts (by skipping them altogether or pushing through) the rest of the story was grudgingly entertaining. I say grudgingly because this is probably one of the most horrifying and icky books I’ve ever read, but like a train wreck I couldn’t look away. Let’s just say anything that squirms and slithers around will freak you out for a while after reading this book. Heck, I practically screamed when a moth landed next to me on the couch when I was reading this. I might have even karate chopped it a little bit. lol
But aside from the gross and the horrible, I liked that The Troop echos how life can be both extremely fragile and surprisingly resilient at the same time. This message resounded in many different ways throughout the book and with each of the boys, and I thought it was fitting given the thing that they’re running away from the whole time.
In the end, The Troop is raw and gritty and totally unforgiving. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything and Cutter’s ability to describe the gross and the horrifying will either have you squirming in your seat or (if you’re a little bit depraved) squealing in delight.
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