By Nick Cutter
Rating: 4 out of five stars
If Stephen King says The Troop scared the hell out of him then it better be scary...right? In this case, the boss of the horror book blurb got it right. This is one terrifying novel.
"The Troop" refers to a boy scout troop. In this case, 5 scouts and a scout leader who are on a camping trip on a uninhabited island. The author Nick Cutter does a great job setting up the characters of the scouts and their leader but deftly leaves some important things out which we will learn about later. The boys are archetypes of teenage angst. You got the bully, the volatile one, the popular and nearly normal kid, the picked-on nerd, and the weird kid. But it works here because the teenagers are quite real in their reactions. They strive in their cliche with fart jokes, bullying, posturing, and an obsession about girls and sex. I swear that, somewhere between" Trustworthy" and "Loyal" in the scout laws, they should have placed the word "Horny". As a former Eagle scout, I know. But I digress...
Their camping trip is disrupted by a emaciated man who seems to be very hungry. The scout leader, who is also the town doctor, realizes that something is wrong and that is when everything takes off. It not a spoiler to say that our "monster" is infectious and the result of a lab experiment gone wrong. One of the cool moves in the novel is that the creature or creatures, in question actually exists and you would feel pretty upset if you found out one was existing in you. Now magnify that feeling by a thousand.
Just leave the island, right? Well the radio busted, the boat is broken and what are all those naval ships doing out there and why is are they rescuing us?
OK. Enough set-up. For anything else, you need to read the book to find out. But if you're looking to be scared, and maybe more than a little grossed out, this is the perfect read. The author knows when to lay on the adrenaline and when to back off, keeping the suspense at a consistent and entertaining level. Cutter inserts reports, diaries, and court records pertaining to the beginning of the disaster to help us piece together what is going on as the terror rises. Many have called this a cross between The Lord of The flies and The Ruins. It's a good description. One of the themes in this tale pertains to the frailness of civilized norms and manners when a crisis arrives...remembering that early adolescent boys are slightly beneath the brink of civilization to begin with.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. A really scary novel doesn't show up often, especially one with such a creative "monster". I wouldn't be surprised if this become the horror book to read for the year.
Thanks to Netgalley and Gallery books for allowing me to read and review this book in advance. It might be a few days before I can turn the lights off.