Published by Pocket Books
Publication date: July 22nd 2014
Gross, gooey, and well…yucky, and those are the positive adjectives if you’re a horror fan. Nick Cutter’s The Troop goes exactly where squeamish people don’t want to go and does so in a way that if you’ve started the novel makes you unlikely to stop. When the nastiness appeared after less than thirty pages I wondered how Cutter would be able to sustain the narrative but no worries there—things just go from bad to worse.
A Boy Scout troop and their Scoutmaster Tim Riggs go to Falstaff Island for a weekend camping trip. The first night a stranger joins them on their uninhabited island. Riggs, who is also the town doctor, sees the man needs medical attention and tries to help him. Mistake number one because this man cannot be helped and he is highly contagious. His only request is for food, any food because he is starving, and his appearance makes it clear this is not a ruse but that he is indeed wasting away. When he smashes the short wave radio (the only form of communication on the island) Tim sedates him. The following events are not unpredictable but suffice it to say, in short order Riggs and the stranger are dead.
On their own after Riggs’s death, the boys try and find ways to get off the island but as military ships circle the water they realize that help is not likely to be on the way. Now Cutter shifts from gruesome physical horror to the more insidious mental and emotional drama. With no supervision, each boy begins to give into his own nature ala Lord of the Flies. Their machinations, as they team up, fight, disperse, and try and go it alone, all while avoiding contact with what seems to be a highly contagious entity, provide the psychological terror to balance out the novel.
It came down to that flexibility of a person’s mind. An ability to withstand horrors and snap back, like a fresh elastic band. A flinty mind shattered…A grown-up’s mind—even one belonging to a decent man like Scoutmaster Tim—lacked that elasticity. The world had been robbed of all its mysteries, and with those mysteries went the horror.
Amongst all this, Cutter layers in trial excerpts and interviews with a scientist and an Army Admiral, giving some indication of how The Troop is going to play out. Still, even as things fall apart (literally) and the contagion seems to increase its ability to infiltrate humans, the story remains fast paced and bloody. Perfect reading for a summer camping trip.