Title: The Troop
Author: Nick Cutter
Publisher: Gallery books
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Buy it: Here
A group of five boys and their Scoutmaster head off to a small island to learn survival skills and gain scout badges. Their two day trip, however, soon turns into a prolonged nightmare as a horrific contagion find home on the island, and in the boys themselves.
The Troop has a very familiar setup; a group of boys on the cusp of adolescence, stranded on an island and hunted not only by a very real threat, but also themselves and each other. It all sounds very Lord of the Flies and was marketed as such on the Netgalley listing. Unfortunately I found myself a little disappointed on this front, as the telling of The Troop is often more concerned with the gross-out factor than the psychological decline of it's characters. That said, the book does take impending insanity and mental decline into very good account. I just feel the visual "horror" of the worm contagion at the heart of the narrative took precedence.
The storyline itself also felt very familiar - not a bad thing considering I found myself recalling Dreamcatcher and Carrie, both Stephen King titles. The boys of the story are victims of a biological experiment gone wrong, in which tape worms infect, infest and, eventually, ingest their host. The narrative is told through a series of interviews, news clippings and prose. These things echo the previously mentioned books, but even though there was familiarity, The Troop stood apart. The writing style was it's own and it was very readable. The characterisation of the boys was brilliant; each one completely individual and bringing a new dynamic to their small group as they were tested to the point of madness.
Although I enjoyed reading The Troop, and have enjoyed plenty of horror novels in the past, I did find some scenes in this book to be quite disturbing. As times I felt quite sick and would skip over paragraphs to avoid further descriptions. Nick Cutter does love a good dose of detail! Despite this, I don't count the effect of the writing on me as a bad thing. Horror novels are written to be uncomfortable; to be discomforting, and The Troop does this very well. However, YA readers, and those new to the horror genre, may find it best to approach The Troop with caution, as uncomfortable themes (animal abuse, mutilation, animal testing to name a few) are dealt with in unflinching and shocking detail.
As a horror novel, this book delivers. I was repulsed but strangely compelled throughout the entire book. I do, however, feel that in parts it was gratuitously graphic, and therefore The Troop would probably suit readers already familiar with more graphic styles of horror writing. I also feel that the book often relied too heavily on it's influences (the author himself acknowledges King) and a spark of originality was dulled because of it.