The Troop by Nick Cutter

The cover drew me to this book and I was intrigued by the blurb from Steven King: “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.” 

From the publisher: Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins in this frightening novel written in the bestselling traditions of Stephen King and Scott Smith. 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. “Lean and crisp and over-the-top….Disquieting, disturbing,” says Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan, The Troop is a visceral burn of a read that combines boldly drawn characters with a fantastically rendered narrative—a terrifying story you’ll never forget.

The impetus behind the bio-engineered nightmare is certainly believable and apt commentary on how far some people will go to loose weight. Pop a pill. Or, better yet, let tape worms do the work for you! Creepy.

However, the characters are stereotypical and the plot too formulaic to hold my interest.  

And there is too much animal cruelty.

I got about halfway through the book before deciding I couldn’t go on, and that was with some skimming through parts with animal cruelty. While I can understand the author’s choice to include some animal suffering in a book like this (scientific experimentation, supporting evidence of character psychosis or sensitivity), it was too gratuitous for me. One or two scenes, sure. But I stopped after five.

On the other hand, I don’t mind humans “getting it” and thought the descriptions of what happened to them yucky and disturbing. I may have enjoyed this one during my teenage years. The Troop reminded me of David Morrell’s Creepers, another book that sounded really good and got great reviews, but the characters were painfully stereotypical and the action predictable.

Recommendation: If you like gross, gory books, you might like this one. If you’re a horror/thriller aficionado you’ll probably want to skip it.

Oh, and P.S. When it comes to book blurbs, Stephen King is on probation with me.

Nick Cutter
Gallery Books, February 25, 2014
Source: NetGalley digital review copy
Rating: DNF so no rating

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