He felt something touch his hand. Which is when he looked down.
For the scouts of Troop 52, three days of camping, hiking and survival lessons on Falstaff Island is as close as they’ll get to a proper holiday.
Which was when he saw it.
But when an emaciated figure stumbles into their camp asking for food, the trip takes a horrifying turn. The man is not just hungry, he’s sick. Sick in a way they have never seen before.
Which was when he screamed.
Cut off from the mainland, the troop face a terror far worse than anything they could have made up around a campfire. To survive they will have to fight their fears, the elements…and eventually each other.
I’m not even sure where to start with this review, but perhaps I should start in the manner that I started my review for Nick Cutter’s other novel, The Deep, by warning any potential readers that this isn’t a book for those who are squeamish and have an aversion to body horror. To say there’s a fair bit in The Troop would be a massive understatement.
I’m not normally one for any book involving blood, guts and gore, but given how much I enjoyed The Deep, I decided to give The Troop a try as well. Like The Deep, it’s set in one location, a small island not too far from the mainland. As I discussed in my review for The Deep, I like horror novels that are set in a single location, even more so if that location is one that the book’s cast of characters cannot escape from. I know that makes me sound like some kind of sadist, but it’s not the characters’ terror and suffering that I enjoy, it’s more how they react to the situation. Most people’s immediate reaction would be to run away from a horror-type situation, but when that option is taken away, they have no choice but to do something else. No two people are the same and because of this, their ‘something elses’ won’t be the same either. Some people will fight whatever threat they’re facing until their dying breath, while others will just quietly accept their fate and thank the universe for a good (or not-so-good, as may be the case) innings. When reading these kinds of books, I always find myself wondering how I would react were I to find myself in the same situation as the characters. For the sake of my sanity and my poor body, though, I hope I never get to find out how I’d react in a Troopesque situation.
This is only the second Nick Cutter book that I’ve ever read, but I can safely say that he’s a fantastic writer. His graphic descriptions had my skin crawling and my gorge rising and his ability to turn printed words on a page into three dimensional people is astounding. I reacted to these characters as I would react to real people, so when, to put it bluntly, shit started to go down on the island where Troop 52 were camping, it felt as though I were watching it happen to actual people, meaning the horror, heartache and revulsion that I felt were magnified tenfold.
As well as being a fan of Nick Cutter’s writing, I’m also a fan of the fact that none of his books (well, the two that I’ve read) have what the romance community call a HEA (happily ever after for those not in the know). His books are just so dark and grim and are filled with an intense, almost tangible sense of hopelessness and despair…but I love it. I’d feel cheated if Cutter did a complete 180 to shoehorn a HEA in. When I read horror, I want to experience a terror so intense that it seeps into my very cells, thereby branding me and making sure that I never forget the book that evoked it. If an author crams a HEA in, allowing their characters to skip away into the sunset, hand in hand…well, that feeling of terror would be somewhat diluted, I guess. If I wanted to read something uplifting with a guaranteed HEA, I’d go to my other favourite genre, which is romance. I pick up a horror novel expecting it to be dark and terrifying, wanting it to be dark and terrifying. I don’t need the balm of a HEA to ease the fear that the rest of the book’s instilled in me. Believe me, I wanted that fear.
I highly recommend The Troop to all horror fans, particularly those who are a fan of Stephen King. I can’t wait to read more of Nick Cutter’s work, both his horror and that which he writes under his real name.
Have you read The Troop? Let me know in the comments.