Some 45-years ago, the Boyscout troop I was in went on an overnight camping trip in late November. It rained and then snowed and we were huddled in our tents, and half of us got the stomach bug. Thinking back on it, that was a walk in the park compared to what The Troop, by Nick Cutter (Amazon link) faces as the five of them and their scoutmaster begin a weekend camping trip on a small, deserted island off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
The short review: Frightening, relentless, graphically gory.
The long review: There are two ways to handle a horror story. One is with subtlety, the other is with head-on violence and gore. If you’re preference is for the latter, this is a disturbingly good read. If not….
All seems well as the troop settles in for their first night on lonely Falstaff Island. Then, an escapee from a military-financed biological research lab arrives. Gaunt, starving, and dangerous, the zombie-like character carries within him a genetically engineered, highly infectious parasite that will leave a trail of blood and guts.
Perhaps more creatively, is how the author has given the middle-school-aged boys not just a terrifying, but palpable danger to defend against, but also a quietly sadistic, psychotic from their own ranks to contend with. The portraiture of him is chilling and makes for pages of graphic prose that are almost too difficult to read. Of course, like commuters rubbernecking an accident on the other side of the highway, we have to look anyway.
Added to all of that, there’s the mystery of “why?” no rescue comes from the mainland, and you have a thoroughly scary read that will keep you turning pages.
The Troop is well written, if grim; don’t look for any humorous breaks in the tension. If graphic gore isn’t your thing, I don’t recommend this book for you. If it is, you will (as some of the characters do) feast.
Although the protagonists are young teens, this book is for adults.
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