A few weeks ago I was introduced to the dark imagination of Nick Cutter with The Deep, a novel full of horrors more disturbing in nature than expected. I thought that was bad enough; then I picked up a previous novel of his, and I learned just how far he really was willing to go in his storytelling.
As opposed to The Deep, The Troop takes things to the water’s surface by placing the story on an island a few miles off the cost of a Canadian town. The characters may have the open skies and sunlight in their favor this time around, but the five boys that make up the boyscout Troop are just as isolated and SOL when a stranger makes his way to the shore right off their cabin. That’s right, the one troop leader who likes to think about the different ways people smell is not the one we should be watching closely as he sits in close proximity to a bunch of young boys, it’s the man with the aching need to eat anything and everything that we should be wary of.
Things quickly go from bad to worse as we learn that this stranger is infected with something highly destructive in its insatiable appetite, and the risk of it catching is highly probable. Yet, somehow, this isn’t the worst thing the kids have to deal with. On top of an unstoppable force that eats the victims body from the inside out, there’s also a psychopath in their midst who has now found the perfect opportunity to let his true self come out and play. Oh kids… So adorable.
What the infection does to its victims is pretty hard to stomach, but the more disturbing imagery actually comes in thanks to what certain characters are willing to do to others, both creatures and humans alike. In one such instance in which the reader is made aware of more details thanks to documentation of a previous event happening before what happens on the island, I actually came to a point in which I wasn’t sure if I could continue reading this book. Not because it was bad, but because it made me feel sick to my stomach as tears wet the rims of my eyes. Though I’ve spent plenty of time in this genre in both films and books, this is the first time I found myself not knowing if I could continue on. This is my one warning to those picking up The Troop, but if you can get past these instances (which will be hardest for animal lovers) then you’ll be glad you stuck it out.
While reading The Troop I often found myself comparing this story to The Ruins, a novel by Scott Smith about a group of friends who are trapped on top of a set of ruins by numerous forces. The main thing they are fighting is creepy enough, but what is most affecting about that book, and why it continues to stick with me, is what happens to the characters psychologically and how it changes the social construct and interactions of the group. The same can be said for the characters of The Troop, and though what one character goes through is the most upsetting for me, it’s all just so tragic when you get down to it. There’s just so much working against these characters, and even as I do my best to cling to the hope that they’ll come out of this alive, everything piling up just makes it harder and harder to live with this mindset. It all just gets to a point of hopelessness, making the book quite the frustrating and forlorn tragedy.
So yes, The Troop is a super disturbing novel that was hard to read in parts, but that doesn’t keep it from being a great book, making it a must read for all fans of the genre. A very, very disturbing and traumatizing must read.
Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars Follow @BewareOfTrees