By: Nick Cutter
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA
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 bio-engineered 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.
I’m going to admit this right now: I don’t read very many novels in the horror genre. While I’ve read a few really fantastic titles in the past, it’s just not something that I’m really drawn to. However, the premise of this novel sounded really interesting (and the recommendation from Stephen King mentioned on the cover didn’t hurt ;)) and I liked that this novel was also set in Canada. I received an ARC of this novel from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on 25 February 2014.
Also, be sure to check out my Q&A with the author for more background about the book 🙂
All the quotes and blurbs in the front of this book from various authors and reviewers? Totally right; I’ve never read The Lord of the Flies or watched 28 Days Later but I know the premise of both and I agree that this book really has the atmospheric feel of both. The letter that came with this ARC also mentioned a precaution about not eating anything while reading this…or read this book after a meal. If you have a weak stomach, adhere to this (this wasn’t a problem for me + I read this novel late at night) =P
Anyways, the author does a wonderful job in fleshing out and representing the boys as well as the other characters (the adults) in this novel; I had no problem believing that these characters that I was reading and following were teenage boys. The reader learns a lot about their respective families, how they became the boys they are, how influential their parents are in forming much of who they are and their way of thinking and seeing the world. Each boy is unique, each of them representing a typical strata of boys in puberty: the jock, the weirdo, the nerd, the regular guy, the tough guy. As their situation becomes more and more dire, not only do readers see allegiances and alignments shift between the characters on what to do next and how to stick together but also how they sort of take each other out; for example, Ephraim’s anger management issues and how it alienates him from the others. I also found it interesting how the narrative discusses the differences between adults and children, their perspective and how readily the children were able to accept the situations they were in compared to the adult (in this case, the troop leader).
The danger they are facing is very creepy, very hard to avoid–especially as events unfold–and very gross; the reader can easily understand how one can become very paranoid having to face those creatures and the possibility of them…infiltrating (you’ll have to read it for yourself to understand what I mean here). The scientific element behind the unknown that the characters face feels very real and very palpable, adding to that sense of danger and fear. I really enjoyed the snippets between the chapters from newspapers and court hearings about the events of the novel and where things went wrong. They fill in the spaces in the narrative that the reader would not have otherwise learned through the troop’s experiences.
In conclusion, The Troop is a really eerie, really creepy and really gross novel (and I say this with all my affection =P). Despite of all those elements, I couldn’t put this novel down, it is quite a page-turner and the ending quite haunting. I highly recommend this novel if you’re into books in the horror genre, books involving scientific experiments gone horribly wrong (cue in Frankenstein–only without the talking) and books that are just riveting.