The Troop by Nick Cutter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When a scoutmaster takes his troop of five boys to a remote island, he has no idea the horror that is about to befall them in the form of a mysterious starving stranger that can't stop eating and the parasitic worms ravaging his innards...
I got this from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley!
I initially dismissed this book because of the boring cover. It almost looks like a stock photo someone found for a DYI cover on Createspace. However, the Netgalley newsletter touted it as being pretty horrific so I gave it a shot. I'm very glad I did.
The Troop, as the publicity blurb says, is part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later. This is a very apt description. Tim, the Scoutmaster, takes his troop of five very different boys to Falstaff Island, fifteen miles off the coast of Prince Edward Island, setting of Anne of Green Gables. Anne of Green Gables has nothing to do with this, I just wanted to show off some trivia.
Anyway, a stranger in a boat shows up, starving yet ravenous, and pretty soon everything is circling the drain. The Scoutmaster gets infected by the worms, and then the infection spreads. Good thing they're on an island, huh?
The scouts are an interesting mix. Newton is the brain, Ephraim is a hothead who barely stays out of trouble and Max is his bestie. Kent is a jerk but possibly doesn't realize it and the leader of the boys. And Shelley is the oddball.
Once the scoutmaster died, it didn't take long for everyone to go Lord of the Flies on one another. I wasn't sure any of them would survive the worms or one another. Aside from getting infected by the worms, most of what they did was understandable given the lack of food and rescue.
The book could have easily been a three but Nick Cutter (aka Craig Davidson according to the copyright notice in the front) brought home the bacon. Cutter supplied horrific detail after horrific detail and also had a lot of nice character moments, like the incident with the sea turtle and Newton's and Max's feelings about it in the aftermath. Shelley turning out to be a sociopath really gave the horror that personal touch. Parasitic worms that devour you from the inside while making you ravenously hungry are scary enough but the sociopath in the midst made it even creepier.
Interspersing the narrative with post-game interviews and news clippings from the scientists responsible for creating the worms and the military personnel responsible for cleaning up the mess added a lot to the narrative and did some nice foreshadowing and misdirecting. Again, thank you, Mr. Cutter.
That's about all I have to say. Four creepy writhing wriggling stars!
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