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Book Review

Book Cover

The Troop


Author: Nick Cutter
Publisher: Headline
RRP: £13.99, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 47220 622 0
Publication Date: 27 February 2014

Scouts are always taught to be prepared, but little in the troops experience can prepare them when an emaciated man stumbles into their camp. Unaware that the man is infected by a biologically altered tapeworm, the troop soon finds them fighting for their lives and against each other...

The Troop (355 pages) is a new horror thriller from Nick Cutter. I guess world events sometimes conflicts with artistic endeavours, but the idea of a group of scouts being slaughtered on an isolated island might be a bit sensitive in some areas.

Horror stories can be divided into two groups the first attempts to use the readers imagination to create the scares and the others tell you exactly what visceral things are happening, Troops falls pretty much into the latter group, that said, a lot of the tension comes from the interactions between the boys.

I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but many of the boys are difficult to sympathise with, their age makes them callous and cruel even to each other, even when their lives are on the line. United the boys would have stood a half chance of surviving, but they pretty much revert to a Lord of the Flies mode of survival, rather than a Stand by Me inclusiveness, lessening all their chances of getting off the island.

Not that there is anything in the book which highlights a single character for our particular sympathies and the reader quickly understands that there is a chance that no one will live.

Following the set-up, Cutter uses both the body horror of Cronenberg and the very human fear of infection to create much of the stories horror, as well as structuring the book in a similar manner to King's Carrie with the main narrative interspersed with testimonials and reports to flip between the action on the island, whilst at the same time allowing what had happened to be slowly unravelled. However, these tend to be short and consequently have little impact on the overall good pacing of the story.

Overall, Cutter has produced an impressive story, true, in places its predecessors shone through a little too brightly, but both the construction and pace saves the book from being little more than homage to other writers.


Charles Packer

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