Published by Gallery on February 25th, 2014
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 bioengineered 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
The Troop was everything I want in a horror book. It was disgusting, shocking, horrifying, and yet completely enticing.
This book came to me by way of a recommendation from a friend, Jericka, who told me she couldn’t stop thinking about it months later. A quick search on Goodreads revealed a snippet from Stephen King: “The Troop scared the hell out of me.” Ding ding! Jackpot! I really do go for the extreme of horror, and so I couldn’t wait to read.
Right away, the book hooks you with the premise: Tapeworms. Giant, genetically modified, horrific, devour-you-from-the-inside tape worms. Patient zero is being consumed by these worms, dropping weight at the most alarming rate, and is still so hungry. By the time he approaches the camp of an unsuspecting Boy Scout troop and their Scoutmaster on a deserted island camping trip its far too late. The tapeworm is going to spread and devour.
This book is unapologetically graphic, and gorey. There are no punches pulled, and the excruciating detail of the disgusting events is a testament to masterful horror writing. Nick Cutter truly emphasizes the inevitable doom faced by the characters to make you squirm, and yet draws you in like a trainwreck you are unable to look away from. You just have to know more. This book was also terrifying in how real and believable it felt. Tapeworms and parasites are existing concerns, and the science was close enough in reality that it didn’t allow the reader to dissociate the way aliens or unrealistic sci-fi does. When I read this, I was deeply enmeshed as well in Mira Grant’s Parasitology and Newsflesh series as well, which only served to enhance and validate the terror of great biological horror – putting the science behind the scare drives it home!
The Troop was also skillfully multi-dimensional. This book could have easily provided a thrilling read on the physical horror alone, but it is taken to a new degree with the inclusion of massive psychological horror. There is a huge variation in personality among the boys which leads to vastly different personal reactions to the infectious outbreak – from ineffective terror to blatant sociopathy – which leaves you fearing certain characters more than the over-virulent tapeworms. Without drawing focus, the characters are all developed with enough depth that their back story contributes to the tragedy of their current circumstances, and keeps you guessing into the last moments.
The author’s delivery, splicing the in the moment accounts with anecdotes, interviews and court hearings, is spectacular. Just when you feel as if you’ve wrapped your head around the tapeworm situation, the plot thickens, and the people behind these blood-chilling tapeworms are called to account. These small scenes add so much to the readers’ understanding, and once again drive home just how messed up the whole situation truly is.
Overall, this book is a win in just about every way, and its definitely a keeper on my horror shelves!