The Troop by Nick Cutter
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Line: EAT EAT EAT EAT
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If you want to openly gasp and cringe in front of strangers, read this book on the subway. I had been looking for contemporary, traditional horror that didn't feel like it verged on the side of cartoonish, and I'm glad that I found this. The Troop is a creeping, disturbing book about a boy scout troop that goes to do boy scout things on an uninhabited island. What could go wrong, right? Well, let me tell you. Someone else shows up. Someone who is very, very hungry. Are you interested yet?
This visitor shakes up the previously solid dynamic between Scoutmaster Tim and the five young teen boys in the troop. Something is wrong with the intruder, and nobody is sure what to do about it. Even the adult. And that's where the problem lies for the boys. Tim accidentally exposes them to the bioengineered monstrosity inside of the starving stranger, putting all of them in grave danger. Each of the characters are trying desperately to survive when they realize they're not getting off of the island any time soon, and some are driven to horrifying extremes.
The book switches back and forth between what's happening on the island and various articles/reports/interviews before and after about the thing that has made it to the island. I thought the latter was intriguing, but could have been fleshed out a little more. I most enjoyed the Lord of the Flies-esque tensions between the young boys when they were out on the island on their own, because all of the characters were thought out pretty well and interesting to learn about. Though a few of them (the jock, the nerd) had more stereotypical stories, their personalities still felt fresh and it was fun to see them interact with each other. When and how certain characters cracked kept me from putting this book down. There is some incredibly devious manipulation that goes down that had me nearly covering my eyes and squeaking (making it much harder to read).
The bioengineered worm (as they soon find out) takes its victims fully, sucking all of the life out of them, eating voraciously for them, as well as infecting the brain and telling them how to think. The hunger that consumes the infected characters lead them to eat anything and everything, while they waste away as the host. And it is very easy to get infected. The worm overtaking various characters was gruesome and monstrous, but it never felt like it was being gory just for the sake of being gory. The descriptions left me squirming and feeling sort of...itchy. And maybe a little...hungry.
This is a horrifying story of survival that kept me reading to see who was going to make it out alive, and at what cost.
"No parent harboring the hope for a sensitive, artistic child names that child Kent."
"This wasn't a bear or a shark or a psycho axe murderer; those things were bad, sure, but you could get away from them. Hide. How could you hide from a murderer who lived under your skin?"
Outlandishness Rating: 7/10
The descriptions of the worm taking hold of people were pretty gruesome and weird, transforming characters in shocking ways that I didn't expect even after seeing previous characters go through it.