By Nick Cutter
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Published by Gallery Books
Cover image and summary from Goodreads:
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.
I was really intrigued by the premise of The Troop. The back flap of the book says it’s part Lord of the Flies (a book that I had to read for school and actually enjoyed), part 28 Days Later (one of my ultimate favourite movies). My interest was certainly piqued!
First of all, let me say that the reference to Lord of the Flies seems accurate, at least based on my recollection of that book (it’s been more than a decade). As for the comparison to 28 Days Later, that was much less clear to me. Why do I let myself get lured in by these comparisons that seem to only serve a marketing purpose and are not not totally accurate…
Anyway, as for the book itself, it was a lot of fun. I read the whole thing in one day, and really enjoyed the structure, which alternated between the troop on the island, transcripts of videos and interviews, and news coverage.
The book was more gross and unsettling than outright scary, at least for me, but note that this is not a book for the squeamish! I feel like I cannot emphasize that enough. You will need a strong stomach to read this one. I couldn’t eat while I read it!
Also, there are some scenes dealing with animal abuse so if that’s a thing that you cannot read about, I would suggest that you steer clear of this book.
Overall, this was a fun read, a real page-turner, and I’m looking forward to reading Cutter’s next book, The Deep.
I will be talking more about the book below but it will be very spoiler-y, so you’ve been warned! Don’t read further if you want to avoid spoilers!
I really liked the format and structure of the book, gradually revealing that only one member of the entire troop survived. As I read on, I found myself wondering which one was the survivor, fearing that it would be Shelly.
The nature of the infection that caused this whole scenario was not what I expected! I was definitely thinking about something more along the lines of zombies than worms. And as I mentioned above, I think this book was not truly scary, at least not for me. But it was definitely gross! Worms and bugs and that stuff is really not my thing. Perhaps the terror in the story comes more from the boys in the troop and what they do to survive – and what some of them do to each other – than from the worms themselves. I mean, the worms were definitely gross, but they weren’t evil.
Anyway, what I enjoyed the most was seeing how the boys acted in the absence of adult supervision. Who would take on a leadership role? Who would challenge that leader? How would they survive without food? How long did they need to wait until they were rescued? How would the group dynamics change as the situation became more desperate? It had elements of the kind of survival story that I really enjoy, with a horror twist.
As for the characters, they felt a bit flat to me, but there was one I truly despised (well I suppose other than the doctor who created the worms, but he wasn’t really a character, to me, in the same way that the boys are; anything we learn about him takes place after the events on the island): Shelly. He was violent, manipulative, and enjoyed torturing bugs, animals, and over the course of the events in this story, the other boys. I was so concerned that he would turn out to be the only one of the boys who survived.
But it turned out that Max was the survivor! I think it was pretty clear early on that not everyone would survive, but I was a bit saddened that only one boy of the whole cast of characters on that island lived.
I do wish that the military aspect had been explored more, as well as the doctor who made the worms. I found those parts fascinating.
Overall though, as I said above, this was a fun read. It was gross and gruesome and occasionally unsettling. If you think you can handle it, check out The Troop!