The Troop is a return to a classic sort of horror that starts out scaring you quick, then builds and builds, letting your imagination ratchet up your fear with each chapter. As Stephen King’s quote for the book says, “Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”
Scoutmaster Tim Riggs gets the fun job of leading a troop of fourteen-year-old boys into the heart of the Canadian wilderness to teach them about survival and roughing it. He happens to be a medical doctor and feels like he can handle whatever nature can throw at him, and has never had any issues before. That is, until now.
A stranger shipwrecks himself on the island and soon runs into the scoutmaster and the boys, and he is very, very sick. There is something inside him, eating him away, turning him to skin and bones. Riggs watches this before his very eyes as he tries to help the suffering man, who soon dies of what appears to be starvation. It is a sad day for the troop, but they must move on. Except, Riggs is noticing that he now has this growing hunger within him that cannot be satiated; he knows that he is sick, and whatever that poor man had he now has.
The boys know they must now fend for themselves, but Cutter has done a great job of creating an interesting cast of characters here, as each boy is individual with his hang-ups and issues, and as the reader follows the story along, it’s discovered that there are some real special kids here with some big personal and psychological problems. Combine that with this strange sickness and the harshness of the Canadian wilderness, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a story going.
Cutter intersperses chapters with reports, interviews, articles and documents recorded after the ending of the story, which just helps to pique the reader’s interest further. While towards the end some storylines get dragged out a bit, overall the book keeps you hooked to the end, which you have no real clue about. This is horror at its best: making you want to stop reading right away, but knowing you physically are unable to.
Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.
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