REVIEW: The Troop by Nick Cutter

Fight, flight, freeze, and fawn are natural human responses to threats. The possibility of outrunning the bogeyman, fighting off the rapid animal, or seeking shelter during a tornado; all these defenses mean hope. The ability to act is a chance to survive. But some horrors cannot be fought. Some are too small and so they slip in and consume. Nick Cutter’s The Troop proves that nightmares come in all sizes.

The TroopTim Riggs and the five 14-year-old boys of Scout Troop 52 had everything prepped for their annual camping trip. The three-day trip on Falstaff Island was their sanctuary away from modern life, no phones, no video games permitted. Far removed from civilization, they didn’t expect a starved man to stumble upon them. He was far too thin, too inhumanely sick. Something moved under his skin. Tim and the troops soon learn starvation was only part of the man’s affliction. Too late do they discover the man wasn’t the horror, he was the host and his infection will spread.

The Troop is a prime and time-honored take on body horror. Its story is told through newspaper clippings, interviews, and from the perspectives of each member of Scout Troop 52. It is reminiscent of stories like It by Stephen King. Nick Cutter’s story flow nourishes a compounding sense of dread. His word choice is calculated and quietly induces suspense. The imagery Nick Cutter invokes is disturbing. The Troop proves Nick Cutter is intimately aware of what triggers fear.

At first glance, the characters in The Troop are widely recognizable. The scoutmaster Tim Riggs is the knowledgeable and confident leader. Kent Jenks is a popular jock and a bully. Newton Thornton is nerdy. While Maximillian Kirkwood and Ephraim Elliot represent average teenage boys, their perspectives are engaging. Shelley is…something other. While these characters may seem stereotypical, Nick Cutter brings them to life. Their thoughts and motivations, how they perceive danger, are the foundation on which Cutter builds fear. The character developments throughout the novel are compelling.

As their bodies succumb to the infection, so do their minds. The Troop delves into the psyche of traumatized victims with each character submitting to their own unique stages of fear. How their minds cope with unrelenting horror elevates the story.

The Troop is a dark story without hope. No detail is spared in describing mutilated bodies or gore. The deterioration of sanity is cruelly detailed. Nick Cutter aims to make his readers squeamish.

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Carrie Chi Lough

Carrie Chi Lough

Carrie resides in Colorado with her other half and their puppy, Irwin. She is always searching for dark SFF and horror stories to bury herself in.

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