I have officially read the best book of 2014 thus far, and it is THE TROOP by Nick Cutter! The book is only 350+ pages in length, but I tore through it in two days…it is that good! The author, Nick Cutter, is actually a pseudonym of Canadian writer Craig Davidson. But regardless of what name he uses, the man can definitely write terror and write it well!
If you are not familiar with THE TROOP, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Gallery Books:
Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there—which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier. But for some reason, he can’t shake the feeling that something strange is in the air this year. Something waiting in the darkness. Something wicked…
It comes to them in the night. An unexpected intruder, stumbling upon their campsite like a wild animal. He is shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—a man in unspeakable torment who exposes Tim and the boys to something far more frightening than any ghost story. Within his body is a bioengineered nightmare, a horror that spreads faster than fear. One by one, the boys will do things no person could ever imagine.
And so it begins. An agonizing weekend in the wilderness. A harrowing struggle for survival. No possible escape from the elements, the infected…or one another.
Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.
I love this book for many reasons. The story is great, the voice is unique, and the characters are vibrant and alive. Not to mention it has some excellent gory descriptions and truly horrifying concepts. You really can’t ask for more in a horror novel.
THE TROOP is written well and moves at a nice pace. I never once felt the narrative was bogged down, nor did I ever feel it was rushed. The prose is carefully constructed and flows nicely as the story moves along.
The characterizations are spot on, and I found a nice level of believability in each one. Cutter turns the conventional stereotypes of young boys on their ears and instead gives us realistic youngsters that could very well live next door. As a result, the reader actually cares for their well-being and is therefore actually disturbed when bad things start to happen to them.
But the story…oh, the story itself is the real winner here. THE TROOP is a horrifying tale that could be ripped from today’s headlines. And it showcases the harsh realities that science can and will inflict upon society from time to time. The book is also a warning, as it gives a dark example of what mankind’s pursuit of perfection might one day bring about.
THE TROOP is a massive win for me, and I am proclaiming it to be the best book I’ve read in 2014 so far. If Cutter or Davidson or whatever name he chooses to use can keep producing this kind of intensity, I will be a lifelong fan of his work. Whatever you are reading now, put it down and go pick up a copy of THE TROOP; I will wager you will be thankful you did.