“The wickedness of others becomes our own…” (3.5 stars)
Source- review copy
Due for publication by Gallery Books in January 2014
I read the Kindle version, the hardback version is 368 pages
I am the biggest wimp out there when it comes to horror stories or anything remotely gory, yet was completely drawn to this book by its amazing sounding premise. 28 Days Later meets Lord of the Flies?
Happily, this book ticks all the right boxes- yep, some bits are so disgusting that I merely glossed over them but on the whole it’s dark and disturbing and brilliantly written. It would make a cracking film.
Set in Canada, the book begins innocently enough: five scouts from Troop Fifty-Two head to the remote Falstaff Island with Scoutmaster Tim for a camping trip, only once they’re there a stranger unexpectedly lands on the shore, a stranger who appears ravenously hungry and will let absolutely nothing stand in the way of getting his next meal. From there, things take a decidedly sinister turn and the question is whether or not the scouts will even make it off the island alive…
I have to comment firstly on the evocative, nicely paced writing style and the juxtaposition of the beautiful sounding setting and what later occurs: it’s perfect horror movie fodder. Once the stranger arrives on their peaceful island there dawns a strong sense of foreboding and things instantly begin escalating from bad to worse. The boys find themselves in an unexpectedly threatening predicament and the fearful atmosphere is conveyed very well. That’s not to say its all horror and gruesome aspects within this book though- surprisingly the storyline had its poignant moments too, which gave the plot some real depth.
Character development is pretty solid- each of the scouts have their own quirks and foibles which comes through nicely and I found myself liking some characters better than others and wondering who (if any) would leave Falstaff alive. Their strengths are emphasised, along with their weaknesses. It was easy to see the parallels between some of the characters here and those in the aforementioned Lord of the Flies, though I prefer to take this book on its own merits.
The story is interspersed with some other really interesting ideas- transcripts of a court case for example, and diary and newspaper excerpts which give a more solid context to events happening ‘away’ from the island itself- a device commonly used in this genre and one which was successful here. I liked the level of details in these sections; though think it could have been developed a bit more strongly in certain parts.
I can’t quite give this book four out of five stars, purely because I did have to gloss over a couple of aspects which were pretty rank in their descriptions and content- especially a couple of scenes of animal abuse/mutilation which is a definite no-no for me. If you’re squeamish it’s best avoiding those bits! Don’t mess with kittens, pal.
The Troop however is ultimately an unnerving horror novel about the loss of innocence; it definitely left me squirming and shuddering.
Well played Nick Cutter, well played.