Reviews > Published on February 25th, 2014

Bookshots: 'The Troop' By Nick Cutter

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Troop

Who Wrote It?

Nick Cutter aka Patrick Lestewka, author of The Preserve and The Coliseum, aka Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City, Sarah Court, The Fighter, and Rust and Bone.

400 pages of high intensity entertainment meant to be read in a single sitting.

Plot in a Box:

Every year Scoutmaster Dr. Tim Riggs leads a troop of scouts to an isolated island deep in the Canadian wilderness. Year-after-year has been the same, but with this excursion, The Hungry Man has followed them.

Invent a New Title For This Book:

The Future Belongs to the Worms

Read This If You Like:

The Stand by Stephen King, Red by Jack Ketchum

Meet the Book’s Lead(s):

Tim Riggs is a General Practitioner and lifelong bachelor living in a small, lonely Canadian village that he’s had trouble adapting to despite his long lived practice. His Scout troop is Kent, the son of the town sheriff, “forever” friends Ephraim and Max, class whipping boy, Newt, and budding psychopath, Shelley.

Said Lead(s) Would Be Portrayed in a Movie By:

I think John Hawkes would be a great choice for Scoutmaster Tim. The Troop would, of course, be played by a cast of unknowns.

Setting: Would You Want To Live There?

No, way too far off the grid for my liking.

What Was Your Favorite Sentence?

There is an emotion that operates on a register above sheer terror. It lives on a mindless dog whistle frequency. Its existence is itself a horrifying discovery: like scanning a shortwave radio in the dead of night and tuning in to an alien wavelength—a heavy whisper barely climbing above the static, voices muttering in a brutal language that human tongues could never speak.

The Verdict:

I'll be the first to admit that I have a great big squishy spot for parasite based horror. One of my first cinematic memories is of watching of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film didn't really scare me, but the idea of a whole other life form living inside your body, recreating you into a weirder version of yourself left a BIG impression. I also have another big squishy spot (no, it's not leprosy) for stories about the government experimenting with deadly life forms that escape and turn humanity inside out, thanks to The Stand by Stephen King. And yes, there's a slightly scabby spot for man against nature stories for no other reason than the deep, deep woods scare the living shit out of me. (It also stems from the belief that humanity really isn't a part of "nature", and "nature" is constantly trying to murder humans.)

You can see where I'm going with this, right?

The Troop contains all of these favorite scenarios. Throw in the angst of rapidly changing 14-year-olds, the loss of the thin veil of adult control, and you have all the makings of a classically honed horror novel. The Troop is a character driven page turner in the same vein as King and Ketchum. Backstory drives the narrative forward as Cutter builds tension from page one with the introduction of The Hungry Man, a walking biohazard starving on his feet that stuffs anything from napkins to roadkill in his mouth to quell its ceaseless rumbling.

For those of you who are picking up The Troop thinking it's going to be a Craig Davidson novel, you are going to be disappointed. True, there are signature flourishes that are undeniably Davidson's—there is no author better at penning action scenes and violence as far as I'm concerned—but you're not going to have the fringe of society characters which typically populated Sarah Court, The Fighter, and Rust and Bone. What you will get instead is 400 pages of high intensity entertainment meant to be read in a single sitting.

About the author

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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