The Troop by Nick Cutter

(7.5/10) Certainly not for the squeamish.

For the scouts of Troop 52, three days of camping, hiking and survival lessons on Falstaff Island is as close as they'll get to a proper holiday. But when an emaciated figure stumbles into their camp asking for food, the trip takes a horrifying turn. The man is not just hungry, he's sick. Sick in a way they have never seen before. Cut off from the mainland, the troop face a terror far worse than anything they could have made up around a campfire. To survive they will have to fight their fears, the elements… and eventually each other.

The most obvious reference for discussing The Troop will be the Lord of the Flies with a group of boys stuck on an island whose social structure crumbles in the face of survival, and this is what The Troop deftly exploits - those deep-seated horrors of isolation, hunger, infection and slimy, creepy things that wreath just out of sight. Similar to Alien as well, where a predatory parasite lies hidden until it is explosively revealed, and in the same way The Troop is viciously visceral, focused heavily on the blood and the basic, animalistic natures that lie within all of us.

This isn’t personally my favourite sort of horror, I’ve never enjoyed post-apocalyptic plagues and I find the social tribulations of teenagers particularly trying. But as a horror novel it is certainly effective. Yes, the plot is quite contrived to keep the action located on the one island and maybe this is tailored more for a teenage boy market than myself, but the disintegration of the group is believable and the sickness the man brings to the Scout camp is graphically described in a disgustingly detailed way. Certainly not for the squeamish.

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