The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared," but trust me, a team of Samurai-Ninja-Swat Team-Green Berets couldn't be prepared for the horror that is unleashed in Nick Cutter's pedal-to-the-metal shock fest that is The Troop.
The story takes place on Prince Edward Island, an idyllic province on the east coast of Canada. I've been to Prince Edward Island, I grew up on the province next to it. It's a nice place and I have to say that I'm very glad I didn't read The Troop while I was living anywhere near there because I'd probably never go outside again.
The Troop hits the ground running and simply doesn't stop. On the first page we are introduced to a news story about an emaciated man who wanders into a diner and begs to be given as much food as possible. He then goes on to eat everything they've got on the menu. When he is finished he walks outside without paying, steals a truck and disappears into the night. The papers dub him "The Hungry Man," but nobody seems to know who he is or where he came from.
At the same time that The Hungry Man is chowing down in front of a shocked small-town audience, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs is blissfully unaware as he prepares to take a troop of five boy scouts on a "survival weekend" to Falstaff, an uninhabited island that sits a few miles off of P.E.I.
The boys are: Kent, the most popular kid in school and son of the town sheriff. Max and Ephraim, best friends and also pretty popular in school. Max is cool and collected while Ephraim, well, let's just say he has some anger issues. Then there's Shelley, quiet, strange but mostly harmless and Newton, the token group nerd. Newton is very intelligent, resourceful and polite, therefore he takes the brunt of the troop's insults and charlie-horses.
It doesn't take long for the inevitable to happen, The Hungry Man steals a motor boat and makes his way to Falstaff Island and the proverbial poop hits the fan. Honestly, I think this happens on something like page 6.
The next 300 pages are probably the most disturbing, disgusting scenes I've read in a long time. I found myself physically squirming in my chair as the "well, it can't get much worse than that" factor is ratcheted up a notch every few pages.
I really don't want to spoil any of those great scenes for you because you'll only have that feeling once, that feeling of unbelievable dread and panic mixed with the need to find out how on God's green Earth anyone is going to make it out this mess alive.
Cutter's inclusion of newspaper articles, interviews and transcripts of court hearings are a very effective addition to the (in my opinion) timely and interesting backstory, although I found myself flying through these parts in order to get back to Falstaff Island.
If you enjoy great horror, the kind that sticks in a corner of your brain and doesn't quite leave for a few weeks or months, then check out The Troop. Just treat it like certain types of antibiotics, only ingest on an empty stomach.