Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop

I am reading this mystery way early from its publication date early in 2014 because I thought I wanted to read a horror story for Halloween. Many folks have already posted their reviews of this title, so I don’t feel like I have to wait to tell you about it.

This book would be the perfect vehicle to scare the living daylights out of an adolescent boy, since it captures many of those fears we all share but which an adult might recognize for what they are: simply fears rather than truths. Ordinary-seeming events turn toxic in this story very quickly.

A Boy Scout troop plans a weekend learning survival skills on a small and remote island off northeastern Canada. The Scout Master is the genial town doctor, and he insists the boys leave their cell phones and other electronic gear behind on the mainland so that they can concentrate on the task at hand. Unfortunately, the one shortwave radio available for the scoutmaster’s use is wrecked early on by an unforeseen visitor to the island. Things rapidly deteriorate from there.

Paralleling and periodically interrupting the straightforward action of the story are a series of documents explaining and relating the series of events on the mainland that led to the circumstances facing the boys on the island. We are even given the outcome of the weekend long before the end of the story, but read on to see how it played out on the ground.

The grisly and graphic details of the deaths that occurred are sure to keep young boys reading far into the night, for they will be able to see their friends and enemies portrayed as character types and will be able to guess who will survive and who will not. They may not be right in their guesses, which I expect will thrill them all the more.

One thoughtful Goodreads review posits that this title is targeted to juveniles and that this title would more likely appeal to boys rather than girls. She is very probably right in this, as girls have a tendency to mature slightly earlier and being the physically weaker sex, usually do not like to dwell on the ways they can be harmed. But I don’t think our reviewer gives enough credit to the author for having successfully winkled out those things that scare us (all of us) silly, for instance, worms swimming up your pee-hole. I have never met the man (or woman) for whom this is not terrifying.

That having been said, there were holes enough in the thinking or actions of the characters that the story did not keep me awake at night. But as a catalogue of those things that scare us, yes, our author did a fine job. Nick Cutter is a pen name for a popular Canadian author, Craig Davidson, who writes books that have been compared to Chuck Palahniuk. This year Davidson was longlisted for Canada's most prestigious and monied literature prize, the Scotiabank Giller. Cutter was likewise successful with this title, and has produced a popular cult novel that will be passed from hand to hand and whispered over late at night.

I thought the book entirely appropriate for 13-18 year olds. There is some bullying behaviors but the violence is occasionally so over-the-top that it can be classified in the "fears" category rather than taken for reality. There is precious little attention paid to girls or sex since this is a camp for the manly arts and the boys are focused on staying alive on an island, so their thoughts rarely stray off-site.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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