The ‘Body Horror’ sub-genre seems to have fallen out of vogue in recent years, and I can’t really understand why - the stories in which bodily-invasions by diseases, fungi, parasites and aliens (or even weirder things
) that cause us to lose control of the one thing that we’re utterly convinced we possess full ownership of, ourselves
, pluck at a very particular, innate fear that lurks inside all of us. Terror, revulsion and a sense of total helplessness to stop the slow, creeping change are all key themes in this dark little corner of the horror fiction universe. What’s not to like?
With The Troop
, Cutter embraces the above themes with both arms and hits the ground running for a very strong start; our titular ‘troop’ being a small band of teenage Boy Scouts on a weekend survival trip to a tiny offshore island with their Scoutmaster, whose plans for adventure, camaraderie and songs around the campfire on their expedition are cut short by the arrival of a man with an extremely unusual eating disorder. I really don’t want to spoil it, but it gets pretty messy, pretty quickly from this point on, with the boys desperately trying to survive against something that, as far as I'm aware, the Scouts don't (currently) issue badges for.
I think it goes without saying that a strong stomach is almost certainly a prerequisite for this particular type of horror. And you may not want to read this book whilst eating. However, at the risk of sounding like a complete sicko, I found that, towards the end of the book, Cutter doesn’t really take full advantage of the potential of his own creation and eases off a little too much on the ‘gross-out’ factor, which I found slightly perplexing and mildly disappointing, if I’m honest. In contrast to this, I was more distressed by the pages devoted to describing scenes of torturing and killing animals, which, although I’m not opposed to their inclusion, as they did
serve a purpose of illustrating certain points, detracted from the visceral impact of the actual menace and made many of the scenes involving bodily horror seem rather tame by comparison.
Still, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with this book, because I did. This was a fun, easy read and, despite my criticism, it had its share of flesh-crawling moments. You may, however, find that the slightest rumble from within the labyrinthine depths of your innards has you booking yourself in for an emergency endoscopy. This is perfectly normal.
Four endoparasites out of five.