Monday, May 12, 2014

F-Trope.... er Troop!

So, the library recommended The Troop by Nick Cutter in one of its monthly recommended reading e-mails.

To say I was a bit disappointed would be an understatement.

The basic setup is 5 Scouts go camping on uninhabited Falstaff Island off the north coast of Prince Edward Island. We have Scoutmaster Tim leading this glorious expedition. We have Kent, the Sheriff's son, who's the nominal leader of the boys. We have Max, son of the coroner, and his best friend Ephraim, who's dad is in jail. We have Newton, the fat geek who's the group scapegoat, and we have Shelley, who's the slow one in the group.

A few pages in, we also get The Hungry Man, who shows up at the cabin emaciated and begging food from Scoutmaster Tim. Tim also is a General Practitioner on PEI, so he attempts to treat the emaciated man who's pretty much eating everything. And I do mean everything.

Without getting too deep in to the plot here, what follows is finding out The Hungry Man is basically a human test of the Two Pill Diet, involving swallowing a genetically altered tapeworm. Problem being said Hyatid pretty much takes over and starves the patient in around 24-72 hours. (The book never gets into too much detail, although one of the infected goes about 48 hours in the narrative after infection.)Meanwhile, intermittent documentation recorded after the events of the main narrative fill in blanks on what's actually going on. Including the complete quarantine of Falstaff Island, thus cutting off most of the escape routes.

So, given the Scoutmaster is one of the first to fall, this gives us the whole Lord of the Flies vibe mentioned in most reviews, as the pubescent boys struggle with the new situation.

Now, Steven King wrote a big old cover blurb for the book, talking about how much he loved it, and the author does say he borrowed some of the structure from Carrie. (Mainly the documentation between chapters.) However, Carrie isn't the only King influence here; about midway through the book one of the characters more or less becomes a transplanted Patrick Hockstetter from It. Seriously, with a few very minor changes, the characters are interchangeable.

The horror is visceral. Blood splatters everywhere and quite frequently. The documentation about the origin of the worms reveals a few things that add a bit of paranoia to the proceedings. But honestly, most of the scares hinge on the whole "Children losing their innocence" that King loved back in the day. (Children of the Corn, It, etc.) And that just doesn't scare me. Nor does the little serial killer in training sub plot, since, as I said, it was done better in another book by another author.

The satire in using the modified Hyatid as a diet plan, on the other hand, is amusing. After all, people do worse to their bodies to lose weight. Just not quite as quickly as what happens in The Troop.