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3.6 out of 5 stars
The Troop (Unabridged)
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2015
This was recommended by Stephen King and the synopsis was interesting so I took a chance. The idea of a boy scout troop stuck on an island with a flesh eating infection for company caught my attention.

After reading I felt the book was a wasted opportunity.

The characters were unlikable. I didn't care what happened to them, one of the most obvious sins of any book. The descriptions of the effects of the infection were revolting. The feeling I had while reading was repulsion. In fact there's hardly a page where something gruesome isn't being described in forensic detail. If your idea of horror is to be revolted you might be interested in this.

Apart from these issues, I felt the book was quite an easy read. Short chapters meant I was turning the pages quickly.

All of this would lead me to give The Troop a negative review but what really dragged the book down are the scenes of animal cruelty and torture which are described in loving detail. Describing helpless animals being abused to manipulate a readers emotions is one of the laziest devices in horror, or any other genre of fiction and in this case the scenes add absolutely nothing to the story.

A pretty squalid and depressing read all round.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I picked up this book after reading about it being awarded the inaugural James Herbert award for new horror, and was hopeful that it would live up to the brilliance of Mr Herbert… but I find myself let down by a book that spends too much time trying to shock and revolt the reader, rather than building suspense and mystery to actually scare them.

The characters are pretty standard and you are given a reasonable feel to most of them, but as with the rest of the book, there is too much time and space given away to giving in-depth disgusting detail, when it simply isn't necessary.

The premise is pretty sound, and while not wholly original, it poses a pretty good story.  The juxtaposition of the action on the island and the snippets of interviews/reports looking back on the events (which appear at the start of a chapter every so often), work well to create an intrigue that will keep you reading until the end… but it fails to make it an enjoyable read.

I am not someone who is easily shocked or repulsed, and while I my stomach wasn’t churned by some of the descriptions in the story – I am fully aware that others will be.

The author lets himself down by his apparent need to describe every disgusting thought or action in as much details as possible.  This is true of pretty much every incident with the worms, and doubly so for the chapters spent inside the head of one of the children

…why subtly suggest that someone is a sociopath when you can ham-fistedly drive it home in disturbing, gory detail?

 As Mr Herbert showed in his writing – and is evident in the writing of other authors like Stephen King and Susan Hill – horror stories work best with subtlety and suspense.  There is never the need to spend multiple paragraphs describing every minute disgusting detail of something, as the suggestion of what it might be goes a long way.  It is filling in those blanks that make horror stories creepy and jumpy. 

A little goes a long way when you want to unnerve a person – after all, the monster hiding in the shadows with just the glint of a fang and a swish of movement is far more disturbing than the ugly creature standing in the light.

Overall this book has some good ideas, and if Mr Cutter can tone down the gore and depravity in the future, in favour of building suspense and letter the reader’s imagination do a little work… he will be one to look out for in years to come.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Troop is a very well written thriller that combines stomach-churning (quite literally!) horror with more psychological thrills, as the façade of civilisation melts away when our isolated protagonists are faced with the deadly threat of a mysterious contagion.

Nick Cutter gets into the skin of all the main players very effectively and I found the individual characters and the brutal camaraderie of the scouts were particularly well depicted. Their conversations, often centring around the adolescent staples of girls and scatological humour, felt utterly convincing and generated a few welcome blackly comic moments between the elements of grand guignol excess. For make no mistake, this is pretty strong material, including plenty of wince-making anatomical horror and other nasty stuff, which I should warn, includes cruelty to animals.

Cutter's use of language throughout is worthy of note, with many an inventive and entertaining use of simile and metaphor. There are plenty of hat-tips to the Internet-savvy to enjoy along the way too.

Only criticism? Well perhaps that I felt the main theme was exposed too early and things may have worked better by building the tension slowly and then hitting the reader with a nasty surprise. Furthermore, none of the characters come over as particularly sympathetic so, if you like a story with clearly demarcated heroes, you may struggle here. But what do I know?

No big deal though. If you enjoy the survivalist and/or horror genre of novel, then The Troop rattles along at a helluva pace, is a compelling page-turner and is certainly well worth adding to your reading list.

It would also make a great horror movie! *

* Provided no animals were harmed during the making of.
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on 14 August 2014
OK so I nearly didn't read this book! I saw some of the other readers had likened it to Lord of the Flies which instantly put me off. I hated that book as I couldn't connect with any of the characters and spent most of the book wishing that they would all die. Harsh I know! This book is TOTALLY different to Lord of the Flies; OK so there are a group of kids stranded on an island without adults but that's pretty much where the similarities stop. I am pleased that I decided to read it despite my initial trepidation as I really liked it.

The characters are really well developed and there are a nice mix of personalities. I particularly liked how their back stories were weaved in to the story line in little snippets which helped to firm up their characters.

In the author's acknowledgements at the end, he mentions King's Carrie and how it influenced this book. Obviously, the story is nothing like it but the similarity is that he uses newspaper articles, lab reports, therapy journals and court hearing details at the end of each chapter to help fill in the reader on the chain of events prior to and after the main thread of the story. These additions also gave the reader little hints at what might be to come which obviously made me want to read on to see.

The book was pretty descriptive and there was a lot of guts spilled, people eating bugs, and cutting things open etc. so if you have a delicate stomach you might not enjoy this book very much. It isn't just a gore-fest though. As I've already mentioned, the characters are well developed, the plot and suspense throughout is good and I loved the ambiguous ending.

I read it in fits and starts though while reading other books and I think it detracted from the experience. When I got in to it, I wanted to keep reading but then when I put it aside, I wasn't overly fussed about coming back to it. Overall I liked the book.
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on 2 August 2014
The Troop is a gripping mix of psychological and parasitic horror that will leave you wincing at some of the descriptions and rooting for some of the protagonists faced with overwhelming odds, my skins crawling just thinking back to those little f**kers at the guts of this story.

Five boy scouts and their scout master head of too Falstaff Island for a weekend of camping, sleeping in a cabin, earning their badges, the usual stuff but for the unplanned arrival of a boat and a man who is barely a skeleton, desperate for something to eat, suffering dementedly at the hands of something unthinkable.

Pretty soon the man’s dead, the scout leaders showing similar symptoms and survival rests in the hands of five young teenagers.

This is all about what the fourteen year old stereotypical boys do when faced with an unseen disaster, how each of the different personalities respond to extremely disturbing circumstances and the realization that no one’s coming to rescue them.

Kent is the jock with a mouth to match his athletic ability and self-elected leader, Ephraim or Eff, is the short-tempered rebel, the only boy in their grade who smokes and he hangs out with close friend Max, who finds himself dragged along in his wake. Max has a remoteness that sets himself apart from the others, a cool self-control that will see him spring to the forefront when adversity slaps them in the face.
Newton is the overweight nerd with a superior intellect, who attracts the boy’s torments like a wasp homing in on your ice cream and Shelley is the loner, a budding sociopath who has an uncanny ability to open doors in people and manipulate them, he soon finds the perfect opportunity to realise his darkest dreams.

Events on the Island are entwined with news reports, evidence logs and sworn testimony from various sources, leaking information about the horror’s that the boy’s face from the viewpoint of the outside world.

My favourite part of the story was the character development of the two boys Shelley and Ephraim, Shelley shows all the makings of a serial killer in training, a psychotic individual who homes in on Ephraim, subtle at first, sowing seeds of doubt in the fellow scout’s mind, festering, playing with his temper and worming deeper, exploiting his psyche, his weaknesses.

The Troop is a disturbing read, the horror elements are done exceptionally well and the pace is consuming and I’ll end on one of my favourite quotes from the book –

‘He couldn't get a grip on his sudden fear: it slipped through the safety bars of his mind and threaded—wormed—into the shadowy pockets where nightmares grew’.

Recommended
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on 26 April 2014
If you excuse the corneyism of this opening sentence, this book reads like a teenage horror fan's dream. Which as everyone knows, is a nighmare. *grins*

A battalion of boy scouts are given the luxury of a trip to an isolated island for a heightened "learning experience" but what they get out of the trip is way beyond everyone's expectations, including those of the reader.

The horror starts to unfold when the leader hears noises after sunset when the scouts are put to bed, knowing that they should be alone on the island. It turns out that the noises are caused by an emancipated looking individual who approaches the scouts dwelling as if he is about to expire from starvation. (Or he already has?) The leader takes pity on the "thing" given his humanitarian beliefs, and allows it to enter and eat at the hut.

What happens you will need to find out for yourself. *grins*

The writing from the author of thus work (Nick Cutter, which is not his real name) is perfectly balanced. It is not too wordy and the story moves along at a decent pace. Not too fast, and not too slow. Characterisation is excellent. Tension is set right up to maximum. Horror scenes are beautifully drawn and overall the tale itself is very frightening. Given the calibre of people who have supported this book, I am not surprised.

Four stars for this effort from me. Looking forward to reading more scary stuff from this author.

BFN Greggorio!
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on 7 April 2014
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The worse thing that ever happened to me on cub camp was the time I stepped on a nail, or the time I stood on glass. Let’s just say that I was injury prone, but even I am happy that I did not visit the island of Falstaff like the Venture Scouts in Nick Cutter’s ‘The Troop’. Feet heal over time, but getting infected with a parasitic worm that starves you to death is not so easy to shrug off, especially one that will make you so hungry you will eat absolutely anything including your friends; or yourself.

‘The Troop’ is pure visceral horror that will make you want to read through your fingers. The gore reminds me of Richard Laymon, extreme enough at times to make you uneasy. There is also characterisation here that reminds you more of James Herbert and in particular his ‘Rats’ novels. However, there is something about Cutter’s style that means this book is not of the standard of either of these two authors’ works.

At times Cutter’s language is a little too fruity; he is pleased with his own prose. The horror genre can be a little ripe at times (see Herbert again), but it is OTT in ‘The Troop’. I also had an issue with the characters. The loss of 13/14 years olds to a parasite should be horrific enough, but Cutter feels the need to give more backstory. In the end you dislike most of the characters as Cutter imbues them with some flaw or other to make you feel their death is in some way deserved. One character in particular is a psychopath, a loathsome layer that was not needed.

The book is actually at its best when not on the island. Between chapters you are given insights into the event after the fact in a court case and GQ magazine article. These elements inform the story, but also paint an interesting world. I would have preferred more time exploring the origins of the creatures, rather than basking in body horror. To be fair, the horrific elements are just that; horrific. Readers, who like their horror red raw and oozing will enjoy the book, just don’t expect to care about anyone in the novel.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
(Reviewed by my wife, a much bigger horror fan than me.)

"Nick Cutter" (a pseudonym that fools no one once Craig Davidson's characteristic style makes itself apparent) acknowledges a debt to the structure of Stephen King in his use of counterpoint narrative, using courtroom interviews, scientific accounts and magazine stories to depict not only the objective story but other, more subjective, perspectives as well. It's a great device, and elevates this from middle to top shelf horror.

Allowing for some minor lack of originality here and there – the parasitic creatures are old-school Cronenburg, for example – I highly recommend the novel. It's fast-paced, full of scares, humour and pathos, and the plight of the scoutmaster and the troop of five boys on their weekend island excursion feels very realistic. What's more, the insights into how the worms were developed – dietary aid or biological weapon, as the debate goes – gives it a plausible science fiction edge.

Some of the most harrowing moments of "The Troop" don't involve the awful evolution of the worms and what they do to their hosts, but rather the fear and distress the boys experience. Once scene is incredibly affecting; two of the boys, desperately hungry, try to kill a turtle they find on the beach. The protracted killing, and both the turtle's and the boys' torture throughout is truly distressing. Upsetting as the scene was, it's a great illustration of humanity reduced to desperation yet being profoundly affected by an almost spiritual pain at what they are forced to do.

Horror fiction has a way of being obvious to the point of embarrassment. There's always a sense of impending doom, a degree of isolation from the perceived safety of civilization, something dangerous lurking in the dark, characters losing trust in one another and beginning to turn on each other; these tropes have characterized horror fiction since its inception.

This story of teenage boys, with their quirks, their flippancy and the intensity of their responses to horrific happenings, was for me like the very best of "Lord of The Flies" meets the greatness of “The Body,” one of King's most beautiful and haunting stories. And it has similar impact in its closing pages.

It highlights the terror of the best horror fiction while still cutting its own way through the wilderness, into the dark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2014
As a long-term fan of the genre, I'm always looking out for new writers. The Troop, for me, was a wasted opportunity. The basic premise if fine, think Lord of the Flies crossed with The Ruins (feral teens and body horror, basically) but it just didn't scare me.

In fact with far too many moments of gore, rather than scares, coupled with some truly grim scenes of animal cruelty I ended up feeling a bit depressed.

For a truly great modern horror best check out 'Red Moon' by Benjamin Percy.
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2014
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of the most visceral and disturbing books I have read in a long time. I both loved,and was creeped out by it in equal measures!

What made the contagion seem so realistic and believable was the scientific information and case studies after every few chapters. These were described so brilliantly, that I could easily imagine this happening in real life, and that's what freaked me out!

This is not a book for the faint hearted, its bloody, gory and downright disturbing in some places. I'm not someone who is usually affected by books, but even I was left a little queasy in some parts!

The only reason I have not given the full 5* is the characters of the boys. Each was a little cliché, and fitted into his own little niche. It did feel like the author had a checklist of character types. Nerd, jock, weirdo, loner, they're all here. I would have liked them to have a little more depth and originality, but this was a tiny niggle and in the grand scheme of things it really didn't affect my enjoyment of the novel.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Troop to friends, it's easily one of the best books I have read so far this year. It really does creep under your skin and leave you thinking about for a long time.
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