The Troop - Nick Cutter Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I love delving into the horror genre every now and then, and I have to say the description on The Troop sold me right away. Something about being stranded in an isolated area like the woods or on a lonely island just invokes a primal kind of fear in my heart, the idea that no one can hear you scream when the stuff of nightmares comes to life around you.

Of course, for me the icing on the cake is that this book is written by a Canadian author (Nick Cutter is the pen name of Craig Davidson, according to the copyright details) and takes place in Canada, in a sleepy town off the coast of Prince Edward Island to be exact. A bucolic maritime province, P.E.I. is known for its fisheries, tourism and potatoes, and I'll always remember it in my mind as a place of lush landscapes and gorgeous coastlines. That said, the contrasting effects created by juxtaposing this setting alongside the horrific things that happen in this book is probably what made it even more terrifying.

When I'm reading, there are two parts to being scared. First, there are the descriptive details that appeal to my senses -- the sight of gore, the smell of blood, the taste of vomit on the back of a frightened character's throat, etc. Also known as the gross-out factor, I think I can safely say that this book did that very well. Still, I find many authors are able to write very descriptively, but simply making me feel nauseous and disgusted is only half of the picture.

This is where the second part comes in, which is more abstract and subjective. For me to be truly creeped out, there has to be that factor of suspense; the horror novelist has to strike me with that sense of dread which makes me want to keep turning the pages and not want to at the same time. I'm happy to report that The Troop succeeded in this as well, artfully combining the two parts to make this reading the book a truly unnerving horror experience.

A big part of this is of course the idea behind the story -- a Scoutmaster and his troop of five scouts being abandoned on a small deserted island to fend for themselves against an unknown infection. Reading about the boys and their interactions, I can't help but be reminded of Stephen King and the easy camaraderie he usually has between the adolescent characters in his stories. I always think it's so much more disturbing when a horror novel stars teenagers, because their behaviors are that much more unpredictable. The boys' minds have not reached full maturity, and this leads to a lot of unsettling things happening, especially given the wide range of personalities present in The Troop. Being kids and scouts, their first inclination is to help others in need, and the fact this natural drive is exploited by the contagious threat is what made the book even more chilling.

You can kind of tell that the author delights in doing this to the reader as well, as the writing in the horror scenes seem to come off more naturally and elegantly than the other parts. Believe it or not, the introduction was the toughest section for me to get through, since the narratives of the Scoutmaster and the boys felt very awkward, rough and unfocused before finally smoothing out after the first few chapters. It's like the book doesn't settle into its groove until the horror parts are underway, but once it does the momentum just builds and builds and doesn't stop! I was on pins and needles right up to the end.