PJV Quickie: THE TROOP has all the elements of a brilliant horror novel and all the wrong proportions to make it work. As is, it’s too gory and morally disturbing for the YA audience. I’d recommend this book only to adults who specifically like their books bloody enough to satisfy a vampire’s thirst.
Review: THE TROOP is told through not only the POVs of the characters on the island, but also through interviews conducted after the events on the island occur. The interviews explaining the events occurring outside the island offered a chilling glimpse into how grim the situation is for the five boys and their scoutmaster. After the infected man came in contact with them they might as well each have taken a bullet to the head and ended their misery right then.
What bothered me most about the book was the frequent pauses in the story to explain the characters’ back stories. It made the novel have the pacing of a man crawling across the floor after being shot in both kneecaps and his abdomen.
Yes, that slow.
The slower pace diluted the psychological horror aspect, that the interview scenes set up, to the point where the gory scenes only had pure shock-value to keep the reader reading. The gore was so intense at times that I started skimming. I don’t watch most modern horror movies specifically because I can’t handle gore upon gore.
I think the biggest obstacle THE TROOP faces is the conflict between its targeted audience of YA and the repeated acts of animal cruelty within its pages. Besides giving PETA members nightmares, these scenes will sicken most readers to the point where they will stop reading. One of the torture scenes was so gory and heartless that I had to skip to the end of the chapter. I love my gore, but I can’t tolerate what this kid did to poor Fluffy.
The setup and characters of the novel do remind me of several Stephen King novels. The sensation of absolute isolation is perfectly portrayed. THE TROOP reminds me of a YA version of DREAMCATCHER (only without the aliens — still trying to figure out why King thought spontaneously adding aliens made sense). Nick Cutter has true talent in horror, but he needs to lessen up on the animal cruelty and gore if he wants to attract anyone but hardcore horror fans to his books.