I have read a few terrifying books in my time which include the theme of the graphic depiction of violence. Books such as: “Exquisite Corpse” by Poppy Z. Brite, “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis and even yes, “Haunted” by Chuck Palahniuk. Graphic depictions of violence in novels are often used not just for the effect of horror, but also to make the reader truly see what is happening as it is something that the reader has (hopefully) not witnessed in person before. To make a depiction of violence believable we need something more than just the way in looks, we need to way it truly feels to be in that position. The mixture of feelings of terror and descriptions of the physical in the violent act causes the scene to be even stronger than it would have been without the atmospheric description. Ideas not only surrounding darkness, but the deep and philosophical - possibly existential and absurd - have found to be even more effective in producing some incredible descriptions when involved in depictions of violence in a horror novel. Nick Cutter’s “The Troop” is no exception to this recipe for a brilliant horror book which is truly quite terrifying.
It starts off with five children and their scoutmaster. The scoutmaster is named Tim and the five boys are: Kent, Ephraim, Shelley, Max and Newt. Each child has his own personality that sets him apart from the other four. Kent is Mr. Popular, Ephraim has anger issues, Shelley is some sort of sociopath who enjoys setting fire to ants, Max is reasonably normal and Newt is a chubby nerd who gets picked on by the other four. When the boys get to their island where their scout activities will take place, they are told to stay in their cabins and not come out. On the opposite side of the door, Scoutmaster Tim has found a man who has brought himself to shore in search of food. Asking if Tim can give him any food, Tim realises that the man in question is not actually starving even though he has lost a ton of weight and Tim could see his bones - Tim realises that the man is sick. He is very clearly sick with something that Tim, a doctor in daily life, has never seen before. As Tim performs a makeshift operation on the man, all the boys but one stays put and away from the man, fearing contagion. But what happens next is worse than any of them could have imagined.
Including events such as: burning people alive, locking the Scoutmaster in a cupboard and beating a friend half to death, this book blends Battle Royale with Lord of the Flies - descending into madness with incredible speed. As the boys turn against each other and become more and more weary of the strangers of the group, there is really something not quite right about the way in which some of them are behaving. Hunger pains, hopelessness of rescue and thundering storms litter the novel in a way of creating the most amazing atmosphere with the most uncomfortable turn of events. A truly great achievement of contemporary horror fiction.
In conclusion, I will proceed to read everything that Nick Cutter has written because this was truly brilliant. It is a blend of horror with the atmosphere befitting an apocalyptic thriller and events that could, in extreme cases, could actually happen for all we know. In this medical nightmare, Nick Cutter gives us the most extreme ideas of the human condition - what really does happen when its every man for himself?