Ugh, this book.
I wanted to like it. Really, I did. The premise sounded really cool to me: five scouts alone on an island with a killer, contagious breed of tapeworm. Heck, my hardcover even had a blurb from Stephen King saying how much he loved it!
I didn't like it.
First off, I don't think Nick Cutter knows the difference between paying homage and completely ripping off. His heart was probably in the right place when writing this book, and I doubt he set out to rip anyone or anything off, but rip off he did. Imagine the classic Lord of the Flies mixed with some of the original Alien movie and a generous helping of several Stephen King novels -- namely Dreamcatcher, Cell, Carrie, and IT. In theory, I would not mind a horror novel with elements from these stories thrown in, as long as the author did his or her own share of the work and came up with original ways to implement these themes. Cutter doesn't. He just throws in a lot of stuff we've seen before and ups the gore factor.
Don't get me wrong; I do not mind gore in movies or books. I read the previously mentioned Dreamcatcher without batting an eye (and aliens ripped themselves out of people's buttholes, y'all) so trust me when I say The Troop is filled with gratuitous violence and blood and guts and crap and urine and rotting flesh and extreme animal cruelty. By page 150 or so I was ready for the story to be over simply because I felt like the author was rubbing my nose in the disgusting mess he had created.....and I still had over 200 pages to go.
Another demerit to the book is the five boys are stereotypes, nothing more. You have your jock, your weirdo, your nerd, your angry kid, your mellow guy. It's like The Breakfast Club with cannibals. Yeesh. Their dialogue is okay, albeit it's a bit stilted at times. Also, the way they react to certain things is very normal of their age (fourteen) but in other times -- at random -- they seem like mini-adults. It's strange.
However, I will say what made me give this book two stars instead of one is the idea of the tapeworm and the way it is used here. It's not very original, but it is fun. Gross, but fun. I had to know what happened next despite the scenes that made me gag and put the book down for short periods of time. In my eyes, that's a success on the author's part. It isn't easy keeping the reader rapt throughout 300+ pages, especially when he wants to stop reading but can't.
The Troop is a trashy novel, plain and simple. The characters don't feel real, there is simply too much gore, and....honestly, it just didn't scare me. It grossed me out for sure, but grossing out does not always equal horrifying. So, it fails on almost all levels. However, it did keep me turning the pages until the end so I suppose that counts for something. I'll give it two stars (grudgingly).