The Troop by Nick Cutter

troop coverBook Review
Title: The Troop
Author:  Nick Cutter
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: February 25, 2014
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 1476717710
ISBN-13: 978-1476717715
Stars:  4.5

Do you know how hard it is to kill something? Nothing wants to die. Things cling to their lives against all hope, even when it’s hopeless…You hold on to life until it gets ripped away from you. Even if it gets ripped away in pieces. You just hold on. ~ from The Troop by Nick Cutter

I’ve read a lot of horror novels in my day, although admittedly most of them were when I was younger. I’m a fan of Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and of course, Stephen King, who said about this book,

“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. The Troop by Nick Cutter is the scariest, creepiest, most disturbing novel I’ve read in years. Perfectly marketed as a Novel of Terror, The Troop is a book best read during the daytime with the lights on so that you can avoid the inevitable nightmares you’ll be plagued with if you read it before bed. There were scenes in this book that were so unsettling that I had to put the book down and go back to it later, and I read it during mornings. Described as part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later (Thinner by Richard Bachman also comes to mind), this is one exceedingly freaky, well-paced read.

The Troop is the unforgettable tale of Scoutmaster Tim Riggs and the scouts of Troop Fifty-Two: five fourteen-year-old boys who head out for a weekend wilderness survival expedition (meaning no cell phones) on deserted Falstaff Island in the tiny fishing community of Lower Montague, Prince Edward Island and come into contact with a strange, extremely thin man who changes the course of their lives. One by one members of the troop are infected with a bioengineered, parasitic hydatid worm (originally created in a laboratory to be used in a weight loss product) that infuses them with a hunger that cannot be satiated and causes them to do things that they never would have imagined they were capable of.  What is certain to become the infamous “kitten” and “turtle” scenes immediately come to mind and if I’m ever locked in a dark closet I will surely lose my mind.

Kent (popular jock), Max and Ephraim (best friends: one calm, the other explosive, but well liked by others), Newton (overweight nerd) and Shelley (odd duck) are a tight-knit group of teenage boys who have grown up together and evolved as boy scouts from Beavers to Cubs and from Scouts to Venturers. We learn about their backgrounds and personalities as the story unfolds and as a result we care about them (or most of them because let’s face it, no one cheers for a sociopath) which makes it all the more upsetting to witness their individual transformations during the most terrifying experience of their lives. Indeed, something wicked this way comes!

Divided into three graphic and gory parts: The Hungry Man, Infestation, and Contagion and scarier than any ghost story I’ve ever read, The Troop is so frightening because the cause of its horror is something that could conceivably happen. Many of the chapters are prefaced with either newspaper or magazine article, geographical survey report, excerpts from scientific papers, evidence logs from the police investigation and sworn testimony of individuals involved with the events occurring on FalstaffIsland. As we are given more of the details surrounding the development and legacy of the Modified Hydatid worm, we’re pervaded with dread and feel increasingly sicker about the fate of the boys.

I’m wondering if author Craig Davidson will wish that he didn’t use the pseudonym of Nick Cutter for The Troop after its release later this month as it will undoubtedly be a bestseller and a huge success for him.

I loved this book and the only reason it didn’t get a 5 star review from me is because the boys’ characters are fairly clichéd, albeit enjoyable. However, this story stayed with me from the time I finished reading it until I wrote this review (a month), so if you read one horror novel this year, it has to be The Troop.

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology Features Our Man Fred by A.F. Stewart

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk AnthologyBOOK PREVIEW

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology

Synopsis

Amid a cacophony of cranking sprockets and cogs, in chuffs of steam and soot, comes the expansion of classic literature into alternative Steampunk masterpieces. Follow nine skilled authors as they lead old friends and new acquaintances through Jamaica, Singapore, Cape Town, Denmark, Paris, London, and Geneva on a phantasmagorical Steampunk World Tour.

Tropic of Cancer: Edward Rochester battles the elements and Bertha Mason to save his brother and his own soul.

Sense and Cyborgs: Privateer Margaret Dashwood makes port at Singapore to get her husband back on his feet.

Micawber and Copperfield: Wilkins Micawber and David Copperfield create a legacy of loyalty in the Royal Dirigible Corps.

Little Boiler Girl: Power has a price, and one city unwittingly demands an enslaved child pay it.

The Clockwork Ballet: At the Palais Garnier, the Phantom trips the light fantastic with Meg Giry, the prima ballerina of his mechanical troupe.

His Frozen Heart: Jacob Marley saves Ebenezer Scrooge from robbing his wife’s grave and selling his soul.

Our Man Fred: Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and his fiancé, Mary, protect the Empire from mechanized malfeasance.

Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea: Victor Frankenstein’s bride discovers more than his horrific experiments on her wedding day.

Book Links:

Xchyler Publishing:  http://www.xchylerpublishing.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CFT5658/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mechanized-masterpieces-anika-arrington/1115181302 (you can read the book’s Forward and a part of a sample story, Tropic of Cancer by Neve Talbot here.)

A Quote from Our Man Fred:

“As they walked, it seemed almost every building had some similar contrivance as decoration, adorning the street in a cacophony of clangs, bangs and whirs. The street’s surroundings danced with steam and smoke, the scent of oil and grease its perfume.”

Bio:

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home.  The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting as a hobby.

Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

Learn more about A.F. Stewart at http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

Fade To Pale by James Cheetham

Book Review
Title: Fade To Pale
Author: James Cheetham
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Released: July 2007
Pages: 248
ISBN-10: 1934069523
ISBN-13: 978-1934069523
Stars: 4.5

Seven-year-old Rita Hamilton is fond of sleep and believes that Heaven can be found at the beach. She’s staying with her Grandma, who loves her, and her Grandpa, who barely tolerates her, because her mother has finally been locked up in an institution after years of suffering through an alcohol-soaked personality disorder. Grandma is quite worried about Rita’s penchant for sleep and tries to bring her out of her cocoon with a trip to the beach.

While lounging on the sand, Rita’s only friend and confidante, the mean-spirited Emily, makes an ominous appearance and the next thing Rita is conscious of, is awakening in a hospital room after nearly drowning.

Twenty-six years later, married but estranged from Michael and her two children Zack and Angie, and more like her mother than she ever wanted to be, Rita lives in her own, private nightmare, possessed by drug-induced dreams of menacing water rising in her bedroom and telephone calls that may or may not have actually occurred.

Winnipeg author James Cheetham has woven a brilliantly, creepy tapestry highlighted by the horrific, messy, unraveling of the human mind in this superb tale of dark fiction called Fade To Pale. It is so good in fact, that I believe that Stephen King should be worried…very worried. Fade to Pale is unnervingly accomplished for a debut novel and although it has developed a well-deserved cult following, it should be a best-selling, award-winner. Cheetham’s got the writing chops to achieve horror superstardom to rival the likes of King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz.

Nothing is as it seems in Fade To Pale. We slowly discover through Rita’s mental breakdown that her entire existence has been a lie and there was no other way that her destiny could have been played out given the sensational circumstances of her life. We also realize that there is a lot more to Emily than we could have imagined and that one might not exist without the other.

Emily shook her head.

“YOU ARE THE UGLY DUCKLING OF THE HUMAN RACE, AND I’M SORRY FOR THAT BECAUSE UNDERNEATH ALL THIS TRAGEDY YOU ARE ONE OF THE FINEST HUMANS I HAVE EVER MET, THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER MADE ME RECONSIDER MY OWN PLACE IN THE WORLD. YOU ARE THE VIRUS AND I AM THE CURE. THERE WILL BE DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF I DON’T LET FATE TAKE OVER FROM THIS POINT ON. I ONLY HOPE THAT YOU AND YOUR FAULTY MIND CAN GET THROUGHT HIS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.”

Fade To Pale is an intense, chilling, audacious and deeply disturbing psychological thriller about how unbelievably ghastly human beings can behave towards one another, and at the same time it introduces us to another world called the Here and There…a world you don’t want to visit. The nightmarish world that is Rita’s mind invoked remembrance of Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining and more recently, Mike Enslin in the movie 1408 starring John Cusack, based on a short story by King.

The ending of Fade To Pale was satisfying and gave me goosebumps, but I won’t give it away.

My one criticism of the book is that the text should be more generously spaced out (but then again, I need bifocals and don’t have them!) and the layout could be much more attractive, but that’s really not a big deal and does nothing to distract one from the story.

Lovers of horror, psychological thrillers, and dark fiction should NOT miss out on reading James Cheetham’s Fade To Pale. Where there was once Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft to scare us to our cores and make us doubt our sanity, there is now James Cheetham, King of Fear and Loathing on the Canadian prairies.

Chronicles of the Undead by A. F. Stewart

Book Review
Title: Chronicles Of The Undead
Author:  A.F. Stewart
Publisher: Lulu.com
Released: July 2009
Pages: 168
ISBN 10 – 0557026709
ISBN 13 – 978-0557026708
Stars:  2.5

Chronicles of the Undead by Nova Scotia author A. F. Stewart is a captivating, quick to read horror novella that pays homage to the master of all vampire tales, Bram Stoker, and will also immediately bring to mind the author of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice.

Set in London, England at the end of the 18th century and in the first quarter of the 19th, A. F. Stewart has chosen the diary format and writes with no dialogue, in the first person of her main characters, Samuel Harrington, his son, Edmund Harrington, and granddaughter, Charlotte Harrington with an authentic voice for the time period.

Chronicles of the Undead begins with the diary (1793-1795) of Samuel Harrington. Harrington is a stock broker who has just met his new neighbours; the mysterious Henri Forain and his beautiful cousin, Eleanor de Burgh. He embarks upon a close knit friendship with Henri based on their mutual common interests which include carousing in the local brothel, drinking and gambling, much to Harrington’s wife Eliza’s dismay.

Harrington soon reveals that he is not happy in his marriage to a disapproving wife and yearns for the life he led in his wilder youth. Indulging in his new found hedonistic delight, Samuel spends his days working on his financial interests and his nights with Henri at Dame Montague’s brothel.

The estranged Eliza complains frequently about Samuel’s vices and his friendship with Henri, so Harrington takes to giving her sound thrashings, and she becomes very meek and amiable which pleases her awful husband. Shortly after, Harrington discovers that his dear friend and partner in hedonism is a vampire!

Will Harrington ever be the same? Will he allow Henri to make him a vampire? What is the exact nature of Henri’s new found relationship with Harrington’s teenage daughter, Flora?

I won’t give away all of the plot, but these are old-fashioned, nasty bloodsuckers who feed on human blood with no remorse.

Stewart’s story continues in part two with the diaries of Harrington’s son Edmund (1795-1797), and concludes in part three with those of his granddaughter, Charlotte (1825-1826).

“Chronicles of the Undead is an intimate portrayal of family, weakness, the lure of evil, and how one selfish act can have horrific consequences.” Although it is not terribly unique, it is a satisfying read that ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, although one can figure out the ending for him/herself. The book has been poorly edited for grammar and punctuation but other than that, it is a fine effort from Ms. Stewart, who has a wonderful imagination and whose main writing focus is in the fantasy and poetry genres.