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.

Exciting News From Children’s Author Camille Blue Amy

Camille Blue Amy signing copies of Marshall and His Green High-tops at Sunart in Punta Gorda, FL

I had a lovely conversation with Camille this morning on the phone and was delighted to hear about what she’s been up to of late. She’s been keeping very busy with writing and social functions and has also been learning a new computer program, PagePlus, that she’s using to create her second children’s book.

Camille is playing tennis again which makes her very happy and her golf game is finally coming around too. She got a 90 the other day and was quite pleased with that!

Camille (a.k.a. Mickey) and her husband Jack recently attended the Golden Memories of Motown concert on March 18th in Punta Gorda featuring Wilson Williams & His Platters, Glenn Leonard’s Temptations Experience, Pam Darden’s Marvelettes Revue and The Legacy of Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters. They thoroughly enjoyed the performances and The Temptations were particularly fantastic.

She has recently joined the Peace River Center for Writers in Punta Gorda and has attended her first meeting there and won lottery tickets for The Big Read’s special kick-off event featuring bestselling author Stephen King on March 20th. She told me that Mr. King is a very friendly man, an excellent public reader, and not in the least bit sinister! She thoroughly enjoyed his presentation and was the envy of many who didn’t win one of the 400 tickets that were available via lottery.

“The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest designed to bring communities together through literature.”

For more Big Read activities in Charlotte County during the week of April 5th, 2010, click here.

In honor of The Big Read’s 6-week celebration, Camille will be doing 2 book signings for Marshall and His Green High-tops:

Saturday, April 10, 2010
12 pm – 3 pm
HOOKED ON BOOKS
1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, FL 33950

-and-

Thursday, April 15, 2010
5 pm – 8 pm – Evening Gallery Walk
SUNART
207 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda, FL 33950-4829

I’ve saved the most exciting news for last! Camille is very close to being finished with the writing her second children’s picture book, “Fish Faces” which will feature photographs by underwater photographer Brian Ardel, M.D. There will be a new website for “Fish Faces” up and running very soon as well so stay tuned for that. And now, here’s a sneak peek of the cover art!

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.