Halloween Read: “The Troop” by Nick Cutter

the troop

Nothing like some good old-fashioned paranoia and body horror come Halloweentime!

The Troop follows a group of scouts on a camping trip on an island.  Scoutmaster Tim takes the troop out every year for a three-day camp in the Canadian wilderness.  And this year, there’s a ravenous, sickly something at the campsite with them–and this something was created to infect as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

The scares in this story come both from the goriness of it (and it’s pretty cringe-inducingly gross!) and from the paranoia and claustrophobia of the island.  The boys in the troop quickly find themselves on their own and open to infection–who’s still safe?  Who’s been infected?  Can they get themselves safely off the island, or are outside forces going to keep them there?  It’s very reminiscent of the classic The Thing, though our monster originates far closer to home.

The Troop is a profoundly creepy and unsettling book, in the very best possible way.   The characters are great, too–you’re really invested in each of these boys (uh, except one, but I won’t spoil it), and it’s both scary and sad to watch them all fight it out and try to survive.

If you’re an old-school Stephen King fan, definitely give Cutter’s work a look!

 

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Halloween Read: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter

little heaven

Little Heaven is an intense read.  Three bounty hunters are hired to save a boy from a cult called Little Heaven in New Mexico.  It’s obvious something is very badly wrong in Little Heaven–monsters lurk in the woods and children have been disappearing.  Our bounty hunters, Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva, just want to get the job done, but they find themselves drawn into something dark and otherworldly, threatening everyone’s lives.

The narrative goes back and forth in time from the 1980’s to the 1960’s.  In the present, Micah’s daughter has been lured away from home by a creature.  And in the past, we get the history of Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva’s first encounter with this same creature, and how they ended up bound together as well as bound to the darkness.  There’s also the story of Little Heaven itself, and the Reverend Amos Flesher, who founded it (and who has his own dark secrets and leanings).

Little Heaven is gory and dripping with dread all the way through.  There’s also a feeling almost like a Western.  The sense of foreboding, and of an otherworldly threat, saturate the story, but the mercenaries are lone-wolf types who just do the jobs they’re hired to do.  The desert setting is gritty, vast, and lonely, well-suited to the bleak mood.

Yet, the ending has a tiny, tiny shred of hope, both for the characters and for humanity.  It’s not happy by any stretch, but there is that hope.  There’s also some black humor throughout which helps to balance the dark imagery.

If you like gory horror with great action, monsters, and an intense mood, give this one a try this Halloween!   There’s also a lot to like if you’re a fan of vintage Stephen King–the tone and themes are pretty similar.