Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nick Cutter Eats Up The Troop

The Troop by Nick Cutter
With its initial premise not all that dissimilar to Parasite by Mia Grant, Nick Cutter once again makes us weary of problem-solution science without a conscience for consequence. This time around, a handful of scientists kick around a two-pill concept as the ultimate answer for weight loss.

Within an hour after swallowing a single pill, patients are able to shed as much weight as they want — 10, 20 or more pounds in the matter of days. As soon as they are satisfied, they can stop too many pounds from melting away with a second pill. It's about this simple: Two pills for the perfect you.

For anyone without the discipline for a diet, the promise of the two-pill solution might sound good enough to ignore the means behind the miracle. Or maybe the means won't matter. Even bioengineered tapeworms can overcome an image problem if proven to be the ultimate diet aid.

The Troop begins as claustrophobic horror at its finest.

Unfortunately, science tends to be a study in trial and error. And when one error escapes to the same island that scoutmaster Tim Riggs and his tight-knit troop of five have chosen for their annual excursion into the Canadian wilderness, there is no question it will end badly for someone.

The only question that remains unanswered is who among them might be most vulnerable. Will it be the popular and all-around athlete Kent, the natural born tough kid Ephraim, the easygoing but slightly overweight Max, the nerd by any measure Newt, or the unremarkable odd duck Shelley?

The Troop
It's anyone guess as the unexpected intruder stumbles upon their island cabin in need of help. Shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry, the man asks the troop to make an impossible decision — whether to cut other people or themselves should take precedent.

And then more than that, their story twists itself into a harrowing struggle for survival against the elements, an unknown contagion, one another, and something less seen but increasingly malevolent. Even as Cutter tends to give away his twists too early, there is always something else leering around the next corner.

It makes for a fine old school horror story with a few more layers before Cutter allows it to remorsefully descend into old school gore. Even as a short read, he sets a sense of fatality far too early in the story to keep any element of suspense and tension stirring.

A few more graphs about Nick Cutter a.k.a. Craig Davidson. 

Nick Cutter
Craig Davidson, who also publishes under the name Patrick Lestewka, is a Canadian author who first broke onto the scene with his short story collection, Rust and Bone, in 2005. He then went on to write his first novel, The Fighter, for which he himself underwent a 16-week steroid cycle to understand it and a fully sanctioned boxing match against Toronto poet Michael Knox at Florida Jack's Boxing Gym.

While continuing on with his literary fiction career, Davidson started writing horror under the name Patrick Lestewka. His first two horror novels actually predate his short story collection. Cutter is his most recent pen name, chosen because he sees The Troop as much more accessible to young adults despite gratuitous gore and torture elements.

Davidson also credits the book in part to Stephen King because he borrowed the structure from Carrie while attempting to draw upon King's uncanny ability to capture authenticity in adolescence. King himself read the book and called it "old school horror at its best." Our take is somewhere south of that as The Troop is never as frightening as it is before Davidson foreshadows the story to the point of becoming a spoiler at times.

The Troop By Nick Cutter Creeps 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Davidson a.k.a. Cutter clearly hits an underserved audience with The Troop, somewhat inflating its reviews on sites like Amazon and Good Reads with an enduring audience. In truth, the novel is good enough to share but not necessarily on the pedestal it has found for a gore hungry audience — not that his work is anywhere near the horror writers he grew up with but just as boringly detailed.

You can find The Troop by Nick Cutter on Amazon. The book The Troop is also available on Barnes & Noble or can be downloaded for iBooks. The audiobook is narrated by Corey Brill who does a remarkably great job with the story, even when he has to toggle between the present-day story and past-tense reports that aim to tie everything together.
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