I have some mixed reactions regarding The Troop, but not because of the nature of the story. While my idea of horror involves less - as opposed to more - gore and guts, I am able to go along for the ride when there are some unique twists. With The Troop, the graphic storytelling involves children – and believe me there is no holding back on the part of the author. Some people were disgusted by this. I wasn’t. The read was disturbing – that is true – but it was disturbing in the way that The Walking Dead episode involving Carol and Lizzie was disturbing (I will say no more). That was a powerful episode for a TV show, and Mr. Cutter writes equally disquieting passages in The Troop.
The overall narrative was fairly uncomplicated, but the author had some rip-roaring scenes involving infestation. In fact there were two (yes, two, which rarely happens to me anymore) incidents that made the hairs at the back of my neck tingle for just a second. In both cases, they involved one of the boys (Kent), and they were only a handful of words in both cases – but they hit their mark. Mr. Cutter also intersperses transcripts from a government inquiry among the chapters to help fill in backstory and propel the plot. I found these devices rather effective.
I think the main problem for me was related to point-of-view. Unfortunately, the author uses a third person-omniscient point of view. There is a lot of head-jumping among the characters – sometimes within the same sections and even the same paragraph. The result is a little jarring, because you end up trying to reorient whose state of mind is being addressed. Given the nature of the story, the author needed to tell the story from multiple different perspectives, but I think he could have taken a more third-person limited perspective within sections or chapters. That way, the reader is assured whose perspective is “seeing” the action and whose emotions are on “display”. Speaking of emotions, another limitation of this omniscient point of view was the author was never truly inside the heads of his characters, so they remained rather distant as if they were being kept at arms-length from the reader. Finally, the kids were all fourteen, but the omniscient point of view resulted in descriptions of their actions and affective reactions that were way beyond the capacity of adolescent males of this age.
In summary, The Troop is a gruesome and eerie horror tale that maintains a suspenseful pace, even though avid horror-readers will probably predict where things will end up (and if they can ignore some distracting point of view issues). I give The Troop a 4ish rating.