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Literature / The Troop

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The Troop is a 2014 Canadian Horror novel by Nick Cutter, unrelated to the Nickelodeon show of the same name.

Scout Master Tim Riggs has led a troop of boyscouts — Ephraim, Maxwell, Kent, Newton (usually shortened to Newt), and Shelley — to a secluded island off PEI for a camping trip. However, the sudden appearance of a rail-thin stranger throws those plans into ruin...


  • Admiring the Abomination: During an interview, Dr. Edgerton is almost maniacally exultant when describing how resilient the worms are and how determined they and worms in general are to evolve and survive. Likewise, as the worms eat away at Shelley, he begins to see them as his offspring, proclaiming that he'll be a wonderful father to them and make sure they eat well. This is especially notable since said characters are entirely indifferent to the suffering of other living things and in Shelley's case, gets thrills by inflicting suffering on them.
  • Adults Are Useless: Averted. The boys believe that it's totally OK to pass things off to the adults, since when a grown-up handles things, it gets done right the first time. It doesn't last.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: All the kids treat Newt terribly. The only reason they don’t treat Shelley the same way is because they know something is “off” about him.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The novel closes with Max, who went through several months of testing for infection and got a clean bill of health, riding out to the bombed-out remains of the island, with "a nameless hunger building inside him" as he gets closer to the island, that "gnawed at his guts with teeth that knew his name". Whether this means an evolved strain of the worms managed to lie hidden and dormant inside him despite the testing, or if it's meant to be metaphorical of the bitter loneliness he feels now that his friends are dead and he's treated like a leper is unclear.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Most of the boys defer to Kent since he's the biggest and the strongest (and the meanest).
  • Beneath Suspicion: Kinda played with in regards to Shelley. It's implied that Shelley's mother might at least suspect him of being disturbed, if not outright convinced. At one point she thinks to herself if he could have harmed the family's pet kitten. Yes, yes he could. It’s described as though something “replaced” Shelley as he grew into his psychopathic tendencies, and Shelley actively cultivates an image of unnerving weirdness to mask his disturbing urges.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The mutant tapeworms, whose rapid spread and threat to spill into the mainland, are the primary antagonistic force on the island, but Shelley taking advantage of the situation to indulge in his twisted sadism makes the already dire situation even worse for the rest of the boy scouts.
  • Big Eater: The first symptom of mutant tapeworm infestation. Crosses over with Extreme Omnivore; although they prefer biomass, they'll gobble anything they can get their hands on.
  • Body Horror: The tapeworms' effect on their hosts' bodies is both horrifying and nauseating. This includes losing weight EXTREMELY rapidly until they're downright skeletal, developing clusters of weeping cysts, and in some cases, losing teeth and hair. Dr. Nathan Erikson, who worked alongside Dr. Edgerton, was reduced to sobbing in horror when observing a chimpanzee infected with the tapeworms.
    Dr. Erikson: Subject… suh-suh-subject is… Jesus. Jesus Christ… subject… subject is not a subject anymore. I mean, holy God, is she? How could she be? Subject is more bone than anything. Subject… Jesus, you poor thing. You poor fucking thing, you… I just… Clive, you bastard... this is… oh, Jesus.
  • Chest Burster: And every orifice besides. The mutant tapeworms do this when their host croaks.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Possibly. Max is given a clean bill of health after several months of testing, but the final lines hint that a strain of the worms managed to lie dormant and hidden in him through it all, and his going to look at the bombed-out and chemically sterilized remains of the island awakens them.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Newt, it turns out, has a separate online identity named after and based on his late cousin, whom he greatly admired, that he uses in order to interact more confidently with other people without all of the baggage that comes with being a Bully Magnet.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Scoutmaster Tim gets a tree unceremoniously dropped on him.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Shelley tearing a crayfish apart.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Infected release a smell like rotten fruit because their fatty tissues are being broken down.
  • Evil Feels Good: Shelley actually gets off on killing things (the day he drowned a kitten was the most erotic instance in his life). He reacts to his infestation as if he were pregnant.
  • Explosive Breeder: The tapeworms are basically a Mix And Match Creature of a tapeworm and a Tribble (or Parasprite, if that's your thing).
  • Final Girl: Max is the most mild-mannered boy on the camp trip and is mostly free from the vices/insecurities that consume the others. By the end of the horrendous camping trip, he's the only one alive.
  • First-Name Basis: Kent often addresses adults like this, mostly because he knows he can get away with it.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: One strain of the genetically engineered tapeworm was intended as a diet aide. The other as a bioweapon. Guess which one breaches containment?
  • Gone Horribly Right: The mutant tapeworms that cause the outbreak were supposed to be used as diet aides, since tapeworm infestations are characterized by a loss of weight. The infected lose weight, alright...
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The tapeworms were experimented on to make them unable to survive outside the human colon. Instead, it gives them Hollywood Evolution.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: An inversion; the horror is happening to them, not perpetrated by them. And since it's Canada, they're newfies.
  • Horror Hunger: In this case, it's not the what they're eating that's horrifying and destructive-but how much. Patient Zero devours an entire Greasy Spoon's worth of eggs (in a "hungry-man" breakfast platter intended to keep a stevedore or fishing trawler crewman satiated until lunchtime, that contains pancakes, sausages, and bacon besides, of which he gobbles five orders), and eats enough to do himself severe internal injury-and he's still hungry. Eventually, he eats live crabs and spiders, rock slime (that snot-like algae on beach rocks), a handful of sand, and finally, the stuffing out of an old couch. Scoutmaster Tim eats wallpaper out of desperation, and Kent eats the entire food supply for the weekend in one go.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The only things in this book worse than deadly, infectious worms are their creator, who has no regard for human life, and a teenager who gets off on killing animals.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Deconstructed, the infected can't eat enough to maintain themselves-no matter how much they eat. And since everything they eat is either digested at a normal pace or scarfed by mutant tapeworms, they do themselves severe internal damage and starve to death anyways.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Everyone picks on poor Newt, but Shelley is easily the cruelest kid on the island.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Shelley gets infested while murdering Kent, who is also infested. Kent's infestation may also count depending on your views about Jerk Jock and School Bullying Is Harmless.
  • Lockdown: The army shows up and quarantines the island and nearby town. They arrest some of the scout’s parents when they try to mount a rescue.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Clive Edgerton, the man who genetically modified a tapeworm into a Zerg-like monstrosity. He's actually compared to Joseph Mengele. Of all of the epithets the public uses for him, he prefers “Doctor”.
  • Manly Tears: Several of the boys mention that they cried when either their pets died or the most beautiful creature they ever saw was needlessly destroyed.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: One of Edgerton's assistants does this when it's revealed that he was working on a parasite-based biological weapon, rather than a diet pill.
    • Max and Newt after they kill a turtle.
  • Never Found the Body: Kent's body ends up being swept away by the tide after Shelley murders him, and this is played for drama (since his parents don't get any kind of closure about his death) and horror (since the last we see of his body is fish starting to eat it, possibly giving the worms a way to spread more).
  • Nightmare Sequence: Kent has one where his dad turns into a worm-riddled zombie and tries to eat him.
    • Max has a similar one, except his dad only has one worm coming out the top of his head.
  • Not a Zombie: Scoutmaster Tim mistakes Patient Zero for a waterlogged zombie when he first sees him.
  • Parasitic Horror: The book involves a parasite-based bioweapon created as a side-gig to a genetically engineered tapeworm diet aid. While the diet aid was meant to become The Symbiote, the bioweapon took all the bad things about them and cranked them up to eleven, and added a few more besides.
  • Patient Zero: Thomas Henry Padgett.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The island is doused with napalm and bioweapons-grade cleaner. It doesn't take.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Queen tapeworms infest the host brain to make them believe they aren't sick
  • Recycled In Space: This is Lord of the Flies with infected monsters:
    • Newt is a Composite Character expy of Piggy (sharing the animal-themed name), nerdy, intelligent, and overweight, and picked on all the other kids as a result, but actually the kindest and most sensitive like Simon.
    • Shelley is Jack: a Hate Sink sociopath who enjoys torturing animals and later people just for the fun of it.
    • Ephraim is reminiscent of Roger, who is Jack's Dragon and often participates in his schemes, despite not being as "bad" as him.
    • Protagonist Max and supporting character Kent are a Decomposite Character of Ralph. Like Ralph, Kent is extremely forceful and occasionally becomes tainted by his experiences on the island, but like Ralph, Max largely retains his sanity and acts as the de facto leader of the "good" characters.
  • The Sociopath: Shelley displays classic signs of being one, like his Lack of Empathy and his habit of torturing small animals and later Kent and Ephraim for no other reason than Teh Lolz.
    • Dr. Edgerton, who is called one outright by an interviewer for his inhumanly blasé attitude and lack of shame for creating such a deadly bio-weapon and unleashing it upon the world.
  • The Symbiote: Eww-tastic mutant tapeworms that guzzle all the body's nutrients, making their host voraciously hungry.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Clive Edgerton, the Mad Scientist who created the tapeworms, is noted in one of the interludes to only give interviews if he's specifically referred to with his title of Doctor.
  • Toilet Humor: Inverted into Toilet Horror. Many references are made to passing tapeworms.
  • Virus-Victim Symptoms: Ravenous hunger and a smell like bad fruit, rapid weight loss, and cysts on the skin.
  • Weight Loss Horror: The monsters are tapeworms that afflict their victims with monstrous, unstoppable, and insatiable hunger and cause them to lose weight rapidly even as they're eating whatever they can get their hands on. There's also a Take That! implicit in that the experiment gone wrong is all a result of an attempt to find a new weight loss drug.