Cutter, Nick. The Troop. Gallery: S. & S. Jan. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781476717715. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476717753. F
In this suspenseful biotech thriller by the pseudonymous Cutter (an acclaimed Canadian novelist), a Boy Scout troop goes to Falstaff Island for its annual hiking and camping trip. It’s usually just the boys and their scoutmaster, but this year they are surprised by a hauntingly thin man. He is infected with a highly contagious genetically modified worm that eats people from inside while overwhelming them with hunger. The scoutmaster soon falls victim. When no boat arrives to take the scouts home, it becomes apparent that the island is quarantined, and the five boys must fend for their survival while avoiding infection. Cutter mixes the story of the scouts with glimpses of interviews and articles written after the event. These excerpts inform the reader of the sinister origin of the worm and the circumstances surrounding the quarantine. VERDICT The personal history of each scout plays into how they handle the situation, which makes this a psychological thriller. That being said, it does contain scenes of graphic violence unsuitable for young adult readers. Cutter’s novel imbues readers with the horrifying feelings reminiscent of a zombie novel but successfully delivers a unique alternative that makes for a fun if gruesome horror read.
Grant, Mira. Parasite. Orbit: Hachette. (Parasitology, Vol. 1). Oct. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780316218955. $20. SF
As Sally Mitchell’s doctors attempt to convince her family to take her off life support following a horrific car accident, Sally opens her eyes and sits up. Her miraculous resurrection is attributed to her Intestinal Bodyguard, a bioengineered tapeworm designed to keep humans free of disease. Six years later, Sal can only remember her life after the accident but trusts completely that her tapeworm kept her alive. However, as ordinary people start showing signs of a brain-altering infection, Sal is drawn deep into the history of the world’s first designer parasite. Perhaps SymboGen isn’t as altruistic as it wishes to appear. Perhaps the tapeworms are not so benevolent. Perhaps the tapeworms are ready to be in control. VERDICT Horrifying, riveting, and a bit too plausible, this work is a tour de force. Grant (“Newsflesh” trilogy), a pseudonym of Seanan McGuire (“October Daye” series), has penned a layered sf thriller reminiscent of those by Michael Crichton, with perfect pacing, touches of humor, and just enough medical jargon to make one believe. After finishing this first volume in an anticipated trilogy, readers will have a hard time waiting for the next installment. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/13.]