Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat worms! Big fat juicy ones. Eensie weensy squeensy ones. See how they wiggle and squirm!
I will never again see that rhyme the same way.
This book is bloody disgusting. A foul, body-horror, visceral experience usually reserved for John Carpenter movies. I was utterly unprepared to be so repulsed by the mere written word.
The story centers on a troop of five 14 year old boy-scouts, their honourable scoutmaster, and a (very very skinny) stranger who appears at their isolated island camp desperately seeking nourishment. Before long, it’s readily apparent that this interloper is deathly ill with a mysterious contagion…. as it turns out, a highly infectious contagion of genetically mutated worms that will literally eat you alive while propelling you onwards, ensuring maximum carnage.
I freaking loved every terrifying, nightmarish second of it. It would make a truly terrifying movie or miniseries.
Each chapter is separated by a third-party retelling of events, starting at a fringe-newspaper article about a sighting of “starvin’ marvin'”, moving on to the mad scientist’s documented tests of the modified worms, ending with the military hearings tasked with reflecting on the events of The Troop. These breaks in the story were a welcome change of pace, as the events on the island were… intense. During one particularly harrowing passage, my Corgi started barking at an invisible threat outside and it scared me so much I let out a literal squeal.
As a lover of all things squelchy and gross, this novel hit the right notes with me. It comes with a warning though: there is a fair bit of explicit animal torture depicted in this novel. And not just during the events on the island. Because naturally, one of the five boy-scouts is a fully-fledged psychopath even before the events of the book take place. This depiction went beyond what I believe was strictly necessary to tell the story.
My other critique is the suspension of belief needed to appreciate the novel. I can accept the mad-scientist-genetically-modified-superworm storyline fine, but when literal days pass in the novel without the characters ever eating a meal or doing other ordinary necessities of life, it felt a little lazy.
4 burst intestinal tracts out of 5.