Craig Davidson is a Canadian author who has written under several pen names, the one we’ll be talking about today is Nick Cutter. Under the Cutter name, he focuses on horror, with several novels released through the years covering a variety of topics including body horror, cults, cosmic entities—and some of the most disgusting descriptions of worms I’ve ever read. Cutter has a very easy flow to his writing style, and I read these at a blistering pace and enjoyed every minute of it. So let’s take a look at a few of them, shall we?
The Troop follows a group of Boy Scouts on their annual trip to Falstaff Island (a fictional location, but placed somewhere around Prince Edward Island, Canada) with their scout leader. The island is uninhabited, with the only lodging being a small cabin. Scoutmaster Tim insists they bring no technology, to get back to nature, but has a small radio in case of emergencies. They are dropped off by boat and are scheduled to be picked up in a few days. They are essentially cut off from the outside world.
The boys are Max, who is best friends with Ephraim (usually called “Eef,” and has a bit of an anger streak), Newt (the group nerd), Kent (who can be quite bossy), and Shelley, who has some extremely morbid and dark tendencies. We get some backstory for each of the kids, with their home life and how they know each other.
On the first night of the trip, an emaciated man shows up in a small boat. He seems very sick and desperately hungry. Being the town physician, Tim tends to him and tells the boys to go to their rooms for the night. He notices something…squirming in the man’s stomach. Then he vomits all over Tim. Whatever infection he brought with him has now spread to Tim, and it just gets worse from there.
It’s worms—tiny at first, spread through contact or fluids. But then they grow and feed on you from the inside out. I have never read a book that had me this close to vomiting. I’d get to a particularly horrid description, close my book, take a breather…and then come right back to it. I was completely invested in the story and what happens to these boys. It’s a bit of a Lord of The Flies-type scenario, with some of the scouts being more sensible about what to do than others. How they deal with something so clearly beyond their control or understanding is what I loved the most. There’s some body horror, and things definitely ramp up as the story progresses. I don’t recommend eating spaghetti for a while after this.
In The Deep, it’s explained there’s a plague going around that makes you forget. First, the little things, easy to overlook. Maybe you forgot to buy milk again. Then it progresses until you forget how to drive, forget your own name. Nicknamed “The ‘Gets,” it’s become a worldwide problem and needs a solution, fast. Having personally witnessed my grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, this hit close to home.
During research at the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench, a substance is discovered called “ambrosia” which seems to be the answer to humanity’s prayers, a literal panacea. Except now no one has heard from the scientists at the station. So, poor Luke has to descend the eight miles and discover what has become of them. His brother, Clayton, is an eccentric researcher who requested Luke specifically before contact was cut off. The isolation, darkness, and paranoia that come with this journey along with some more supernatural elements later on give it an incredible blend of storytelling. It’s very self-contained which I like as well, although it would be nice to get some more info on The ‘Gets. It’s more a set-up to get to the bottom of the ocean than a central plot element.
Body horror is back if the worms from The Troop didn’t put you off too much. It wouldn’t be a horror novel with a scientific research station if things didn’t go pear-shaped with the experiments. I won’t give away too much, but it gets messy. I’ve heard The Deep described as The Thing meets The Shining, and that feels appropriate.
Probably the most divisive of his books, with some hating how vague and classic Lovecraft some of the monster descriptions are—it’s so awful your brain cannot comprehend it. While I agree this is the case somewhat, I still think there is a lot to love about Little Heaven. We’re introduced to a trio of mercenaries with equally troubled pasts, (Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva—wonderful names) tasked with checking in on a nephew who has been taken in by the titular Heaven, which is a small Jonestown-esque cult in the middle of the woods.
The story cuts back and forth from their pasts as contract killers and the current situation. Micah’s daughter also has been kidnapped by a…creature (the horrible visage in the cover picture of this post, if you’re curious) called the Long Walker. There are a few things going on here. The cult, for one, but then there’s something more sinister: a mysterious geological monolith nearby called the Black Rock. Cutter channels a lot of Stephen King, in general, but it’s most prevalent here, giving me some major It vibes. Once again, my favourite trademark of his books is the descriptions of disgusting events and creatures within. It gives me a much more vivid mental image than other horror novels I’ve read.
In addition to these three novels, Cutter has also written The Acolyte about a jaded police officer and religious fanatics. I’ve heard that he manages to one-up himself in the violence department, so I owe it to myself to track down a copy. Finally, he released an Audible Original titled, The Breach, that involves a strange machine “that might be able to tear a hole through the fabric of reality itself.” I’m not really an audiobook person, so if anyone gives this a listen I’d love to hear how it is!
I originally was recommended The Troop by a friend because Nick Cutter is Canadian, and I’m always interested in supporting my fellow Canucks. I’m so thankful I did because I can now count them among my favourites. Greatly looking forward to what he does next under the Cutter moniker.