Book Reviews

Devolution by Max Brooks

9781529124095

Released: June 2020
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Pages: 304
Rating: 4/5

From the #1 Best-Selling author of World War Z: “A visceral tale of survival horror– Financial Times

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As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing – and too earth-shattering in its implications – to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the beasts behind it, once thought legendary but now known to be terrifyingly real.

Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us – and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it – and like none you’ve ever read before.

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Well, I have officially read a book about Bigfoot. I honestly never expected to, but boy am I glad I did.

I read Max Brook’s World War Z when it came out and to this day it remains one of my favorite zombie apocalypse novels. In the plethora of zombie stories out there, World War Z definitely stands apart. Even though no other Bigfoot books come to mind (all I can think of is the TV show Harry and the Hendersons), I’m sure Devolution would still stand apart if there were as many Bigfoot books as there are zombie ones.

The Setting

The setting was interesting, especially when put up against the backdrop of a violent volcanic explosion. Set in the remote woods of Washington, the residents of Greenloop are part of an experiment in reducing their carbon footprint while still maintaining 21st century luxuries. It’s a semi self-sustaining community supported by the latest technology and is basically living off the grid without actually living off the grid.

Despite being fairly self-sufficient, they’re still reliant on things like drone deliveries of food, internet connections, and being able to drive to the nearest town. So when Mount Rainer erupts and destroys their only connections to the outside world, the people of Greenloop realize just how reliant their experiment is on technology and society.

If this were just a story about people trying to survive cut off from civilization after a massive volcanic eruption, that would have been compelling enough. But add in a family of Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) who want to gnaw on your leg? As if your day couldn’t get any worse.

It added so much tension and fear onto an already horrifying, claustrophobic situation. Not only are you wondering what is left of the world around you, a world you have no way of reaching, but you’re dealing with an even more dangerous situation literally no one could have been prepared for.

The Characters

If you ever wanted to see what privilege looks like in a natural disaster, this book captured what I imagine it would be like. I don’t think we were meant to warm to most of the characters. Instead, we were simply meant to be second-hand witnesses watching flawed humans trying to cope with situations completely out of their control.

However, after awhile those flawed humans bordered on being exasperating. I found I couldn’t stand most of the people living out there in this high-tech commune. With the exception of no-nonsense Mostar and the one child in the story, I ended up kind of rooting for the Bigfoot clan because everyone else was just the worst.

Mostar was absolutely amazing and I demand a book about her and her intriguing life that was hinted at but never fully discussed. I couldn’t help but picture her as Red from Orange Is the New Black and if I were ever in a situation like the ones in this book, Red and Mostar are two ladies I would want in my corner.

I won’t go into too much more detail about the specifics of the story because I don’t want to give anything away. Just know that despite wanting to gnaw on some of the characters myself at times, I still had an utter blast reading this. Months later I still get delicious shivers thinking about many of the scenes in the book.

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Thanks to this book I ended up doing a lot of extracurricular reading about volcanoes and their aftermaths, especially Mount Saint Helens. I wasn’t born when that eruption happened, but my parents remember the ash coming down as far as their city in Northern California. My side research made for fascinating reading and hammered home the fact that much like Greenloop, our society isn’t prepared for the havoc a natural disaster can wreak on us.

If you’re squeamish, it’s worth being aware that was a fair amount of blood and gore in Devolution. That wasn’t what made it so incredibly terrifying, though. Instead, it was Brook’s ability to psychologically terrorize his characters that made the book all the more intense and chilling.

The book’s format added to this sense of intensity, with the narrative coming from an eyewitness diary that was interspersed with post-event interviews and documentation. It’s hard to know how much was real or exaggerated in the diary and the contrast of a potentially unreliable witness compared with more factual statements heightened the overall sense of “OMG WAIT WTF” I had while reading this.

I don’t read a lot of horror novels, but Max Brooks has certainly nailed the formula for writing one. Instead of the carnage, it was the suspense and trepidation that really got me down to my bones. In my nerdy little opinion, being able to do that is what makes for the best horror stories.

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5 thoughts on “Devolution by Max Brooks”

    1. Yeah, like I said I never really expected to read a book about Bigfoot that was serious in tone but here we are haha. I want to read more horror as well so if you come across any good ones, let me know!

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    1. It was a freaking blast, although by the end of it I was kinda upset that Bigfoot isn’t real. I ended up doing a deep dive into Bigfoot conspiracies and was disappointed to learn that it’s all definitely poppycock haha 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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