Cover Image: Devolution


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World War Z was a huge hit for Brooks. It was written as a weirdly serious historical account of the zombie apocalypse. With Devolution, Brooks has written a locked-in Blair Witch type story featuring a Big Foot (big feet?) family.

Instead of the multiple character point of views he used in WWZ, Brooks settles on the narration of Kate via diary entries. The diary part seemed unnecessary. I think Brooks could have just told the story from Kate’s POV. He also included random tidbits between chapters featuring real life sightings of big foot etc. Those tidbits, I think, were far more interesting than the actual main story, so… Not a good sign.

I read this for a genre challenge, this being my horror pick but… It wasn’t scary. Brooks needed to build the tension a lot more. It’s a short book and this might be a bit of a drawback. For example, I didn’t feel like I knew any of the characters enough to care about their fates.

I’m also unsure what themes Brooks was going for. He scoffs at the idea of environmentally friendly living, veganism and pacifism. He celebrates his characters finding their inner violent natures and killing things in general. There’s shades of Lord of the Flies and a lot of unnecessary gore.

I predicted the ending but, again, it doesn’t send any type of worthwhile message. Just, no.

Mmm… Maybe 2 1/2 out of 5

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Due to a sudden, unexpected passing in the family a few years ago and another more recently and my subsequent (mental) health issues stemming from that, I was unable to download this book in time to review it before it was archived as I did not visit this site for several years after the bereavements. This meant I didn't read or venture onto netgalley for years as not only did it remind me of that person as they shared my passion for reading, but I also struggled to maintain interest in anything due to overwhelming depression. I was therefore unable to download this title in time and so I couldn't give a review as it wasn't successfully acquired before it was archived. The second issue that has happened with some of my other books is that I had them downloaded to one particular device and said device is now defunct, so I have no access to those books anymore, sadly.

This means I can't leave an accurate reflection of my feelings towards the book as I am unable to read it now and so I am leaving a message of explanation instead. I am now back to reading and reviewing full time as once considerable time had passed I have found that books have been helping me significantly in terms of my mindset and mental health - this was after having no interest in anything for quite a number of years after the passings. Anything requested and approved will be read and a review written and posted to Amazon (where I am a Hall of Famer & Top Reviewer), Goodreads (where I have several thousand friends and the same amount who follow my reviews) and Waterstones (or Barnes & Noble if the publisher is American based). Thank you for the opportunity and apologies for the inconvenience

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My review:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Devolution is a tense thriller, with two points of view, one a journal and the other interviews with various agencies after the event.

I liked the way this starts, so you know there's been an event, but you don't know what happened. The tension really builds as you read on!

I really enjoyed the first person narrative from the journal, and then the interviews.  They were great juxtapositions to each other, and added to the atmosphere of the book.

This is by the same author as World War Z, which I'm afraid I haven't read, or seen the film!

I was given this book in exchange for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to Random House.

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I didn't love Devolution but didn't hate it either. It took a bit of disbelief suspension for the bigfoot aspect and once I'd relaxed into that it got better for me. I know a lot of readers will come to this off loving World War Z and I'd say it'll be 50/50 on if those fans enjoy this book or not.
Characters were well developed and engaging, it was a fast paced read for me, I sped through in a couple of evenings as it was like diary entries, I think it would be a good audiobook to read so I might try and get hold of that.

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I read World War Z in 2006. Before that, I'd been interested in the supernatural and cryptozoology but it had been nothing more than a passing interest.
At the start of the book I was intrigued and amused but by the time I had finished the book I was looking up weaponry sites, prepper blogs and writing lists of WTSHTF food storage and home security ideas.

It's taken me a few years before I was ready to have my world turned upside down again and after I read it, I'm glad I waited.

Could I have dealt with the idea of feral apes loitering at my back door because their food source had been depleted? No. Not after seeing those videos of the rioting monkeys in Thailand during Covid when there were no tourists to feed them.
Animals claiming back the earth when humans stepped aside was a little too real at that point.

Max Brooks' ability to take a simple thing like a journal entry, a transcript of an interview with an authority figure and a few scattered news clippings and quotes and turn them into a bone-chilling tale of such believability that you start to question your own grip on reality is second to none.

The transformation of the main narrator as she goes from meek, peaceful stranger to huntress and killer in a Sarah Connor-esque character arch is extraordinary in its literary brilliance and the sheer talent to make you accept this as natural and rational is incredible.

I listened to the audiobook which had Max Brooks, Nathan Fillion and Judy Greer as narrators and I honestly can't recommend it enough, it does a fantastic job of pulling every last piece of emotion out of you and leaving you breathless and anticipating more.

I highly highly recommend yo read this. Although not if you're in a cabin in the woods.

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Thanks very much to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title. Many thanks, Dave

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I wasn't a huge fan of World War Z so I wasn't sure I would like this.

Well I LOVED it!

You don't get many books about the abominable snowman, so that automatically made this book stand out. But when it digs deep into what happens when they attack an isolated village... all I can say is I can't wait for the film!

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC without obligation.

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Devolution is a creature feature that took far too long to get to the meat of the book. When it gets going I found it to be compelling, however so much time is spent meandering on things that didn't really matter. There's an interesting story here, but it's buried under too much exposition and frustrating characters.

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This is a book I've been wanting to read for ages. A fictitious story about mythical creatures who some people actually believe to exist, written in diary form. And if the fact it's written in diary form doesn't make it feel more real, the interviews and articles alongside the diary entries certainly will.

It definitely felt like there was more character development in certain characters than others, but the characters with more development were VERY developed. I would have been able to tell them apart a mile off without dialogue tags, purely from their actions and personalities. That's a very difficult accomplishment for an author! I wasn't actually keen on the protagonist's husband at the beginning of the book, but I really took to him by the end. Their relationship was definitely a story arc in itself.

I don't know what I was expecting when it came to Bigfoot. More ape-like or human? They turned out to be a great mixture of the two. The stalking and planning were intelligent. The killing was brutal. And I loved it. But the realness in the story, most likely from the fact it was written in the form of a diary, made me feel for the characters more. Where I'm usually loving the horror elements, I was actually rooting for the humans, the deaths paining me.

The reason I've put four stars is because the beginning is slow. It took a long time to work out who was who when it came to the characters, and getting into the action was slow. But once the action hit, it really hit. By the end of the book, it was savage. Also, some of the other parts of the book (certain interviews, articles, extracts) could have been deleted, in my opinion. Some of them slowed the story further to me and felt like an unnecessary break from the action. And I definitely wanted to be reading that savage action!

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Devolution by Max Brooks is an odd one. It is a collection of diary entries, interviews and snippets about a fictional Sasquatch massacre. It follows Kate and her small community as they are first cut off from the outside world and then fighting the Sasquatch tribe. While this is a fast paced story with an exciting premise, I have to admit that I was rather bored by it. I struggled to connect with the characters and ultimately didn’t care what happened to them. This was the kind of book I had to make myself read a few chapters every day, and it sadly didn’t work for me. This may be more due to who I am as a reader, so do check out a sample if you’re intrigued by the concept.

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Speechless. I absolutely loved this book from the introduction setting the reader up for a "found footage" type experience...except in this case it is a "found journal." The book includes the diary of a woman who turns from an anxious woman scared to have a "real" relationship with her husband to a savage leader.

I read this book in a short period of time and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it.

I knew fuck all about Sasquatch before reading this book, and I still know very little, but I have always been fascinated with other primates and the reasons behind why there is only one hominid species alive. What kind of world would it be if Neanderthals still roamed its surface? This book let me scratch that creative itch.

I loved the author's use of scientific quotes from real primatology.

If you are a hardcore believer in Sasquatch mythology, I am not sure what your take would be from this book, but it feels very well put together and I hope you'd be impressed.

The writing is superb. The way the author calls back to things in the book is eloquent and the description of humans getting in touch with their primitive side is heart wrenchingly realistic.

The couple of criticisms I have for the book do not interfere with how much I loved the story. Some of the relationships, as portrayed through the lens of one character, were inexplicably strange. And the devolution of two of the characters seemed somewhat out of left field for me. AND...even though the author fought very hard to make sure I could suspend my level of disbelief about this...I just couldn't understand the "ALL NATURE IS FRIENDLY" mindset of the residents. Like, I get it. They're out there, and I suppose in an uppity paradise utopia the humans who feel this way might be at a greater percentage, but I still had a hard time really believing it.

So, relationship and group dynamics and Darwin award winners aside, the main character was riveting. Seeing the story unfold through her eyes was hella fun. BUY THIS BOOK!

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This was a real fun ride! A great page turner with scenes of real horror that worked well with the genre's tropes yet managed to throw in surprises.

The tension ratcheted up quickly, and once the 'monsters' were unveiled the momentum and interest continued thanks to the depiction of their family group and varying tactics to overwhelm the humans.

Interesting themes including humanity's destruction of the planet and distance from nature. Disturbing too - the survivors have to revert (devolve) to base instincts and primal violence to defeat the bigfoot.

I gulped this down in a day and appreciated the open ending.

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I found Devolution quite disappointing and less exciting than the subject matter suggests. The author focused too much on philosophical ramblings and seemed to use this book as an excuse to inform the reader of all his political opinions. I didn't enjoy the book half as much as I would have done had that content been removed. The actual story was interesting, but the suspense kept being dampened by the scarcely related drawn-out musings that littered every other chapter. The ending brought it back from a 1 to a 2* read, but ultimately, the politics ruined it for me.

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The first thing that I noticed about Devolution was how flawlessly Brooks writes from a female perspective. I was able to slip into the mindset of Kate Holland easily without recognising that it was a male author writing a female character. You’re probably thinking that gender shouldn’t play a role and you’re right, it shouldn’t. But I’ve read some truly awful books written by male authors with female protagonists where it’s clear that it’s important to them and was on their mind when they were writing the book. In the case of Devolution, Brooks’ narration just flowed completely naturally. Whether it was from Kate Holland’s journal entries or interviews with her brother or Senior Park Ranger Josephine Schell.

The bulk of the book is made up of Kate’s journal entries and told from her perspective, with each chapter packaged with interview snippets to add context. It’s like watching a film; you get to see what every character is doing. Unlike a film, this is set up like a documentary with Brooks acting as a researcher who is putting all the evidence together in one book.

In general, I was quite impressed with how many random facts and thought-provoking points Brooks managed to ease into the narrative without seeming as though he was flooding the reader with facts. Unlike hard science fiction authors, everything came naturally as part of the character’s design and conversation. Greenloop is not a prototype, but it is the first of its kind created by the Cygnus company and it’s not cheap to get a house in the community. The residents are primarily academics, people who don’t need to live in the city to work and have made a fortune being smart. It provides Brooks with the perfect platform to offer information up to the reader without seeming as though that is exactly what he is doing.

There were a few things that bothered me about the book and the first is the format of Kate’s diaries. She writes down word for word every single conversation she has with her neighbours, and I’m sure some readers probably thought “ah well, she’s just got a really good memory!” and excused it. The problem for me is that I do have a really good memory, as close to a photographic/eidetic memory as is actually possible (spoiler: no one has a fully photographic memory, no one’s Batgirl). Even if you can remember the majority of a conversation you can’t remember it word for word. If you were writing in your diary it would be more like “And then Joe Bloggs said something about the weather and Mary Sue was like, well the news reports are always wrong….”. There’s a degree of uncertainty, of ad-lib. It’s not word for word perfect which is what is exactly what is found in Devolution. The interviews are written with more realism, it’s just the diaries that are too perfect and read like fiction.

My other biggest issue is how they choose to defend themselves against the monsters. Brooks does an excellent job of explaining why certain methods of defence are not possible, however, other very obvious ones are completely ignored in favour of going for the most bloody stereotypical horror survival showdown. We already know a massacre happens; it’s in the book synopsis. So readers expect it. It’s why they picked up the book and Brooks delivers it. It’s well written, it’s terrifying and I’m still sitting there reading it thinking X why didn’t they use that?! Perhaps that is Brook’s entire point; when faced with a predator that puts us lower down on the food train we stop thinking like an intelligent and resourceful species as devolution takes place.

In a way being who and what I am, someone with an academic and research background, I ruined this book a little for myself and took away some of the magic. The huge amount of research that has gone into this book is amazing, and then you get to the character creation. Every single character is unique, and completely believable, including the witnesses that Brooks interviews. The Senior Ranger Josephine Schell especially is written so well that I actually wonder if Brooks did interview a ranger from the United States National Park Service as part of his research for this book.

Despite what I found out in my research, I came away from Devolution educated. I learned things which is what Max Brooks wants. I learned that coconut water is the best natural hydrator in the world, for example, which I never knew. I learned about homes being build from recycled materials and got curious enough to look to see whether they had already become a reality. I’m sure I won’t be the only one, so I got plenty from Devolution even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the story. So give it a shot, see what you learn :)

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This book was such a great read. It all felt very realistic - though slightly mad - a Bigfoot version of The Walking Dead. Really clever to use what read like actual news reports and scientific studies, to back up the details (making Bigfoot so real). A host of crazy, but very believable, characters, all ordinary people thrust into a very extraordinary situation. Intriguing, fascinating and compelling.

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A fantastic update of the Bigfoot legend! After a local volcano erupts in Seattle, the small eco village of Greenloop is cut off from the outside and the local wildlife starts to creep in looking for food. We're not talking wolves or bears here, oh no!! A family of apelike creatures are caught on camera but the contents of the bins are not enough to satiate their appetite!

Devolution is a very tense read and I loved how it was told using interviews and diary entries. I think the ending suggests there could be a sequel which I would definitely read.

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Pros and cons in this. Brooks’ Devolution is not up to the nail-biting suspension-of-disbelief level of his bestseller World War Z, but it’s a good read nonetheless. And it’s a timely warning to think about risk.

The story in a nutshell: Mt. Rainier volcano outside Seattle has erupted. A small, very remote eco-community, Greenloop, has been cut off from contact with the outside world. This is the story of how they survive (Or DO they? Cue Twilight Zone theme…)

Like World War Z, the story is presented as a record of true events, revealed largely through journal entries. It’s well done and makes for good pacing. Brooks is a skilled author and it’s a well-written book in terms of structure, plot, dialogue, characters etc. Nothing really stands out as worthy of mention, but nothing jars either.

When things go wrong
As social satire, it’s hilarious. Let me explain… Most novels about any apocalyptic-type disaster (especially American ones) are a prepper’s dream: as soon as things go skew-ways, everyone seems to have at hand and be able to gather together — within minutes — a bug-out bag, supplies of food and water, weapons (lots and lots of guns), etc. etc. It’s all part of the genre.

Things are different here. Greenloop is a small, get-back-to-nature community comprised of well-heeled urbanites; 6 houses, mostly couples, just one child. They hike in the surrounding woods, but only on the prepared trails circling Greenloop, with their hiking boots and Nordic walking poles. Food (lots of fresh meat and veg) and other necessities are delivered by drone. Frequently. The closest thing they have to a weapon is an expensive Japanese kitchen knife.

They are ill prepared for an erupting volcano and being cut off from their supply route. So what’s the first thing they do when panic starts to set in?

They get together to meditate.

I hereby award Brooks 5 stars just for that. Much of the story is about how completely useless these people are. It’s very entertainingly observed. However, some of them do pull themselves together to face the threats to their community. (The book is being marketed as a Bigfoot thriller, so no points for guessing what the immediate threat is.)

What makes this book particularly interesting is timing. It hits the shelves in the middle of a global pandemic. And points the finger squarely at all the non-preppers among us. Meaning, virtually the entire world. Like ‘what part of we saw something like this coming did you not understand?’.

Because of course, most of us don’t live in an area regularly threatened by volcanoes, hurricanes and the like, so most of us don’t need to even know the meaning of ‘bug-out bag’, never mind have one prepared. Most of us have never lived through a global pandemic, so we (and our governments) didn’t think we needed stocks of masks and other protective equipment, etc. And of course we’ll never run out of toilet paper, or bread flour, when there’s a store just down the road, will we?

The optimism bias
OK, so I’m not turning this into a diatribe about how we all need to become preppers (I kind of want to, but I won’t). But Devolution does highlight how blindly trusting humans are that just because something was working today, it will go on working tomorrow. We have an in-built conviction that no matter what happens, chances are that I’ll be OK. No matter how much experts may warn us, and small outbreaks may scare us, we can still manage to convince ourselves that we are safe from a pandemic and do nothing to prepare for it. Pandemic, catastrophic weather, act of god or act of war… I’ll probably be fine, actually.

We don’t like to face the question: what is the true risk and how should I/we prepare?

If there’s one thing this pandemic is showing us, it’s that the world is divided between the risk-takers and the risk averse. Some might say, between the mentally-well-balanced and the anxiety-prone. Others, between the foolhardy (or egocentric) and the realists.

Optimists and pessimists. The former underestimate risk, the latter overestimate it. Our entire world view, and our behavior in a crisis, is dictated by where we fall on the scale of risk acceptance, which is inextricably linked to our level of optimism bias.

Optimists believe that if the shit does hit the fan, things will work out. Governments will take care of things, and I’ll figure something out for myself and my family. Pessimists would say we’re all screwed anyway, so let’s just get on with today and try not to think about what might happen. The people at Greenloop feel safe so they do not prepare for being cut off from the world, despite the obvious risks (only one road out, remote location, etc.). They feel safe because they were told they were safe, and they chose to believe what they heard.

Just like we trust that our governments are well informed about the risks we might face and have measures prepared in case things go wrong. Until we find out that they didn’t.

Personally, I can finally turn to the family members who were infuriated by or scornful of my stockpiling tendencies and say I told you so. And that’s always satisfying.*

Of course, instead of selfishly stockpiling, we might start thinking about who we’ll vote for. The people who prioritize short-term benefits or the ones taking the difficult decisions for a better long-term outcome.

*Note: I still don’t see how anyone could call 3 cans of chickpeas and a spare jar of beetroot a “stockpile”. But, whatever...

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Horror is a genre that rarely works for me (that is, the fright factor remains low) but "Devolution" is a wonderful exception, and if you enjoy placing yourself in the hands of a masterful scaremeister, I can heartily recommend it. What is surprising is that Devolution reprises a staple horror trope, that of Bigfoot, the huge, apelike creature roaming mountainous areas. The novel also trots out a classical conceit, the discovered journals of a victim, in this case, a woman who settles with her husband in a modern, communitarian village deep in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. When a volcanic eruption leaves them landlocked and out of communication with civilization, the dozen or so villagers find themselves confronted a growing menace. Brooks assembles a wonderfully diverse, astutely observed group of utopians, and the classic horror novel trajectory is buttressed with post-event interviews and observations and news items. The writing, hewing to the core character's journal, is alive and rich. Devolution is a hoot to read, intelligent as can be, and yes, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

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Maybe not the best book to read considering the circumstances at the time (and still now), but I guess I can be a glutton for punishment sometimes, and I had liked “World War Z” a few years ago. I liked it for its “cabin fever” atmosphere (a few people completely isolated from the external world, having to survive while contending with themselves and each other), but not as much as I expected.

While the format itself—interviews, excerpts from a journal…—worked well enough for me in general, I found the pacing a little off at times (for instance, I’d expect more action, but get an article instead, which slowed down the narrative). The limits of the journal entries format is reached regularly when it comes to, well, action scenes (would someone really write it down like this in their personal journal?). I was also on the fence regarding another thing that I found interesting, that is, the breaking down of the small Greenloop community: I couldn’t decide if this, or the Bigfoot part, was the more interesting, and I felt that, in a way, the novel would’ve been more powerful if focused on one of the other, but not having both share the screen time, so to speak. Maybe that’s just me, though—and, let’s be honest, at first I had also picked this novel for the Bigfoot part anyway.

I did like the ending. It is a very open one, with several hypotheses as to what happened to the characters in the end, and it may make it or break it for a lot of people… but I liked having such an opening, allowing me to pick an ending, or none.

Conclusion: 3 stars. It was entertaining, but not amazing.

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Devolution is an original thriller about the discovery of Bigfoot. Told through journal entries and interview transcripts, readers learn of a self-sufficient community that suddenly gets cut off from civilization due to a volcano eruption. A massacre ensues and the only clue to what happened is the journal. The strong writing moves the plot along at a fast pace. There is this sense of atmospheric horror throughout. The character development is quite solid. This isn't your usual horror novel. It mixes in science fiction and mystery as well. Readers who enjoyed World War Z will be thrilled to read a new novel from Max Brooks bringing to life another kind of monster - Bigfoot. Highly recommended!

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