Cover Image: Devolution

Devolution

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Nope... wasn’t for me. Had high hopes given how much I enjoyed World War Z, and this one does start promising... a solid setup and interesting premise... but when the plot thickens you find yourself a bit unengaged. Whilst the narrative via interviews worked so neatly for the author in WWZ, here it feels he falls hostage of the story by journal method... fails to convey the horrors in convincing fashion and just doesn’t work. 2 stars for me.... oh well.

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I adored this book. Told through a series on interview and diary entries it follows the story of a very small group of people living in an isolated area. The small experimental community is left isolated when a nearby volcano erupts and cuts them off from society. Faced with having to operated their very complicated homes without the technology they take to function, fractions and madness within the group, dwindling food supplies and... killer sasquatches. This read was both horror and mystery as well as being a ridiculously easy read with an even better audio book!!

A brilliant read.

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The perfect thriller for 2020, cutting so close to home but with beauty and strength.
A few chapters in and you'll find you can't let go and need to know immediately what happens next.

I didn't think Brooks could better the high bar set with World War Z but I'm more than pleasantly surprised.

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This was a story based around the supposed existence of "Bigfoot", one of the names of this humanlike being.. There is an volcanic explosion of Mount Rainer which moves the population, both human and animal into a safer region.. This impinges on a develop of people who are attempting to be elf sufficient in power, with very little outside contact.. The humans and the Bigfoot clash with catastrophic results for both. Very open ended Conclusion but a great story.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

This book left me with chills and unable to sleep without starting another, less stressful read! I loved World War Z and so was very excited to read Brooks' new offering, and I wasn't disappointed. Once again he takes a legendary subject and imagines it backed up by science and documentary evidence to form a realistic and truly terrifying portrayal of what might happen if Bigfoot really did exist. I couldn't put it down even though it was scaring me! Another great combination of science and fiction.

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What a monster romp this is – in every respect. It’s described as a ‘horror’ story by some reviewers which is massively over-stating things… perhaps because the author is best known for his zombie-apocalypse World War Z story. But Devolution is a different type of cautionary tale, leaning more towards time-honoured sci-fi like The Day of The Triffids. So while there is a skin-crawling build-up to the stand-out action sequences – with creepy critters skulking in the deep dark forest – you don’t need to fret about gruesome gore or nasty slasher suspense.

The story is artfully presented as a post-event investigation into the weird disappearance of a small community after a nearby volcano severs the remote village’s insubstantial ties to the modern world. We get first-hand reports of what actually happened from Kate’s journal – she’s the newest arrival at this post-modernist eco-commune, attempting to mend her husband’s shattered self-confidence and centre herself away from the incessant demands of modern life.

The other inhabitants are a splendidly assembled mishmash of misfits. These self-obsessed narcissists and wealthy weirdos play at getting back to nature while their delicatessen food deliveries arrive by drone and ultra high-tech systems provide all the comforts of the 21st century. Rather wonderfully, once the volcano cuts off communication with civilisation then all those fragile egos fall apart in spectacular fashion. And that’s even before nature starts getting its own back in the shape of big-footed yeti beasts…

Kate herself undergoes the traditional character development from whinging ninny to kick-ass survivor, under the tutelage of an older woman, Mostar. Her life experiences in grim war zones give Mostar unpleasant insights into what occurs when the centre cannot hold. This time it’s not mere anarchy that’s loosed upon the world, but instead a mythical monster with quite remarkably large feet. Cue running, screaming and stone-age weaponry.

It’s all been done before and yes, this is all a teeny bit silly. But the writing rips along, the indolent, self-indulgent inadequates get their just desserts and there’s just enough science-stuff to make it feel faintly plausible (if you squint from a long distance). A diverting frolic which doesn’t take itself too seriously – but scores some palpable hits against contemporary social norms.

7/10

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My thanks to Random House U.K. Cornerstone/Century for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Devolution’ by Max Brooks in exchange for an honest review.

Survive. Adapt. Kill. - cover tag line ‘Devolution’.

Years ago I read Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War’ and ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’ and so was delighted to have the opportunity to read his latest novel.

In the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Rainier the story of the Greenloop massacre emerged slowly. The recovery of the journal of resident Kate Holland found in the bloody wreckage of the small isolated community captures a harrowing tale.

Here Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, placing her journal alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the beasts responsible. Beasts once thought a backwoods legend but now revealed to be terrifyingly real.

Kate and her husband, Dan, had left the city behind to join the isolated, high-end, high-tech, eco-community of Greenloop. It is comprised of six homes, arranged in a circle around the Common House. The Hollands are still settling in when the nearby volcanic eruption cuts Greenloop off from the rest of the world. They await rescue and undertake tasks such as cataloguing their dwindling food supplies and begin to plant gardens.

They note unusual behaviour in the local animal population and then the residents start getting glimpses of creatures near the edge of the property. Clearly driven from their normal habitat by the eruption, the intentions of these large, ape like creatures, known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot, are initially unclear.

Cryptozoology is a fascinating subject and Brooks presents this account in a straightforward manner allowing Kate’s words to set the scene and slowly increase the sense of isolation and menace and framing these with interviews and news reports.

This was a first class horror that was a slow burn and quite character driven before its dramatic gory climax. Good fun.

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This was very much a book of two halves for me. I found the first half a bit slow and sometimes tedious, but the second half was incredibly fast paced and utterly compelling. It tells the story of the aftermath of the Mount Rainier eruption on a small community of wealthy individuals living in Greenloop - an eco-friendly commune of sorts. Told in a variety of media, including the journal of Kate Holland, one of the residents of Greenloop, we piece together the story of these six families and the terror that stalks them in the woods. I liked the style, although there were definitely times when I found it a little hard to suspend my disbelief that this traumatised woman would have such clear recall of events for the diary. As I said, I found the first half of the book pretty slow and the people were all pretty obnoxious (intentionally so), which made it difficult to get invested in their story. However, once the action really got going and the Sasquatch started to appear (let's be honest, we're reading this for Bigfoot) I couldn't put it down. The diary format had a real visceral quality to it and added to the dread, as did the interviews interspersed into the narrative, which took place after the fact. This book isn't going to change anyone's life, but it does have some interesting things to say about how we interact with our surroundings, how inhospitable nature can really be and how quickly our modern sensibilities can be jettisoned when there is a genuine threat. Overall, this was entertaining and compelling and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Devolution is an action/horror thriller by the author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, both of which I’ve read, as well as a slew of other zombie/post-apocalyptic books that I haven’t. This one takes the legend of Bigfoot/Sasquatch and presents the story in documentary style, exploring the mystery of a massacre at a remote Washington high-tech eco-village, cut-off from civilisation by a volcanic eruption.

Told mainly in the form of journal entries by mild-mannered Kate Holland, who has moved to Greenloop with her unemployed husband Dan, mainly as a favour to her brother Frank - who is also interviewed by the unnamed journalist author, as well as Park Ranger Josephine Schell who managed the aftermath.
We read of Kate’s excitement as she finds herself living in ultra-modern comfort in exclusive Greenloop, home to artists & entrepreneurs, in beautiful rural scenery but only 90 minutes from Seattle, her only disquiet being her faltering marriage, until Mt Rainier erupts without warning, destroying their road out and leaving them at the mercy of hungry visitors...

We know from the beginning that Kate is still missing, and that things didn’t go well for the inhabitants of Greenloop, so the gradually building sense of threat as we are introduced to the smug and pretentious or provocative and eccentric villagers carries us through the rather slow build-up. As with all classic horror stories, there are only glimpses of the Big Bad Monsters until they unleash hell.
I thought this was really well done as you’re expecting the naive unprepared nature-loving residents to be picked off one by one, but didn’t predict the way things would unfold and liked the way it ended.

This could make a great movie if they kept closer to the book than the WWZ adaptation which really only kept the title - there have been lots of zombie movies but this is quite an original premise, with modern CGI both the eruption and the creatures could be really scary. It does get a bit gory but not unusually so. I don’t read much horror but thoroughly enjoyed this.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC which allowed me to give an honest review. Devolution is published today.

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Devolution took me back to how I felt almost 25 years ago when first delving into the world of horror fiction. A time when my imagination was more enlivened and engrossed than it has ever been.

After enjoying Max Brooks’ World War Z, I was certainly looking forward to see how he would portray a book about Sasquatches. I was not disappointed. The delivery, the story arc and the character development were all brilliant. In particular, Kate’s evolution in amongst the devolution is captivating. We manage to piece together some of Kate’s past (“people only see the present through the lenses of their personal pasts”) and experience her growth through the aftermath of Mount Rainier’s eruption (“adversity introduces us to ourselves”), all told through her journal entries and supporting interviews. Aside from Kate, we are also treated to a host of other characters, whose own arcs will have us cheering for them, shouting at them, and most of all being fully absorbed throughout.

“Denial is an irrational dismissal of danger. Phobia is an irrational fear of one.”

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I enjoyed this story. Not quite my usual genre. Told part after the fact and part via diary entries, it was a different method of storytelling for me. I found this tense and exciting.

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After Mount Rainier erupts, the assumption is the secluded community Greenloop will, like similar places, be self-sufficient enough to survive. But when rescuers do reach it, they discover the site of a massacre, and Kate Holland’s journal provides the clues as to what actually happened.

The journal also provides a first hand account of what the residents of Greenloop fought against in their final days, and could be the key to unlocking the biggest find of the century. Max Brooks uses his talent to provide Kate’s account, alongside interviews with her brother, and a ranger, one of the first people on site, with extracts containing more relevant information about the characters and mysterious half-ape half-men creatures they encountered.

Max Brooks gives us this first hand account of life in a ‘smart’ community, where groceries are delivered by drone and smart-van, and everything is controlled by an app on your phone. Through Katie’s account, we see how quick technology can let us down where we really need it. This could have been a horror tale without the Bigfoot creatures terrorising Greenloop, an isolated community cut off from the rest of the world by natural disaster, but the addition of the creatures really adds that extra punch.

Throughout the story, it’s not just the external horrors explored. Kate and her husband, Dan, are looking to reconcile their rocky relationship. Around them are an interesting cast of characters, some likable (Mostar was a particular favourite), some not so much, and even though the impressions we get are purely through Kate’s eyes, there’s enough room for the reader to really make up their own minds on the characters.

Brooks also touches upon mental health, particularly through Kate and Dan who both seem to be dealing with their own forms of depression, and are unable to help one another. It’s sad, really, because they clearly care deeply for each other, but there’s a gulf between them at the start, which they both make that little bit bigger.

Through the other characters, Brooks also explores trauma, focused especially on Mostar, who Kate doesn’t know what to think of at first. But it’s obvious to the reader there is more to her than Kate sees, and she becomes one of the most interesting characters in the novel.

Devolution shows what can happen when people become too reliant on technology for everything, when people venture into nature without actually respecting nature, and that’s without the introduction of the creatures. And the creatures really do leave a lasting impression, as Kate catches glimpses of them here and there before they are fully revealed.

I read World War Z a long time ago, and one thing that struck me was how much it read like a history book, how real and vivid it felt, as if the events portrayed had actually happened. I didn’t enjoy Devolution as much as World War Z (due to personal preference for zombies, to be honest) but it had a similar feel, the complete and utter immersion in this world and the sense that these events are very much real.

The way this book unfolded was fascinating, with the human characters becoming that little bit more ‘feral’ as time went on, with the idea of civilisation shown to be frail, and reflecting how the people who seem the most put together might melt in a crisis, while those who seem most ‘frail’ can really shine. It’s a really solid book, completely engaging with characters you just don’t want to leave behind. Without a doubt, I highly recommend checking this out.

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I just could not connect easily with the method of conveying the story, it just felt disjointed to me...I thought this would be a fresh read for me, somehting completely different, however I couldn't give it more than an ok review...sorry, different strokes for different folks!

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Really enjoyed the way this book was presented. Max Brooks writes books so well like this, as if the story is being recounted through journals, interviews, reports and I was intrigued to see how he would handle the Bigfoot story, after being so successful with zombies and World War Z.

Once again, I think he has another hit on his hands. The journals of Kate carry you along and straight into the story, interwoven with other pieces and details. There’s pace and detail and even history, woven in with what we suppose we know about sasquatches.

Definitely worth picking up!

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Part journalistic interviews, part found journal entries, Devolution charts a naturalistic commune’s descent from the peak of civilized eco-living to a feral bloodbath. Told primarily through the journal of Kate, whose therapist has asked her to keep a diary of her thoughts as part of her healing process, we are transported to Greenloop, a self-sufficient community of once-commuters who know work exclusively from home thanks to the best WiFi the world has to offer. Everything is perfect, carbon neutral and cut off from the stresses of city life. Until Mount Rainier explodes leaving them trapped from the outside world.
Suddenly, Greenloop’s inhabitants need the outside world like never before, especially when the nature they were so desperate to get close to starts rummaging through their bins, displaced from their homes by the rivers of hot mud. With the deer and the rabbits come the predators, the mountain lions. And something else. Something tall, covered in hair, with much bigger feet than a man who want to make Greenloop their new home. Civilization verses nature, who will win?
For anyone who has read some of Max Brooks’s previous work, World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, Devolution will follow a familiar format. An unnamed journal is asked to investigate the disappearance of a man’s sister, Kate, when their commuter community vanishes during a natural disaster. What follows is a series of interviews with park rangers, animal behaviour experts, and Kate’s brother woven in and around excerpts from Kate’s diary.
There is an obvious bittersweet nature to the story. We know what is going to happen otherwise we wouldn’t be reading the book, a bit like World War Z, but it is the personal journey of Kate and the other residents of Greenloop that interested me. In a crisis, the true strength of their characters are revealed as those who once appeared strong and in control crumble while others find they are capable of more than they ever thought possible. And just as in World War Z, the character crafting is as vivid as the scene setting and the action.
Having read a number of Max Brooks’s works, including Minecraft: The Island, I was really keen to get my hands on Devolution and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great book from start to finish and I highly recommend it.

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Immediately immersive, very pacy, and in places really visceral - a cracking read, just like ‘World War Z’; definitely recommended.

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Definitely firmly in the horror genre, Devolution imagines how an encounter with Bigfoot could go.

The positives:
Mostar is *amazing*.
There are some incredible moments of suspense (trying to remain vague here to avoid spoilers).
The framing device of theh diary and interviews mostly works.
The atmosphere of the location really shines through.

The negatives:
I sometimes found it hard to tell some of the characters apart. Because they're all introduced at once, they blend together in some ways. Particularly Bobbi & Palamino's mums.
Some of the descriptions of making weapons gets over the top - too much detail!
Sometimes, particularly after some of the large 'battles', the framing device of the diary falls apart. When everything is so stressful and overwhelming, would Katie really take the time to write such long entries (including all the weaponmaking detail, above).
Overly gorey in places. I don't really need to know the sound that every vertebrae made when it broke.

Overall:
Enjoyable, suspensful read. Sadly doesn't love up to Brooks' previous novel. Not one I'd re-read.

3.5 stars.

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I came to Devolution entirely new to both the author and the Bigfoot legend, but with the knowledge that the World War Z film freaked me out and that's what made me want to read Devolution. It's my first 'monster horror' (most I've read so far have been more paranormal or psychologically based). And I really enjoyed it! I absolutely flew through Devolution, it's the kind of book where you start reading and then suddenly notice it's four hours later and you're clenched with fear on the sofa.

Devolution is all about the Bigfoot legend. Mount Rainier has just erupted, devasting the North West US. The resulting impact causes a group of animals (Bigfoots) to make their way south, where they encounter a small group of humans living in a new 'green eco village' in the middle of nature. What follows is a vicious contest of human vs animal.

Brooks acts as a journalist of sorts, similar to the style (I believe) that he used in his previous novel World War Z. The book is composed of an introduction from Brooks the journalist, and then extracts from a journal from one of the villagers, Kate, an interview with a ranger who discovered the village massacre after the eruption of Rainier, and an interview with Frank, Kate's brother who is still searching for her. I really love books which have a more unconventional format like this, there's something really special about horror novels which give you little glimpses into the terrible future through different extracts and interviews, a great pleasure in knowing things are about to get real fucked up. It's a familiar format to one of my favourite books of all time, Into the Drowning Deep, which this reminded me of given the style and monster of legend (though ITDD is much more heavily sciencey).

I thought the first half of the novel in particular was really excellent. As I said above, I started it not knowing what to expect as this was a new type of horror writing, and then I found myself entranced several hours later almost half way through the book and riveted with fear. The initial build up, the unknowing, the noises in the trees, the feeling of someone watching them, it was all done so well! I did find the fear did drop quite a bit once the monsters are revealed and it becomes more gorey fighting horror, and becomes a bit predictable (Sasquatch kills human, humans retaliate, and repeat). I think that's probably more related to what scares me than anything else, I'm sure other readers will find the exact opposite effect.

I enjoyed Kate as our lead character too. She goes through a huge progression across the novel, from anxious wife, to gardener, to weaponsmith. I really liked the play with the idea that catastrophe reveals who you truly are, and watching the characters undergo this transformation was really interesting, with those you disliked at the start becoming your favourites when they transform in the face of danger (hello Carmen). The characters are all quite surface level deep, but I think that was likely intentional. It's very satirical the way Brooks handles this group of vapid idiots going into nature, assuming nature won't ever hurt them and thus bringing 0 useful supplies, but if she does hurt them then they'll be saved by "someone" anyway so what does it matter. However unfortunately it does result in you not really being hugely emotionally invested in any of the characters, which obviously makes their deaths a lot less affecting.

All in all, I think this was a great intro to a new genre of horror for me. I loved the writing style, and found the first half particularly scary and I definitely now want to work up the courage to read World War Z (though after how scared I was of the film, I don't know if that'll ever happen - zombie movies are particularly frightening!!) It was a quick and enjoyable read, but did lack a bit of character development to get me more invested in the characters staying alive.

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Confession: despite having had a copy for over 10 years I still haven’t read ‘World War Z’. That might well change though, as I have read Max Brooks’ new novel ‘Devolution’ and it’s a lot of fun. This time Brooks casts the Bigfoot as his monster, rather than zombies. ‘World War Z’ was part of the undead renaissance of the 2000s, along with ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and the ‘Walking Dead’ comic. I’m not sure if there’s a wave of cryptozoology books and movies coming over the hill, but even if there isn’t, I’m sure ‘Devolution’ will be a success.
The setup is great. A remote, high-tech, eco-friendly community (Greenloop) set in the Northwest USA gets cut off from civilisation when a nearby volcano erupts. The small group of inhabitants work together to survive, pooling their resources as they await rescue. As the story unfolds it becomes clear they are not alone.
Like ‘World War Z’ it is an epistolary novel, with the story told through journal entries from the main character, Kate. These are supplemented with news reports and interviews with first responders. This mix allows Brooks to tell the story in a straightforward, linear fashion, whilst also giving him ample opportunities to throw in some heavy foreshadowing. He also gets the chance to include some interesting information about the Bigfoot/Sasquatch in folklore and popular culture.
What makes the book so entertaining is the mix of characters Brooks pits against the monsters. Kate is a believable 21st century heroine, competent but self-doubting. Her husband starts the book broken by stress following a business failure but gradually finds a role for himself as community handyman. The founders of Greenloop are an enjoyably arrogant couple whose self-assurance fades over time. Best of all is Kate’s immediate neighbour, Mostar, a kick ass older woman who has survived atrocities in Eastern Europe and is the first to realise what Greenloop’s inhabitants will need to do to survive.
I wasn’t sure how scary the Sasquatches would be, but they end up being great. A convincing, primal force of nature similar to the primitive tribe in Jack Ketchum’s ‘Off Season’ and ‘Offspring’. They make for an interesting monster and Brooks has fun matching them against his supposedly civilised modern Americans. This contrast between two worlds makes the book just deep enough to be interesting, without distracting from the thrills and spills the readers picked up the book for.
All this makes ‘Devolution’ a solidly entertaining horror novel. It’s gripping, funny at times and, at around 300 pages, the perfect length for a weekend read.

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Devolution is Max Brooks’ first novel for adults since the phenomenally popular World War Z, which detailed (with a scary level of insight) how the world coped in the wake of a large-scale zombie outbreak. The book became a fairly average film of the same name, notable for bizarrely shifting from huge action set pieces and globetrotting to mild peril in rural Wales, resulting in a somewhat schizophrenic and anti-climactic viewing experience. But I digress (as usual). Brooks has changed up the subject matter this time around, with not a shambling corpse in sight. Turning his attention instead to the perpetually camera-shy Bigfoot, the action centres around the fledgling eco-community of Greenloop, established in the woods surrounding the nearby Mount Rainier and largely made up of telecommuters. Prior to reading Devolution, I knew nothing about Mount Rainier, so for anybody in the same position as I was: it’s an active volcano near Seattle, considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world because of the amount of glacial ice covering it. Should it erupt and this ice be disturbed, it’s thought that it could produce huge lahars (highly destructive mudflows) that could cause widespread devastation and loss of life.

Of course, Mount Rainier blows, trapping our principal narrator, Kate, and the rest of the community in their fancy new digs. I call Kate the principal narrator because Devolution is written in a similar style to World War Z, though in more of an epistolary style, using Kate’s journal as a starting point and supplementing it with interviews with experts. The eruption itself is familiar territory for Brooks, a natural disaster making not only a perfect narrative device with which to trap his characters but also allowing him the opportunity to demonstrate the prodigious research skills that make his work feel so real. I looked up some of the facts that Brooks features in Devolution. They’re real, at least the ones I checked. Whilst the community itself and the eruption are entirely fictitious, they both feel entirely plausible too, with fiction and fact once again blended seamlessly.

But the eruption has other, entirely unanticipated consequences for the high-minded idealists of Greenloop. Driven out of their habitat in the wake of the eruption come another community quite unlike theirs, and they are hungry. It’s a classic horror movie setup really, except with sasquatches instead of, say, hillbillies, and brought bang up to date with its Green New Deal espousing protagonists and their technology reliant way of life. Struggling to survive without the regular grocery deliveries by drone and driverless electric van that they’ve come to expect, as well as having to rely on their own knowledge rather than their smartphones, puts Kate and her neighbours in a precarious enough position as it is. Being set upon by a tribe of ape-like monsters tests them to breaking point. The explanations that back up the idea of the sasquatches themselves, with the supporting verifiably true facts I mentioned earlier, mean that this is not only just as visceral as World War Z, it feels just as real. More so, if anything. It’s not a spoiler to say that things get pretty bloody - the tagline for the book, after all, is “A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre.”

But exactly how this unfolds is what makes this a deeper reading experience than you might initially think, going by the description alone. It’s not as simple as “Monsters come, people get killed horribly.” Focusing on a relatively small cast of characters, Devolution is much more of a character study than I expected it to be. How the characters interact with one another, the shifting of roles in their group dynamic, how their own personal histories inform their decision-making processes; all of these are carefully built up and feel utterly believable. The way the group cope (or in some cases, fail to cope) is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies or The Beach, with their circumstances forcing them to make difficult decisions in order to survive. “Devolution” refers to much more than just the savage creatures hunting them, with desperate times calling for extremely desperate measures. It’s societal collapse, in microcosm. Thankfully, nobody is stockpiling all the toilet paper, otherwise it really would be too close to home.

With a nuanced cast of characters, an engaging format and his usual enviable ability to craft a wholly believable story out of the fantastic, Max Brooks has breathed new life into one of the most enduring urban myths in the world. He might not be the most prolific author out there, but when his books are this good, I really don’t mind waiting.

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