Cover Image: Devolution

Devolution

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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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It's brilliant! I loved every moment of it and i couldn't put it down.
Great world building, fleshed out characters and a style of storytelling that makes you turn pages as fast as you can.
I strongly recommend it.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

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I was excited considering I love World War Z, however I don't think this book was as strong. The characters were all pretty annoying and the whole Big Foot thing a bit ridiculous. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this one as much as I thought I would. It is still entertaining overall and it might even be great for some people, it just wasn't for me.

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Another superb book by Max Brooks, never disappointed with this author, a brilliantly gripping thriller of a read that I would definitely recommend

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Thank you to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. I nearly didn’t go through with reading this (unfortunately the copy I was sent had some pretty distracting format issues, with large chunks of text repeating themselves throughout) but I’m so glad I persevered. Brooks’ modern take on the classic American lore of Bigfoot is frighteningly credible and so well plotted that I never found myself questioning the sheer absurdity usually associated with classic hoax tales. Brilliant characters developed in a story with fluid progression and a truly gruesome climax in the end.

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4.5 stars.

I loved this book! The characters were brilliant, fresh and interesting as was the eco-community where they lived. You may have thought that BigFoot, a mythical creature, forest legend and beloved character of Pixar films had no place in a horror novel. But you would be Oh! So wrong. Terrifying, intelligent, territorial and really pissed off - a clan of monsters begin to pick off the last of the residents who are unable to leave after a series of volcanic eruptions, and they do this brutally.

And the thing is that Max's character development is so masterful that I liked every, single player. They all had depth and credibility. I read this in two sittings - racing through every page. Brilliant stuff and highly recommended.

PS I wouldn't classify this as horror - sits better in the dark, thriller fiction genre for me.

Thank you to Random House and Max for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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An engrossing horror thriller, high on set-up and brilliant at ratcheting up the tension in spite of its non-fiction 'we all know what's going to happen here' framing device. While I struggle with horror (I'm such a wimp), I love inevitable catastrophes and I'll grant more leeway to flimsy characters and predictable arcs than I do with any other genre. If you don't, you may find Devolution considerably less entertaining than I did. Me, I found plenty to enjoy. Sure, there's a lot of familiar tropes as survival queen Mostar shapes our malleable narrator Kate into a final girl, but Devolution is very well executed and I loved the salty commentary on victim blaming, failure by design and the terrifying fragility of the modern world.

Just don't read it home alone in the mountains at night.

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In the wake of a volcanic eruption, an isolated village becomes the hunting ground of the legendary Big Foot. Told through journal entries and interviews, we explore the last few weeks leading up to the Greenloop massacre and its horrifying conclusion.

Coming from Max Brooks, writer of World War Z, I knew this would be an interesting read. And it certainly is. This feels very much like a modern day horror story. A story where nature has become idealised by comfortable humans. Humans who rely on technology for everything, carry phones everywhere, but don't know how to survive when all their comforts become obsolete. I think that's one of the aspects of this that makes it feel so scary - it's based on truths and grounded in reality. It's believable.

Brooks also knows how to shape and develop his characters well, giving us complete character arcs and complicated protagonists to root for. Our main voice comes in the form of journal entries from Kate, the newest resident to the 'smart village' with her husband, Dan. She's a true urbanite at the beginning, someone who loves her creature comforts and hates confrontation. She wants the great outdoors without the effort. She's slightly irritating and whiny, and is having difficulties in her marriage. They don't talk, and Dan doesn't do much of anything else either. Throughout her journal we see her grow into her personality and take a strong position in the group, helped along the way by the incredibly complicated Mostar - a neighbour with more common sense than the rest of the community put together. A community than involves some vegan hippies, a pretentious writer and a kesbian couple and their daughter. All of these characters are well thought out, well developed and feel realistic. You feel their conflicting emotions, and their fear.

The atmosphere in this is also really strong. At times I could have cut the tension with a knife - the slow build up of increased action and ferocity of attacks, mixed with the characters anxiety lead to many a frantic reading session to find out what was going to happen. The plot is very fast paced, leaving little room to deviate from the one and only issue - survival. Adding in interviews from other characters set chronologically after the journal entries also helps to fill in some of the gaps missing from the overall story, while still keeping the distinct writing style that Brooks is known for. That said, I probably could have done without the large paragraphs on how to make a spear out of bamboo. Handy for survival, less interesting to read about.

I do love Max Brooks modern take on traditional or more naturalistic horrors and classic lore, and I cannot wait to see what he tackles next. This really was a thrilling and utterly unique ride.

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I had a great time with this book. I feel that the found diary format is perhaps a little overdone these days but the narrative was a lot of fun. I was particularly pleased by how well researched the BigFoot "expert" sections were, in terms of describing real Bigfoot hunter lore and opinion. A creepy good time!

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Devolution by Max Brooks.
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.
A good read. Although I found it kept repeating. I found this annoying. 3*.

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Absolute corker of a book. I couldn’t put it down. It was so visual.
, it felt like I was watching a movie. Absolutely brilliant.

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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me this book to read. I've heard about Bigfoot from pop culture so I was interested in how this book would set it up. This book felt ominous and realistic, it gripped me and I stayed up late to finish the book.

The book is set in a little community called Greenloop. This is a small green community that is basically cut off from everything which I know, is a bad sign. The small setting really helps with following the story and the slow build of fear. The community seems like a paradise until a volcanic eruption cuts them off from society and suspicious things start happening.

There is an unnamed narrator that gives us information about Rainer Sasquatch Massacre from different sources. The main source was Kate who had written a diary while she lived at Greenloop and we see what happens though her diary entries. Each cheater is introduced with a quote and there are little sections of other people's Intel about what happened for example a ranger. The book shows our over reliance on technology and how it can all go wrong. It shows how society changes and how some people adapt and survive while others don't. I liked how it showed the residents using a trial and error approach to survival. I enjoyed Mostar who became the leader of the community and she was the one who helped them survive.

At first I didn't really like the characters but as they adapt to survive I began to like them. Mostar was my favourite, she was a survivor from a war and she was the one who began the changes in the community. Our main character was Kate who at first I found annoying but she adapted and became stronger.

The Bigfoot creatures were as you can probably imagine. The residents of Greenloop don't see them at first but they smell something bad, hear howls and see footprints they can't explain which all adds to the slow horror of the residents. Then the Bigfoot community chases, throws rocks and fights the community. Bigfoot is a sort of fun figure in pop culture but in this book they are a horror.

Overall I did enjoy this read. It was an ominous read that had my heart pumping and made me stay up to read as I really wanted to know how it ended. I would highly recommend this book.

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Max Brooks follows a similar blueprint to his World War Z novel with this story about a Bigfoot attack on an isolated eco village.
Told through various recounts, including interview transcripts, press clippings and diary entries it's a solid action horror that takes a long time to get going but pays off with a big second half.
With some interesting notions about society, our reliance on technology and animal instincts it's well worth a read.

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I was really excited about this book and at first I was totally gripped but that faded very quickly and I was just bored and I gave up about half way through.

The story lacked something for me - I didn't feel connected with any of the characters and the clinical style left me feeling detached.

The book was very reminiscent of The Passage, maybe that's what put me off but for a huge number of people that will be a positive.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be in the minority not liking this book but it just wasn't for me.

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Okay, this book doesn’t really do subtle. It’s a fast paced story of (wo)man vs mythical beast which barrels along and doesn’t stint on the excitement and gory violence. I have to say I struggled with the opening chapters, which are basically just awful people being awful, but it’s needed to set the scene, and to lay the ground for some of the character development that comes through in the second half. Once I was in that second half I was kept rapt, and the (electronic) pages were turning faster and faster. No, it’s not cordon bleu cooking, but it’s a damn good cheeseburger. If you like a good monster movie, you’re going to have fun with this one.

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I've always heard about Brooks .. but never gave it a go .. and now I see why he has such loyal devoted followers .. really impressive character building .. and we sort of glide into the presence of the 'monsters we always know are there. Action packed after slow beginning to establish it all .. terrific entertainment

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Deep in the forests of Northern America a community has been founded. Not a community of survivalists or woodsmen, but an diverse group of woke and liberal millenials living in high tech houses with computer controlled heat and light with glass walls rather than logs and stone. Nobody owns a gun. When their world is suddenly under attack by the forces of nature how will they cope? A massive eruption of Mount Washington cuts them off from all outside contact and the supplies they depend on, then they find themselves under deadly attack from one of man's oldest nightmares. Could it be that the only way to survive is to cast off lifetimes of culture and restraint and revert to the level of their primitive foe? This is an action packed thriller you will find hard to put down.

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It's hard to review this book without giving away spoilers.

But I loved it. I got totally sucked into it and my minds eye could picture the scenes so well. I had to put it down at one point as I didn't want to know what was going to happen next!

I've heard of Max Brooks but had never read any of his books, will definitely be giving World War Z a go now

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4.5 stars, rounded up
This is the story of an eco-community in the hills near Mount Rainier, Washington State. An eruption blocks their road out but also disturbs a group of Sasquach – Bigfoot. It takes a close look at the thin veneer of civilisation and the technology it clings to. The tale is told through the diary of one of the community, later found to be missing. I really enjoyed the exploits of the group, their ingenuity and the reaction of our species to being lower than prime predator. It’s an exciting read, though I felt the set-up was a little vague. I’d have liked to know more about the purpose of the group and the reasons each family came to the village. I felt that was a little rushed. However, I’d recommend it as a great read.
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC.

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Okay so I hadn't heard of Max Brooks before and I've never seen a or read world war Z. So I can credit this book for itself.

At first I found Devolution quite slow going and a bit of a slog to get through. So rather than give up I skipped the field journal and notes sections and just read the journal as it was.

That picked up the pace and the story then raced. I had to find out what happened to this bunch of rich spoilt people that moved to the countryside to live a country life without actually making any lifestyle changes. High tech houses that get maintained by a horde of workmen, shopping dropped off by drone or driverless car. No building small holdings or allotments, no preparing to live in the middle of nowhere. Its was not at all surprising that they would be totally unprepared to deal with being cut off from the Internet especially with a natural disaster and a troupe of carnivores that start attacking.

I loved it! Great story.
I did go back and read the skipped parts but Devolution was just as good as a series of journal entry's and the epilogue by the protagonists brother.

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