Review: “Devolution” By Max Brooks

February 27, 2021

People who read this blog have probably noted a change in the material I have reviewed lately. Recent subjects include: permaculture, radicalism in the 1970’s, pre-history revisionism, and yes, Bigfoot.

The fact is, I am in a political burn-out mode and needed some breathing room with off-beat subject matter. Rarely do I read fiction, but I was looking forward to escaping into this book after hearing an interview with author Max Brooks, the son of the famous comedian and producer Mel Brooks.

Full disclosure; I never read Brooks’s “World War Z” and never saw the movie either. In the interview, Brooks said he was unconcerned that the movie differed from the book.

“Devolution” has the descriptive subtitle “ A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre”, which sums up exactly how the book will “devolve”.
Despite certain gimmicky story-lines and unbelievable fights with monsters, I have to admit I “devoured” this book.

The first thing I noted was the book was written in a female voice. This was a great writing exercise and tip for me. In fact, all the heroes are women, and even the leader of the Sasquatch “troop” is a ragged, fearsome female.

The writing develops partly in a diary format of a woman named Kate. Brooks fills in with supposed interviews with Forestry officials, contemporary references, even a reference to an an NPR interview.

Brooks (for me at least) builds a profile of various super-yuppies that caused me to loathe some of them. A great technique. I figured that if Sasquatch didn’t start throwing rocks at these people, I would.

As stated, several women are the heroes in this contemporary horror story. Set in a remote high-tech community, the residents experience the eruption of Mt. Rainier and the disruption to the natural world and their fragile community.
Interestingly, the strong influences in the story-line are Kate, author of the diary and two refugees – one a young adopted girl from a Rohingya refugee camp, and a woman survivor of the Bosnian War. Both of the latter are Muslim.

With their community cut off by mud flows, the food running out, and winter setting in, things look bleak. But the mysterious Bosnian woman “Mostar” has a plan. She has lived through a war-torn siege,
and is familiar with weapon making. Mostar, the Rohingya girl “Pal” and journal writer Kate lead in a survival strategy that just might work.

Enter the Sasquatches.
Of course, it starts with dark sightings and noises in the forest. From there it ramps up to the houses being bombarded by grapefruit-sized stones. Compost bins disappear.
Kate and her husband manage to get a video of two half-grown Sasquatches fighting over composting food scraps. Now they know they are up against a group of powerful, dangerous “manimals”.

Brooks has done his research, he talks volcanic activity, historical references, geography of the area, and more. The Forestry official is a Native American woman who is also a combat veteran. Brooks even footnotes references at the bottom of various pages, lending a somewhat realistic touch to this tale.
I have to admit, there are some terribly horrifying moments in the book – some of which loose steam in the realm of combat – a woman killing a massive Sasquatch with a bamboo spear, for instance. The story-line makes abrupt turns into curious survival skills immediately after the questionable combat with seven-hundred-pound creatures.
But somehow Brooks makes it all work.

In “Devolution – A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” it is the Sasquatches that “evolve”, and the humans that “devolve”.
It seems appropriate in this modern tale of primal terror.

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