Devolution – Max Brooks

On April 1, 1969 the Board of Commissioners of Skamania County, Washington State, adopted an ordinance for the protection of sasquatch/bigfoot creatures (Ordinance No.69-01)

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No, don’t walk away because you think you know what this book is about. You don’t. I read it in all of my smugness, assuming it was going to be silly. After all – Big Foot. How seriously can you take a book about Big Foot!? Very. That’s how much! Because, Devolution really is about so much more than the creature you see skulking around in the movies and in strange commercials. It’s about American society and our fascination with technology, nature and introspection. It’s about ourselves.

Greenloop is meant to be a new urban model society. Set in the mountains of Washington, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, it is a utopian society for a very select group of people who can contribute to the communal “green” society. The community is wholly self sustaining except for their One-Touch food delivery system brought to them by drones.  Their energy is solar and and waste-based. They have everything they need. They are “green” to gills and relish their very pro-nature, pro-animal, environmental lifestyle. Until Mt. Rainier decides to re-establish itself as the volcano that it is, cutting them off from the grid and from the rest of civilization. It also has cut off the rest of the animal kingdom from civilization. What happens from there is a tale that only Max Brooks could conceive.

The story is told from multiple perspectives – a journal kept by one of the residents, interviews with her brother who is searching for her, a companion guide to Sasquatch, and interviews with a park ranger who has been searching for survivors after the volcano. This method, its interlocking uses of back and forth data, make the story far more realistic than it otherwise might have been. There were times I found myself trying to verify sources before I had to remind myself that there was no eruption on Mt. Rainier. It really is written that realistically.

What further sets this book apart from other “monster horrors” is the character development. We are able to watch as characters are introduced, morph into leaders, fall apart under pressure, die, survive or not. This is the real backbone of Devolution. I would read it over and over again just to catch the nuances of these changes once more. They are brilliantly written. That isn’t to say that the book is without flaws because they are there. There were moments in the chapter segues that I thought Brooks was preaching and doing so about topics that were unrelated to the topics within the book. Hannah’s memoirs from the IDF were completely unnecessary. Others, however, were spot on so I tend to overlook the minor flaws in order to enjoy the greater perks of the book.

Do I believe in Big Foot after reading Devolution? Naaaahhh, wellll, not really. But I certainly won’t be found camping in Washington State anytime in this lifetime.

NOTE: I read this book during COVID and found such striking similarities between the Greenloop residents and those here in the US. Panic set in early regarding the lack of  food that would last more than a few days, undomesticated animals took over areas rather quickly from bears to wild cats to coyotes and foxes. Our technology and supply chains showed their weaknesses within one week. It was so apparent that “city dwellers” are ill equipped to survive any type of crisis which made Devolution all the more believable.

2 thoughts on “Devolution – Max Brooks

  1. Well, this sounds like quite an interesting premise. Not sure if it is for me or not, but I will keep it on the back burner. Do I believe in Bigfoot? No, but maybe I might. Great review Mackey.

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  2. I’ve really been looking forward to this one. I love books that utilize journal entries, and been so curious how Brooks would make Bigfoot of all things sound serious—with everything that’s been written about it over the years. Looks like I’ll be bumping it up on my TBR pile. Awesome review, Mackey.

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