Review: “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks

Author: Max Brooks
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Genre: Suspense, Horror, Fiction, Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The #1 New York Times bestselling author of World War Z is back with “the Bigfoot thriller you didn’t know you needed in your life, and one of the greatest horror novels I’ve ever read” (Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter and Recursion).

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. 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. In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it. Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and, inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us—and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it—and like none you’ve ever read before.

From Goodreads

Review

TLDR; engaging Bigfoot thriller. A small remote town, massive natural disaster (in Rainer, rep WA state!), and group survival ‘stranded in the woods’ vibes.

I’ll just say off the bat I was a huge fan of this book. It has all the right elements to keep you hooked – a small remote town of forward-thinking environmentally conscious people, the kickoff of a massive natural disaster, and threat of unknown creatures in the aftermath. The combination makes for a riveting tale of survival with a ‘stranded as a group in the woods’ vibe.

Devolution’s style is atypical, told from the perspective of a reporter uncovering the story after the fact. Reading this book feels as though you’re discovering what happened to the community alongside the rest of the country after the Rainer devastation, but it’s too long form to feel like an investigative piece. It fits more as a breakthrough tell-all non-fiction but even then the style wasn’t quite right to pass since it was more story-based with the journal entries. So perhaps more a tell-all with a human-driven narrative? The personal journal pages from Kate Holland supposedly found after the events are balanced by a series of interviews with park rangers and family to round out the story – about 70-30. I had mixed feelings on the interview portions but leaned positive. They provided the author an opportunity to share rationale behind the Bigfoot behavior and explain the delay in finding the village, but the family interview portion didn’t contribute much in my mind at all. In fact the Kate’s brother could have potentially been excluded all-together.

Across the board characters were decently well-rounded. Since the main events are told from Kate’s perspective we get great insight into her personal development, beginning as an anxiety-ridden wife to a moody, distant husband reborn through the ashes as a survivalist (literally…since Mt. Rainer erupted 😂). Her weakness and inner struggles coming to terms with the situation were reasonable and not overly annoying which I appreciated. Other characters were equally well-written, each bringing to the communal table their own unique contributions and drawbacks. Dynamics between them made survival as a group an interesting problem.

I’d be remiss not to mention the Bigfoot themselves as well but I don’t want to give too much away. Clearly this is a Bigfoot/Sasquatch thriller, so I don’t feel bad mentioning that much. The summary mentions they have “terrible strength and ferocity” which is evident in the story, and I’ll just supplement this by affirming what I said before. Max Brooks did a commendable job developing reasonable behavior for these creatures via the park ranger interviews and observations from Kate and the rest of the group. I’d imagine it might be difficult writing where the antagonistic force is a well-known legendary creature because there are already pre-conceived notations of how they look and behave. This writing aligned with and created reasonable enhancements to what I’ve previously heard, which made the story more easily believable (or at least, easy to suspend belief).

Max Brooks is also the author of World War Z the book, which was made into the popular movie starring Brad Pitt. I haven’t read that book and so picked up this one without any expectations. Because of this I can’t comment on how this compare stylistically, but obviously the subject matter is different. Personally I’d pick Bigfoot over zombies any day but I’ve never really been a zombie person 😉. My impressions of this book and his writing based on only reading this one are very positive, but I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who has read both!

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