Devolution by Max Brooks: Book Review

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Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
Title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre


Mt. Rainier’s eruption completely isolates a remote, high-tech mountain community. Months later, officials finally locate the neighborhood, only to find empty houses, evidence of non-volcanic destruction, and a journal detailing the group’s encounter with a troop of sasquatches.

My Review:

I’ve read mixed reviews of this book but I personally enjoyed the heck out of it. I would catch myself relating the events from each chapter to my husband until I finally decided that he needs to read it for himself and stopped talking. Now I’m bursting at the seams with the need to discuss it with someone!

The beginning was not terribly promising. My family is very practical and I tend to be that way too. So listening to Judy Greer narrate Kate’s neurotic journals was getting a bit old, I’ll be honest. She over-analyzes everyone, including herself, and seems to look for reasons to have her feelings hurt. And this high-tech community where the most practical way to get groceries is via weekly drone deliveries and every house is a smart house, out in the middle of the woods? And all these clueless urbanites think they can live the pastoral dream out there all alone? That’s just asking for trouble. But that’s the perfect setup.

Once the volcano erupts, the tension started to build at the perfect pace for me. They can’t find help and have very few useful tools and/or skills between them. Luckily, Mostar, the artist-in-residence, lived through a war in her younger years so she immediately goes into survival mode, recruiting Kate and her husband to her side immediately. As they face more and more challenges, it becomes apparent that their lack of food is only the beginning of their problems; something else is with them. Just thinking about it gives me delicious chills!

I loved the way the journals were interspersed with interviews with “experts.” They added background and facts and outside points-of-view that would be impossible to incorporate if the book had only been a fictional journal. The builder describes the community in an interview with Kai Ryssdal on NPR’s Marketplace. We hear Mostar’s background in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. There were more but my favorite interviews were probably with the National Park supervisor. She laid out theories and facts about animals and anthropology that gave the whole book a feel of real science, like this could really happen.

There’s a running theme throughout the book that you don’t really know who you are until you find yourself in a crisis (I listened to the audio so I don’t have an exact quote). That is definitely true with this group! People who I expected to take charge fell apart and vice versa. I truly enjoyed the character growth.

Full-cast audio books can be very hit-or-miss for me, but this recording was amazing. Judy Greer was the perfect choice for Kate. I loved that Kai Ryssdal and Terry Gross really read their own parts, giving another layer of chilling authenticity to the story. The rest of the cast (Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion, Steven Weber, Kate Mulgrew, the list goes on) are pretty high profile. I steer away from movies with that many names I recognize; you simply can’t have that many stars. But these narrators were only interested in reading the source material the best they could and it absolutely worked.

I recommend this for a fun horror novel that is so grounded in the real world that you’ll be listening for those big footsteps on your deck after you turn off your lights at night.

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Just for Fun:

I don’t believe in the Bigfoot/Sasquatch legends…but I also think it’s fun to think about “what if.” After all, “There are more things in heaven and earth….” My husband and I have visited the International Crytopzoology Museum in Portland, Maine and the North American Bigfoot Center in Boring, Oregon. They were fun ways to spend an hour or so.

The picture on the left is Murphy (named after the Murphy’s Law that plagues all Bigfoot hunters), located in the Oregon museum, and the picture on the right is from the Maine museum. It’s the Crookston Bigfoot, coming in at 8.5 feet tall and 300 pounds. I visited the Oregon museum AFTER reading Devolution and I have to admit that when Murphy suddenly roared at me, I thought Brooks’s creatures were coming to kill me! It was fun to read about the rock throwing and knocking that made an appearance in the book. I thought it would have been cool if the recordings of “Sasquatch calls” could have been incorporated in the audiobook.

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    1. Movies with too many stars are typically a miss for me too. I was very pleasantly surprised by how well this group worked together! It probably helps that it was mostly one person at a time (Say, Judy Greer reading an entire journal entry) instead of back-and-forth dialog.

  1. Something about this reminds me of Wayward Pines. Don’t know why… I loved that! I am soo going to have a look at this. Your review tickled my interest big time.

    Big Foot…. I don’t know how I feel about that. I think I’d rather believe in ghosts……

    Great review!

    Elza Reads

    1. Ghosts at least seem less capable of ripping off a limb!

      I haven’t heard of Wayward Pines but it sounds good. That setting is close enough to this setting in the real world to count for something. I’ll have to see if my library has it. Thanks for mentioning it!

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