The long-awaited second novel by Max Brooks has arrived. Released simultaneously with the hard back print version, Devolution is ready to be devoured by fans. The follow up to the his critically acclaimed World War Z novel is presented in the familiar documentary style of collected interviews and a found journal. Max Brooks is a genius for dancing with the date he brought to the party. The movie adaptation of World War Z ignored and disrespected what made his first novel great. In presenting Devolution, a violent thriller Sasquatch attack, in a similar fashion, he’s doubled down on what makes his stories so real for the reader (or, audiobook listener). When Devolution is adapted, and it will be, producers will be left with the choice of converting it into a found footage horror film (they won’t do that; it’s a gimmick that’s played out), or filming it as it should be: A raw, unhinged, bloodbath of a war between humans and the elusive crypto North American apes we call Bigfoot.
The cinematic descriptions of the action sometimes feels a little too flowery and professional, considering everything we know of the events in Devolution, are taken from the journal of one Kate Holland. You’ll let that go. Brooks’ ability to draw you in to the emotion and action is far more important than having an authentic-sounding journal written in haste by a frightened women among a small group of neighbors in the shadow of Mount Rainier in Washington state.
Mount Rainier hasn’t had a significant eruption in five hundred years, but you’ll question that. Brooks takes a page from the Michael Crichton book of half-truths to make a story unbelievably believable. Peppered with interviews featuring primate behavioral experts and authorities on wilderness survival, Devolution presents itself as something that’s already happened. We just haven’t seen it on the news yet. A Rainier eruption will have killed hundreds or thousands. Rescue efforts would take months in some of the remote communities. It would take a great deal of time to sort through the petrified corpses of victims fleeing ash fall and frozen bodies of trapped residents who never made it out of the woods on foot. Authorities will eventually release details of the Mount Rainier Sasquatch Massacre, but not before devising a plan to capitalize on the phenomenon to help rebuild the area. Don’t trust what you think you know. This event happened. It was bloody. It was horrific. It tested the mettle of an otherwise crunchy community of (mostly) liberals from the city who have no business living amongst the wildlife or the cryptozoological beasts in the pacific northwest.
After an unexpected eruption drives a troop of Sasquatches into a woodsy closed community, the trapped residents must defend themselves against the increasingly brutal onslaught of hairy beasts who don’t want to share their territory. Jane Goodall couldn’t have been more seemingly accurate in the portrayal of the escalation of violence between the warring groups. That’s right. Humans fight back. This isn’t the Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) or Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1976). Slaughters are boring; at least in a cinematic sense. Just watch the low budget Bigfoot (1970) to understand why.
After this publication makes the rounds, we’ll be inundated with new Bigfoot books and movies. Not because it’s never been done, and Max Brooks is the first; but because it’s never been done like this, and Max Brooks did it best. Sasquatches aren’t cuddly Harrys from Harry and the Hendersons (1987). Nor are they lone, mindless murderers as depicted in Exists (2014). If they are real, they would behave similarly to apes. They would plot and strategize. They would have emotion of their own. They would react to a foreign troop of hairless apes with caution, and they would be outraged by a declaration of war against them.
Devolution is a must-read and/or a must-listen. The performances by some of these familiar names (Narrated by: Judy Greer, Max Brooks, Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion, Mira Furlan, Terry Gross, Kimberly Guerrero, Kate Mulgrew, Kai Ryssdal, and Steven Weberwill) will have you riveted from front to back, beginning to end. It starts slow, but Brooks is methodical about showing who you are looking at, where they are, and what they are about to deal with. The prep work is a necessity that is captivating in its own way, but once the blood starts running, you will call your battle cry along with the protagonists. Max Brooks’ Devolution is a bloody perfect execution.