In 2003, Max Brooks released his seminal guide to surviving the undead apocalypse called The Zombie Survival Guide. The book took the world by storm, thanks to its straight-faced and detailed tone that made the possibility of the dead clawing at your door seem so real.
In 2006, Brooks would follow that up with World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. A collection of accounts that detail the devastating effects of a zombie plague across the globe. From the initial stages of the outbreak through to humanities eventual dominance over the dead. The incredible story made it all seem so real thanks to the personal nature of the accounts.
It’s one of my favourite books ever and even a shoddy movie in 2013 couldn’t damage its impact.
Since then, there’s been short stories based in his zombie universe and spinoffs relating to other media (such as Minecraft) but nothing substantial. Until now. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre was released earlier this year and is based around the myth of the Sasquatch aka Bigfoot.
The story sees a reporter investigating what happened in the community of Greenloop, Washington. A small, remote eco-centric community that sits near Mt. Rainier and is made up of a handful of smart homes where supplies are delivered via drone. It’s the community of the future and the residents see themselves as pioneers.
However, their reliance on technology is found wanting when Mt. Rainer erupts and cuts them off from society completely. Forced to wait for rescue, the residents begin to ration their food while trying to keep themselves together as a group.
However, internal conflicts and starvation will turn out to be the least of their worries. The eruption has driven a different kind of beast out of the mountain and it is very hungry.
Narration is delivered by the brother of Kate Holland, one of the missing residents. With the bulk of the story coming from her diary which was found at a later date. A diary that she was encouraged to write by her therapist.
Through her diary entries the truth about Greenloop is revealed.
There’s a lot to like about Devolution, starting with the idea of featuring Sasquatches.
Thanks to Brooks descriptive style and interviews with experts, forest rangers and more, it quickly stops feeling like fantasy and takes on a more realistic wild animal approach. No different than a starving mountain lion, although a hell of a lot more dangerous.
The location, the technology-driven Greenloop is a really fascinating idea and one that never oversteps into futuristic territories. This sort of tech exists now, we all use it and all rely on it but what happens when these advancements stop working? It creates a really fascinating and cold look at our over-reliance on technology but never becomes preachy.
Then there are the characters, where Kate’s detailed diary creates fleshed out people who think they’re in control only to discover just how little they actually had. Although, aside from Kate and the elderly no-nonsense Mostar, they’re a pretty forgettable bunch. However, that doesn’t stop what happens to them from being any less horrific.
Details that Kate’s diary is more than happy to share with us. Perhaps, too much detail which brings us to the big problem with Devolution and that’s how unbelievable the ‘diary’ entries are. Therapeutic or not, it’s just not convincing that Kate would continue to write with this much detail as the crap hits the fan. By the end, when it becomes an all-out war, she’s not just writing about what happened but layering it with vivid descriptive terms that makes for a good read but lacks the ‘realism’ the book had set out to achieve.
It adds detachment which does harm the overall quality of the story yet doesn’t stop it being an exciting, tense and horror driven effort.
Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre (Max Brooks)
The Final Score - 7/10