Devolution review: If you go down to the woods today… run!

Books, Reviews

The Bigfoot (or Sasquatch, or what ever other name anyone prefers) is a creature that is often overlooked as a truly terrifying foe. It is sometimes even looked upon with a rather comedic eye due to the various crackpot ‘sightings’ and so-called giant footprints left on muddy woodland paths over time. But make no mistake, Devolution is about as far removed from Harry And The Hendersons as you can possibly get, and author Max Brooks has successfully made us scared to go into the woods today.

The residents of Greenloop, a green eco community situated near the volcanic Mount Rainer, live an idyllic, high-tech existence isolated from the stress of city life of nearby Seattle. Everything about the community is catered for. Need shopping? Not to worry! A drone will just drop it off for you! Can’t be bothered to turn off the light? That’s fine! Your house will do everything you want from your smart device. And you don’t even need to worry about your carbon footprint! How lovely.

The only thing the community isn’t catered for is being completely shut off from the rest of society when Mount Reiner erupts and cuts off their access to the outside world. Oh, and also being set upon by large, hungry ape-like creatures who are fleeing the disruption.

Told after the catastrophic events through expert testimonies and a diary left behind by one of the victims, Devolution delves into the science and lore behind the Big Foot myth while simultaneously bringing you into the very personal story of the diary’s author, Kate.

A newcomer to the community, anxious Kate and her lazy husband are both in a slump and are hoping Greenloop can help them get out of it. There she meets a bunch of diverse characters, from high-flying visionary Tony to gruff artist Moxar, and it’s when the proverbial hits the fan and the residents are facing possible starvation and probable death at the hands of a tribe of Sasquatch that everyone’s true nature start to come out.

It’s this clever balancing act that makes Brooks and Devolution stand out – one moment the reader could be contemplating the struggles of modern society and the next we are scared witless, peeking out of the window to see if there is a huge hairy creature out there who could be stalking us. Because the creatures are terrifying. Brooks wastes no time in detailing their raw, animalistic nature as they ravage the poor people of Greenloop, highlighting just how defenceless we as humans truly are. Kate is also a great representation of our race. She isn’t so uncomplicated as to be a natural leader, but she steps up when she needs to, kicking her comfort zone in the arse to say hello to her survival instinct.

Drawing you in with likeable characters in a real-world situation, then smashing your trust to pieces like a giant ape crushing a skull with its bare hands, Devolution will make you think twice about booking that remote weekend getaway in the woods.

Devolution by Max Brooks is released on 16 June.

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