Devolution: A Bigfoot horror story

Devolution by Max Brooks science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDevolution by Max Brooks

Devolution by Max Brooks science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsI spent countless hours as a kid rummaging the local libraries and shops for stories about Bigfoot. I was a walking encyclopedia for all things Sasquatch, Yeti, Yowie, Skunk Ape, Hairy Man, and even Harry Henderson. The idea of an 8-foot primate rampaging through the forest terrorizing campers is really my jam.

Although I now may no longer “believe” in the Bigfoot story as an actual thing that exists, I’m still a sucker for a good Sasquatch story. I couldn’t get to the bookstore fast enough when I heard that World War Z author Max Brooks had taken a crack at some Bigfoot horror with his novel Devolution (2020).

The story takes place after the eruption of Mt. Rainier. While public services were disrupted, a brutal massacre occurred in a remote town called Greenloop. The tale is relayed via the diary of Kate Holland which was recovered amongst the bloody wreckage of the town. Brooks published the diary along with various interviews featuring her family, first responders, and subject matter experts. It’s an exploration of truth and fiction under the guise of a “real” journalistic work.

Devolution by Max Brooks science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe story’s delivery is a unique style of presentation that I’ve not seen too often. It kept me engaged despite already knowing the outcome of Greenloop’s fate. The fact that the whole town succumbs to Sasquatch murder is established very early in the story. At the beginning, it’s a bit of a slow burn as Kate is documenting her day-to-day life in the Techno-Hippie commune. Brooks does a great job of bringing the town to life with a colorful cast of townsfolk. Each character is given enough time to develop. You will definitely love some characters and hate others. There is a fair amount of time spent on how the town functions, and that will play into the suspense to come later.

Devolution by Max Brooks science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsYou don’t need to be a Squatch fanboy to enjoy Devolution and, in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t. I found myself nitpicking various Bigfoot factoids that Brooks tosses in during his investigation. He manages to squeeze in all the common “Sasquatch FAQs.” I won’t list them here in case you are not versed in Squatch lore. It’s almost as if he was using a checklist to appease Bigfoot nerds. Well Max, consider this nerd appeased.

The slow build starts to pay off as the suspense increases. You know it’s coming, you know who dies, you just aren’t sure how or when. Waiting for that hammer to fall is the best part of this story. Oh boy, when that hammer does come crashing down on Greenloop, it is a symphony of violence, gore, and raw terror that is the soul of a good horror story. The execution was rock solid.

My criticisms of Devolution are mostly personal preferences. I really don’t like coming at a story backwards, knowing the outcome before I hit the first page. I understand that it was a creative choice for Brooks, and many people will enjoy that aspect, but I didn’t. I would have much preferred a traditional narrative rather than trying to make it fit into the “found diary” mold. I’m of the opinion that it only works when your audience believes it to be real. The marketing for this book doesn’t even attempt to do that, nor would it even be possible today if they tried.

Devolution by Max Brooks science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsOverall, though, Devolution is a solid read for horror fans, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good outdoor-themed scare. A Devolution movie is in the works and I suspect it will translate very well to screen. This is my first Max Brook’s novel, and I will definitely be checking out his other work.

I listened to a large portion of Devolution (published by Random House Audio) during a recent road trip. The audio edition has a large cast of voice actors with some notable names such as Nathan Fillian, Judy Greer, and Kate Muldrew. The variety and quality of voice actors made it feel quite theatrical. I highly recommend the audio version. It alleviated some of my personal gripes with narrative choices by showering me in some Class A voice acting.

Published in 2020. FINALIST FOR THE LOCUS AWARD. 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.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. Welcome back, Justin!

    If you’re a Bigfoot fan, you might enjoy this one:

  2. I noticed you only say you may not believe in Sasquatch as a “thing” any more!

    • Justin Blazier /

      I’m hedging my bet. I’m pretty sure my neighbor may be a Sasquatch. The whooping noises, banging of sticks, the smells. If he isn’t a Bigfoot then he is hiding one in the basement.

  3. I too was obsessed with Bigfoot as a kid. I was convinced “he” was real. I did a paper on Bigfoot in my 7th grade English class. I lived in the country in Michigan amidst 14 acres of mostly woods. I had to walk almost a 1/4 of a mile to catch the bus each morning, and most of the year, it was so early it was still dark. Imagine believing in Bigfoot and having to make that walk every day, five days a week. To say I was scared is an understatement. I admit I’m still obsessed and will pretty much watch any movie about Bigfoot, no matter how bad. A part of me might still believe in the possibility, or maybe I just wish it was true (but only if the proof is far away from me. lol). All this being said, I have this book on my Kindle. I think I will make it a point to read it during my sci-fi/fantasy readathon in June. Great review, by the way.

    • Justin Blazier /

      I had a similar experience growing up in rural Indiana. Our house was tucked into the woods a bit with my bedroom window facing open wilderness. My very patient father would explain that even Bigfoot would need a step ladder to peek in my window, since it was 12 feet from the ground. My imagination countered his argument by assuming they were giving each other boosts to fog up my window at 2am. I guess Bigfeet don’t have anything better to do than stare at 9 year olds while they sleep in BFE Indiana.

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