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.


  • Justin Blazier

    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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