Cover Image: Devolution

Devolution

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Member Reviews

This is a book I've been wanting to read for ages. A fictitious story about mythical creatures who some people actually believe to exist, written in diary form. And if the fact it's written in diary form doesn't make it feel more real, the interviews and articles alongside the diary entries certainly will.

It definitely felt like there was more character development in certain characters than others, but the characters with more development were VERY developed. I would have been able to tell them apart a mile off without dialogue tags, purely from their actions and personalities. That's a very difficult accomplishment for an author! I wasn't actually keen on the protagonist's husband at the beginning of the book, but I really took to him by the end. Their relationship was definitely a story arc in itself.

I don't know what I was expecting when it came to Bigfoot. More ape-like or human? They turned out to be a great mixture of the two. The stalking and planning were intelligent. The killing was brutal. And I loved it. But the realness in the story, most likely from the fact it was written in the form of a diary, made me feel for the characters more. Where I'm usually loving the horror elements, I was actually rooting for the humans, the deaths paining me.

The reason I've put four stars is because the beginning is slow. It took a long time to work out who was who when it came to the characters, and getting into the action was slow. But once the action hit, it really hit. By the end of the book, it was savage. Also, some of the other parts of the book (certain interviews, articles, extracts) could have been deleted, in my opinion. Some of them slowed the story further to me and felt like an unnecessary break from the action. And I definitely wanted to be reading that savage action!
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Devolution by Max Brooks is an odd one. It is a collection of diary entries, interviews and snippets about a fictional Sasquatch massacre. It follows Kate and her small community as they are first cut off from the outside world and then fighting the Sasquatch tribe. While this is a fast paced story with an exciting premise, I have to admit that I was rather bored by it. I struggled to connect with the characters and ultimately didn’t care what happened to them. This was the kind of book I had to make myself read a few chapters every day, and it sadly didn’t work for me. This may be more due to who I am as a reader, so do check out a sample if you’re intrigued by the concept.
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Speechless. I absolutely loved this book from the introduction setting the reader up for a "found footage" type experience...except in this case it is a "found journal." The book includes the diary of a woman who turns from an anxious woman scared to have a "real" relationship with her husband to a savage leader. 

I read this book in a short period of time and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. 

I knew fuck all about Sasquatch before reading this book, and I still know very little, but I have always been fascinated with other primates and the reasons behind why there is only one hominid species alive. What kind of world would it be if Neanderthals still roamed its surface? This book let me scratch that creative itch. 

I loved the author's use of scientific quotes from real primatology. 

If you are a hardcore believer in Sasquatch mythology, I am not sure what your take would be from this book, but it feels very well put together and I hope you'd be impressed. 

The writing is superb. The way the author calls back to things in the book is eloquent and the description of humans getting in touch with their primitive side is heart wrenchingly realistic. 

The couple of criticisms I have for the book do not interfere with how much I loved the story. Some of the relationships, as portrayed through the lens of one character, were inexplicably strange. And the devolution of two of the characters seemed somewhat out of left field for me. AND...even though the author fought very hard to make sure I could suspend my level of disbelief about this...I just couldn't understand the "ALL NATURE IS FRIENDLY" mindset of the residents. Like, I get it. They're out there, and I suppose in an uppity paradise utopia the humans who feel this way might be at a greater percentage, but I still had a hard time really believing it. 

So, relationship and group dynamics and Darwin award winners aside, the main character was riveting. Seeing the story unfold through her eyes was hella fun. BUY THIS BOOK!
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This was a real fun ride! A great page turner with scenes of real horror that worked well with the genre's tropes yet managed to throw in surprises.

The tension ratcheted up quickly, and once the 'monsters' were unveiled the momentum and interest continued  thanks to the depiction of their family group and varying tactics to overwhelm the humans.

Interesting themes including humanity's destruction of the planet and distance from nature. Disturbing too - the survivors have to revert (devolve) to base instincts and primal violence to defeat the bigfoot.

I gulped this down in a day and appreciated the open ending.
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I found Devolution quite disappointing and less exciting than the subject matter suggests. The author focused too much on philosophical ramblings and seemed to use this book as an excuse to inform the reader of all his political opinions. I didn't enjoy the book half as much as I would have done had that content been removed. The actual story was interesting, but the suspense kept being dampened by the scarcely related drawn-out musings that littered every other chapter. The ending brought it back from a 1 to a 2* read, but ultimately, the politics ruined it for me.
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The first thing that I noticed about Devolution was how flawlessly Brooks writes from a female perspective. I was able to slip into the mindset of Kate Holland easily without recognising that it was a male author writing a female character. You’re probably thinking that gender shouldn’t play a role and you’re right, it shouldn’t. But I’ve read some truly awful books written by male authors with female protagonists where it’s clear that it’s important to them and was on their mind when they were writing the book. In the case of Devolution, Brooks’ narration just flowed completely naturally. Whether it was from Kate Holland’s journal entries or interviews with her brother or Senior Park Ranger Josephine Schell.

The bulk of the book is made up of Kate’s journal entries and told from her perspective, with each chapter packaged with interview snippets to add context. It’s like watching a film; you get to see what every character is doing. Unlike a film, this is set up like a documentary with Brooks acting as a researcher who is putting all the evidence together in one book. 

In general, I was quite impressed with how many random facts and thought-provoking points Brooks managed to ease into the narrative without seeming as though he was flooding the reader with facts. Unlike hard science fiction authors, everything came naturally as part of the character’s design and conversation. Greenloop is not a prototype, but it is the first of its kind created by the Cygnus company and it’s not cheap to get a house in the community. The residents are primarily academics, people who don’t need to live in the city to work and have made a fortune being smart. It provides Brooks with the perfect platform to offer information up to the reader without seeming as though that is exactly what he is doing.

There were a few things that bothered me about the book and the first is the format of Kate’s diaries. She writes down word for word every single conversation she has with her neighbours, and I’m sure some readers probably thought “ah well, she’s just got a really good memory!” and excused it. The problem for me is that I do have a really good memory, as close to a photographic/eidetic memory as is actually possible (spoiler: no one has a fully photographic memory, no one’s Batgirl). Even if you can remember the majority of a conversation you can’t remember it word for word. If you were writing in your diary it would be more like “And then Joe Bloggs said something about the weather and Mary Sue was like, well the news reports are always wrong….”. There’s a degree of uncertainty, of ad-lib. It’s not word for word perfect which is what is exactly what is found in Devolution. The interviews are written with more realism, it’s just the diaries that are too perfect and read like fiction.

My other biggest issue is how they choose to defend themselves against the monsters. Brooks does an excellent job of explaining why certain methods of defence are not possible, however, other very obvious ones are completely ignored in favour of going for the most bloody stereotypical horror survival showdown. We already know a massacre happens; it’s in the book synopsis. So readers expect it. It’s why they picked up the book and Brooks delivers it. It’s well written, it’s terrifying and I’m still sitting there reading it thinking X why didn’t they use that?! Perhaps that is Brook’s entire point; when faced with a predator that puts us lower down on the food train we stop thinking like an intelligent and resourceful species as devolution takes place.

In a way being who and what I am, someone with an academic and research background, I ruined this book a little for myself and took away some of the magic. The huge amount of research that has gone into this book is amazing, and then you get to the character creation. Every single character is unique, and completely believable, including the witnesses that Brooks interviews. The Senior Ranger Josephine Schell especially is written so well that I actually wonder if Brooks did interview a ranger from the United States National Park Service as part of his research for this book.

Despite what I found out in my research, I came away from Devolution educated. I learned things which is what Max Brooks wants. I learned that coconut water is the best natural hydrator in the world, for example, which I never knew. I learned about homes being build from recycled materials and got curious enough to look to see whether they had already become a reality. I’m sure I won’t be the only one, so I got plenty from Devolution even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the story. So give it a shot, see what you learn :)
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This book was such a great read. It all felt very realistic - though slightly mad - a Bigfoot version of The Walking Dead. Really clever to use what read like actual news reports and scientific studies, to back up the details (making Bigfoot so real). A host of crazy, but very believable, characters, all ordinary people thrust into a very extraordinary situation. Intriguing, fascinating and compelling.
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A fantastic update of the Bigfoot legend! After a local volcano erupts in Seattle, the small eco village of Greenloop is cut off from the outside and the local wildlife starts to creep in looking for food. We're not talking wolves or bears here, oh no!! A family of apelike creatures are caught on camera but the contents of the bins are not enough to satiate their appetite!

Devolution is a very tense read and I loved how it was told using interviews and diary entries. I think the ending suggests there could be a sequel which I would definitely read.
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Pros and cons in this. Brooks’ Devolution is not up to the nail-biting suspension-of-disbelief level of his bestseller World War Z, but it’s a good read nonetheless. And it’s a timely warning to think about risk.

The story in a nutshell: Mt. Rainier volcano outside Seattle has erupted. A small, very remote eco-community, Greenloop, has been cut off from contact with the outside world. This is the story of how they survive (Or DO they? Cue Twilight Zone theme…)

Like World War Z, the story is presented as a record of true events, revealed largely through journal entries. It’s well done and makes for good pacing. Brooks is a skilled author and it’s a well-written book in terms of structure, plot, dialogue, characters etc. Nothing really stands out as worthy of mention, but nothing jars either.

When things go wrong
As social satire, it’s hilarious. Let me explain… Most novels about any apocalyptic-type disaster (especially American ones) are a prepper’s dream: as soon as things go skew-ways, everyone seems to have at hand and be able to gather together — within minutes — a bug-out bag, supplies of food and water, weapons (lots and lots of guns), etc. etc. It’s all part of the genre.

Things are different here. Greenloop is a small, get-back-to-nature community comprised of well-heeled urbanites; 6 houses, mostly couples, just one child. They hike in the surrounding woods, but only on the prepared trails circling Greenloop, with their hiking boots and Nordic walking poles. Food (lots of fresh meat and veg) and other necessities are delivered by drone. Frequently. The closest thing they have to a weapon is an expensive Japanese kitchen knife.

They are ill prepared for an erupting volcano and being cut off from their supply route. So what’s the first thing they do when panic starts to set in?

They get together to meditate.

I hereby award Brooks 5 stars just for that. Much of the story is about how completely useless these people are. It’s very entertainingly observed. However, some of them do pull themselves together to face the threats to their community. (The book is being marketed as a Bigfoot thriller, so no points for guessing what the immediate threat is.)

What makes this book particularly interesting is timing. It hits the shelves in the middle of a global pandemic. And points the finger squarely at all the non-preppers among us. Meaning, virtually the entire world. Like ‘what part of we saw something like this coming did you not understand?’.

Because of course, most of us don’t live in an area regularly threatened by volcanoes, hurricanes and the like, so most of us don’t need to even know the meaning of ‘bug-out bag’, never mind have one prepared. Most of us have never lived through a global pandemic, so we (and our governments) didn’t think we needed stocks of masks and other protective equipment, etc. And of course we’ll never run out of toilet paper, or bread flour, when there’s a store just down the road, will we?

The optimism bias
OK, so I’m not turning this into a diatribe about how we all need to become preppers (I kind of want to, but I won’t). But Devolution does highlight how blindly trusting humans are that just because something was working today, it will go on working tomorrow. We have an in-built conviction that no matter what happens, chances are that I’ll be OK. No matter how much experts may warn us, and small outbreaks may scare us, we can still manage to convince ourselves that we are safe from a pandemic and do nothing to prepare for it. Pandemic, catastrophic weather, act of god or act of war… I’ll probably be fine, actually.

We don’t like to face the question: what is the true risk and how should I/we prepare?

If there’s one thing this pandemic is showing us, it’s that the world is divided between the risk-takers and the risk averse. Some might say, between the mentally-well-balanced and the anxiety-prone. Others, between the foolhardy (or egocentric) and the realists.

Optimists and pessimists. The former underestimate risk, the latter overestimate it. Our entire world view, and our behavior in a crisis, is dictated by where we fall on the scale of risk acceptance, which is inextricably linked to our level of optimism bias.

Optimists believe that if the shit does hit the fan, things will work out. Governments will take care of things, and I’ll figure something out for myself and my family. Pessimists would say we’re all screwed anyway, so let’s just get on with today and try not to think about what might happen. The people at Greenloop feel safe so they do not prepare for being cut off from the world, despite the obvious risks (only one road out, remote location, etc.). They feel safe because they were told they were safe, and they chose to believe what they heard.

Just like we trust that our governments are well informed about the risks we might face and have measures prepared in case things go wrong. Until we find out that they didn’t.

Personally, I can finally turn to the family members who were infuriated by or scornful of my stockpiling tendencies and say I told you so. And that’s always satisfying.*

Of course, instead of selfishly stockpiling, we might start thinking about who we’ll vote for. The people who prioritize short-term benefits or the ones taking the difficult decisions for a better long-term outcome.

*Note: I still don’t see how anyone could call 3 cans of chickpeas and a spare jar of beetroot a “stockpile”. But, whatever...
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Horror is a genre that rarely works for me (that is, the fright factor remains low) but "Devolution" is a wonderful exception, and if you enjoy placing yourself in the hands of a masterful scaremeister, I can heartily recommend it. What is surprising is that Devolution reprises a staple horror trope, that of Bigfoot, the huge, apelike creature roaming mountainous areas. The novel also trots out a classical conceit, the discovered journals of a victim, in this case, a woman who settles with her husband in a modern, communitarian village deep in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. When a volcanic eruption leaves them landlocked and out of communication with civilization, the dozen or so villagers find themselves confronted a growing menace. Brooks assembles a wonderfully diverse, astutely observed group of utopians, and the classic horror novel trajectory is buttressed with post-event interviews and observations and news items. The writing, hewing to the core character's journal, is alive and rich. Devolution is a hoot to read, intelligent as can be, and yes, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
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Maybe not the best book to read considering the circumstances at the time (and still now), but I guess I can be a glutton for punishment sometimes, and I had liked “World War Z” a few years ago. I liked it for its “cabin fever” atmosphere (a few people completely isolated from the external world, having to survive while contending with themselves and each other), but not as much as I expected.

While the format itself—interviews, excerpts from a journal…—worked well enough for me in general, I found the pacing a little off at times (for instance, I’d expect more action, but get an article instead, which slowed down the narrative). The limits of the journal entries format is reached regularly when it comes to, well, action scenes (would someone really write it down like this in their personal journal?). I was also on the fence regarding another thing that I found interesting, that is, the breaking down of the small Greenloop community: I couldn’t decide if this, or the Bigfoot part, was the more interesting, and I felt that, in a way, the novel would’ve been more powerful if focused on one of the other, but not having both share the screen time, so to speak. Maybe that’s just me, though—and, let’s be honest, at first I had also picked this novel for the Bigfoot part anyway.

I did like the ending. It is a very open one, with several hypotheses as to what happened to the characters in the end, and it may make it or break it for a lot of people… but I liked having such an opening, allowing me to pick an ending, or none.

Conclusion: 3 stars. It was entertaining, but not amazing.
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Devolution tells a story from the point of view of Kate, a woman who is writing to her psychologist through diary entries about her new life in a remote residential area. The village is completely self contained, food is delivered by drones and life is just PERFECT. That is until there is a volcano eruption leaving the city below completely cut off with hundreds of people evacuated. Oh and there are also unknown creatures killing the local wildlife and coming for the residents.

I'm a huge fan of World War Z (we won't talk about the film) so I had to read this book. I don't believe in Big Foot at all but this was an interesting story of survival from both sides. Kate was a likeable character who had to grow quickly. She lived up to the challenge and it was enjoyable to watch. Alongside Kate's journal entries there were newspaper articles and interviews with park rangers and scientists. 

It doesn't hit the same high as WWZ but it's still a good read. I hope Max Brooks does another historical style novel like WWZ because I need some more of that in my life.

This was an e-ARC given to me by Netgalley.
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Devolution is an original thriller about the discovery of Bigfoot. Told through journal entries and interview transcripts, readers learn of a self-sufficient community that suddenly gets cut off from civilization due to a volcano eruption. A massacre ensues and the only clue to what happened is the journal. The strong writing moves the plot along at a fast pace. There is this sense of atmospheric horror throughout. The character development is quite solid. This isn't your usual horror novel. It mixes in science fiction and mystery as well. Readers who enjoyed World War Z will be thrilled to read a new novel from Max Brooks bringing to life another kind of monster - Bigfoot. Highly recommended!
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Nope... wasn’t for me. Had high hopes given how much I enjoyed World War Z, and this one does start promising... a solid setup and  interesting premise... but when the plot thickens you find yourself a bit unengaged. Whilst the narrative via interviews worked so neatly for the author in WWZ, here it feels he falls hostage of the story by  journal method... fails to convey the horrors in convincing fashion and just doesn’t work. 2 stars for me.... oh well.
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I adored this book. Told through a series on interview and diary entries it follows the story of a very small group of people living in an isolated area. The small experimental community is left isolated when a nearby volcano erupts and cuts them off from society. Faced with having to operated their very complicated homes without the technology they take to function, fractions and madness within the group, dwindling food supplies and... killer sasquatches. This read was both horror and mystery as well as being a ridiculously easy read with an even better audio book!!

A brilliant read.
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The perfect thriller for 2020, cutting so close to home but with beauty and strength.  
A few chapters in and you'll find you can't let go and need to know immediately what happens next.

I didn't think Brooks could better the high bar set with World War Z but I'm more than pleasantly surprised.
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This was a story based around the supposed existence of "Bigfoot", one of the names of this humanlike being.. There is an volcanic explosion of Mount Rainer which moves the population, both human and animal into a safer region.. This impinges on a develop of people who are attempting to be elf sufficient in power, with very little outside contact.. The humans and the Bigfoot clash with catastrophic results for both. Very open ended Conclusion but a great story.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

This book left me with chills and unable to sleep without starting another, less stressful read! I loved World War Z and so was very excited to read Brooks' new offering, and I wasn't disappointed. Once again he takes a legendary subject and imagines it backed up by science and documentary evidence to form a realistic and truly terrifying portrayal of what might happen if Bigfoot really did exist. I couldn't put it down even though it was scaring me! Another great combination of science and fiction.
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What a monster romp this is – in every respect. It’s described as a ‘horror’ story by some reviewers which is massively over-stating things… perhaps because the author is best known for his zombie-apocalypse World War Z story. But Devolution is a different type of cautionary tale, leaning more towards time-honoured sci-fi like The Day of The Triffids. So while there is a skin-crawling build-up to the stand-out action sequences – with creepy critters skulking in the deep dark forest – you don’t need to fret about gruesome gore or nasty slasher suspense.

The story is artfully presented as a post-event investigation into the weird disappearance of a small community after a nearby volcano severs the remote village’s insubstantial ties to the modern world. We get first-hand reports of what actually happened from Kate’s journal – she’s the newest arrival at this post-modernist eco-commune, attempting to mend her husband’s shattered self-confidence and centre herself away from the incessant demands of modern life.

The other inhabitants are a splendidly assembled mishmash of misfits. These self-obsessed narcissists and wealthy weirdos play at getting back to nature while their delicatessen food deliveries arrive by drone and ultra high-tech systems provide all the comforts of the 21st century. Rather wonderfully, once the volcano cuts off communication with civilisation then all those fragile egos fall apart in spectacular fashion. And that’s even before nature starts getting its own back in the shape of big-footed yeti beasts…

Kate herself undergoes the traditional character development from whinging ninny to kick-ass survivor, under the tutelage of an older woman, Mostar. Her life experiences in grim war zones give Mostar unpleasant insights into what occurs when the centre cannot hold. This time it’s not mere anarchy that’s loosed upon the world, but instead a mythical monster with quite remarkably large feet. Cue running, screaming and stone-age weaponry.

It’s all been done before and yes, this is all a teeny bit silly. But the writing rips along, the indolent, self-indulgent inadequates get their just desserts and there’s just enough science-stuff to make it feel faintly plausible (if you squint from a long distance). A diverting frolic which doesn’t take itself too seriously – but scores some palpable hits against contemporary social norms.

7/10
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My thanks to Random House U.K. Cornerstone/Century for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Devolution’  by Max Brooks in exchange for an honest review.

Survive. Adapt. Kill. - cover tag line ‘Devolution’.

Years ago I read Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War’ and ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’ and so was delighted to have the opportunity to read his latest novel.

In the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Rainier the story of the Greenloop massacre emerged slowly. The recovery of the journal of resident Kate Holland found in the bloody wreckage of the small isolated community captures a harrowing tale.

Here Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, placing her journal alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the beasts responsible. Beasts once thought a backwoods legend but now revealed to be terrifyingly real.

Kate and her husband, Dan, had left the city behind to join the isolated, high-end, high-tech, eco-community of Greenloop. It is comprised of six homes, arranged in a circle around the Common House. The Hollands are still settling in when the nearby volcanic eruption cuts Greenloop off from the rest of the world. They await rescue and undertake tasks such as cataloguing their dwindling food supplies and begin to plant gardens. 

They note unusual behaviour in the local animal population and then the residents start getting glimpses of creatures near the edge of the property. Clearly driven from their normal habitat by the eruption, the intentions of these large, ape like creatures, known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot, are initially unclear.

Cryptozoology is a fascinating subject and Brooks presents this account in a straightforward manner allowing Kate’s words to set the scene and slowly increase the sense of isolation and menace and framing these with interviews and news reports.

This was a first class horror that was a slow burn and quite character driven before its dramatic gory climax. Good fun.
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