Devolution

by Max Brooks

“The article, posted on an obscure cryptozoological website, claimed that while the rest of the country was focused on Rainier’s wrath, a smaller but no less bloody disaster was occurring a few miles away in the isolated, high-end, high-tech eco-community of Greenloop. The article’s author, Frank McCray, described how the eruption not only cut Greenloop off from rescue, but also left it vulnerable to a troop of hungry, apelike creatures that were themselves fleeing the same catastrophe.

The details of the siege were recorded in the journal of Greenlooop resident Kate Holland, the sister of Frank McCray.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A

Living in the Pacific Northwest – and having many students who sport “Bigfoot is Real” bumper stickers on their vehicles – I felt that I had to read this. I just had to know if it would be one that I could recommend to students who love the mystery of Sasquatch and also those who were fans of Max Brooks’ previous work, World War Z. I did not expect to love it and get completely swept up in the story. Sasquatch. Survival. Sounds crazy, but it is a captivating story that will cause me to be a little more alert the next time I drive down a quiet country road.

Told alternately through diary entries, transcripts, and historical records, Devolution reads like a movie – rapid-fire action scenes blend with reflective entries from Kate’s diaries. The characters are simultaneously relatable and perplexing with some of the most extreme cases causing me to thing about how I would react in a survival situation: What does one do when a natural disaster isolates you from the rest of the world and eliminates all your modern luxuries? What does it look like to revert back to instinct and intuition?

The characters are also fascinating. Mostar was my favorite – an odd blend of maternal figure and raving artist, but I so appreciated Dan as well. It was also refreshing to have a reliable narrator in Kate, bucking the trend of questionable story tellers in contemporary literature. Overall, I liked this book much more than I anticipated and I am excited to share this with students who are up for a bit of a thrill.

Movie Rating: R

Devolution has very little foul language and no intimate scenes, but there is one scene that brings this up to an R – repeated swearing, particularly with the C-word which is hard to ignore. The rest of the book is pretty PG language-wise. There are also some graphic violence scenes scattered throughout, which seem fairly essential to the plot, but are not suitable for younger readers. The characters are also diverse, with one tech/model couple, one vegan couple, one gay couple with an adopted child, one arrogant professor, and one artist – Brooks, however, does a good job of avoiding stereotypes in spite of the labels that fit these individuals.

Given that this truly is an adult book intended for more mature readers, the rating reflects that this really should only be recommended to older teens. As a librarian friend of mine once told me, I need to keep in mind that there are some students who just don’t read typical YA books – they are mature enough and intelligent enough to handle adult-crossover reads. This is the book for those students – ones who have outgrown traditional YA and are ready for a bit more – so the rating reflects the more mature content.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

I know that this book has a fairly mature rating, but it is an intense and engaging story – perfect for reluctant readers who want a lot of action and a lot of suspense. It is a quick read, but filled with twists and turns to keep teens hooked. Knowing how popular World War Z was in the library, I am confident that Devolution will be a hit – especially among my Sasquatch believers. The audio book is also a good option – it is read with a full cast and is wholly addictive.

Summary:

Greenloop was supposed to be paradise: lush woods, eco-living, fresh start. All of that changed in an instant, though, when Mt. Rainier erupted leaving the community of Greenloop stranded as winter set in. With no way to contact the outside world and limited food and supplies, Kate and her husband Dan team up with their neighbor, Mostar, in a battle for survival. They think their biggest challenge will be growing enough food in their improvised garden, but quickly realize that there are true predators out there: they are being hunted by Sasquatch. As the residents become more primal in their fight to survive, the ape-like creatures savagely attack the community night after night. How can they survive when no is looking for them and every where they look, they are being hunted by an enemy that wasn’t supposed to exist?

Told through Kate’s journal entries as well as historical accounts and fictionalized interviews, Devolution is a clever, fast-paced story that defies a genre. Jam packed with twists and turns, and an ending that left me with loads of questions, Devolution is clever, original, and totally unexpected. With a bit of horror, a dash of adventure fiction, and a sense of a dystopian thriller, Max Brooks has crafted a story that will leave people wondering about Sasquatch and survival long after it is finished.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. Describe Kate and Dan at the beginning of the book. How do they change?
  2. After Mt. Rainier erupts, Mostar makes a suggestion. What is it and how is she treated?
  3. Which of the characters reacts like you think you would? Explain what they do to cope/survive and why that is like you.
  4. When the neighbors force their way in to Tony and Yvette’s, what do they find? What were their survival mechanisms?
  5. During the savage Sasquatch attack, what does Dan do to the houses to deter the predators? How does this help the search and rescue team?
  6. What do the investigators find (and not find) at the scene? What do they think happened to Kate?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science by Jeff Meldrum
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

%d bloggers like this: