Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Book Review: Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch MassacreDevolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

When Mt. Ranier erupts, a green community in the middle of nowhere is overrun by Sasquatch and must find a way to survive, or die trying.

I liked the main character, Kate, relates her current experiences back to what she experienced during the earthquake in California. Like seeing the evacuation traffic stuck on the highways, comparing the Earthquakes happening at night, the differences in the shaking, general lifestyles, etc. Being from California, she calls I-5 “the 5” which apparently is a California thing; in the Seattle area we do NOT call it “the 5.” I found it clever whenever she addressed something ridiculous they needed to do to Siri to point out how reliant on technology they’d become.

I liked Dan’s character-change from when he first arrives to when another kicked him into action, the foreshadowing in the brother’s/park ranger’s notes: the first “find” of the animal remains, etc.

The use of bigfoot lore added to the “realism” of the story: the smells, knocking/banging/howls, rock-throwing, mention of Grover Krantz a couple of times, etc. As did the use of PNW details: blackberry bushes (are EVERYWHERE in the PNW), there really is a Whole Foods on Denny Way, Puyallup “Did I spell that right?” Heck, not even locals can spell or pronounce it right!

During the final batter, I liked the use of broken glass and their cars. The exploding houses were gratuitous but I liked it.

I had to Google what “Devolution” means:

Definition, from Google: noun - the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration. This seems appropriate, as this is a story of the transfer of power from, eventually, the Bigfoots to the group.
Similar: Decentralization, delegation, dispersal, distribution, transfer, surrender, relinquishment. - All appropriate for this book.
FORMAL: descent or degeneration to a lower or worse state. Definitely the characters of Tony and Yvette.
LAW: the legal transfer of property from one owner to another. Applies to Kate’s house? Wasn’t it her brother's?
Some things I wasn’t crazy about:

It’s written as a “journal” or “found footage” - I’m not a fan of that style of writing. The book had footnotes. Which were only necessary because of the “journal” trope. They should have been worked into the narrative somehow. But since it’s supposed to be a “real” book about these events, I guess it fits. I was confused about the parts that aren’t Kate’s journals. Who’s writing them? Her brother? The “author” of the book? Multiple people?

I didn’t relate to any of the characters, so I didn’t really care about any of them. They were all caricatures or stereotypes. There was so much talk/info in the beginning of the book about the Mount St. Helen eruption that I forgot about the current setting, the modernity of Greenloop, that I thought the book was taking place around the time of that eruption. I didn’t remember the current-day setting until we got back to Greenloop. I was 42% in, and there was still no horror. Not even much suspense. Just the vague sense of foreboding that’s telegraphed from the parts that aren’t Kate’s journals… and the book jacket. Mostly just “this thing happened. Then this thing happened.” At about 60% in we finally get some action/thriller-type stuff.

I’m not a fan of graphic descriptions of gore. There was a lot in the final battle. Yeah, it’s sold as a horror novel so I expected it at some point, still don’t like it.

A couple of other items:

For someone writing a journal or letters to her brother or whatever, that wasn’t fond of the idea in the first place, Kate sure is good at writing and noting every little detail.

The end. While I kinda liked the author/brother/whoever is writing trying to come up with logical things that could have happened to Kate and Pal based on evidence, I didn’t like not knowing. It felt kind of like the ending the Clue movie: “but here’s what REALLY happened!” Give us a scene with a helicopter landing and seeing them cowering in a doorway, give us a scene of them walking out of the mountain into a SAR bivouac, give a reunion scene with Kate and her brother. Actually end Kate’s story.

Note, I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to participate in the Emerald City Comic Con Horror Book Club, which was canceled along with the Con due to the COVID-19 virus plaguing the Seattle area (and many other places).

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