What if Sasquatch is real? What if there actually is a large, hair-covered hominid that lives in the undeveloped areas of the Pacific Northwest and is occasionally sighted by unsuspecting humans? What if a natural disaster displaced these creatures and their prey, forcing them to move closer to human settlements? And what if a small group of humans, desiring to get back to nature created a community that allowed them to live a distance from more urban environments while maintaining and relying on the creature comforts afforded by contemporary technologies? What if the natural disaster that displaced the natural inhabitants of the area cut those humans off from their connections with the outside world? In his new thriller, Max Brooks answers all of these questions and more!
When Kate Holland and her husband Dan move to Greenloop from Los Angeles, they are excited about all of the possibilities the community seems to afford. Greenloop, located in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, is a private community of six homes surrounding a common house. It is designed to be eco-friendly through the use of technology and removed from the urban pressures of nearby Seattle. They have high-speed internet connections, cloud storage and regular supply deliveries via drone and driverless vans, along the single rode accessing the settlement.
At a dinner welcoming them to Greenloop, Kate and Dan meet their new neighbors: Vincent and Bobbie Boothe; Carmen Perkins and Effie Forster, both child psychologists, and their adopted daughter Palomino; Alex Reinhardt, a researcher and author; Tony Durant, the tech guru who designed and founded Greenloop, and his wife Yvette; and Mostar, who is a world famous glass artist. During the dinner, there is a small tremor from nearby Mt. Rainier. While Kate and Dan are used to, but alarmed by, small tremors, they are told by their new neighbors that they will soon acclimate to the frequent rumblings.
When a small eruption occurs a short time later, the inhabitants of Greenloop find themselves completely cut off from the rest of civilization. The cables that provide internet access are severed. They are reliant on their cell-phones (there are no landlines in any of the homes), none of which can get a signal. The single road accessing the community has been destroyed by a lava flow. Initially, the residents of Greenloop are certain that help will come for them quickly. But as they listen to the radios in their vehicles for news reports, they learn that the situation is much graver than they first believed. It becomes clear that, with the approaching winter, assistance may not reach them quickly, and that they will need to come up with a plan to stretch their meager resources as long as they can through the coming months. But what the residents of Greenloop did not take into account is that they are not the only ones living in this part of the wilderness. Creatures from legend and folklore are living nearby and they too will do whatever they must to survive the aftereffects of the Mt. Rainier eruption.
In Devolution, Max Brooks, author of 2006’s World War Z (which became a world-wide phenomenon), has returned to tell a story that is much smaller in scope but every bit as chilling and thrilling as his earlier work. Through his use of the high-tech community of Greenloop, Brooks comments on our current culture’s over-reliance on technology: You don’t know how to do something? Just look up a video on YouTube! But what happens when YouTube isn’t available? Today no one is taught, or learns on their own, how to do something in the eventuality that it may be useful because they can look it up when they need it. Retailers now focus on immediate sales, especially regarding food, with the idea that the deliveries will not be interrupted. And as we all found out earlier this year, when interruption is even threatened it leads to hoarding and cleared shelves. Brooks also highlights the United States’ repeated failings in dealing with natural disasters and the current administration’s continued dismantling of the agencies that would deal with the issues if they existed. While this novel is focused on a small group of people, it is an alarming indictment of our current culture, especially in light of the current pandemic.
As the novel progresses, and the threats are increased, readers will continually wonder how this group of ill-prepared individuals will deal with the challenges with which they are faced, culminating in the revelation that they are not alone in their forest! The utilization of the bigfoot/Sasquatch legend is brilliant and seemingly long overdue. The attacks by the Sasquatch are brutal and Brooks leaves little to the imagination, but does not glorify the violence. Devolution is a brilliant, thought provoking, chilling and terrifying book.