“As the ash and Chaos from Mount Rainer’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 towns 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.”
-Book Cover “Devolution” by Max Brooks
Some stories really get under my skin. I think about them long after I have finished reading them. Devolution by Max Brooks is one of those stories. I was very excited to receive my copy of the book last August and finished reading shortly after I received it. I have wanted to write a review of the book; but, needed time to process the story.
I want to put in a reminder that this is a book of fiction. So much of this book is written as if it just happened. Much like Max Brooks other novel World War Z.
Devolution starts with an introduction by the author explaining how he came to write the story of the firsthand account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Written primary through the journal of Kate Holland found at what was left of the eco-community, Greenloop when rescuers finally were able to reach it. Also included are interviews of the community founder, Tony Durant taken from NPR. Interviews from Frank McCray, the journal writer’s brother, and Senior Ranger Josephine Schell, who was first on the scene. These interviews add a sense of urgency to the story and validate the experiences Kate writes about in her journal. Quotes from scientific journals, myths, zoological texts and other sources lend credibility and interest to the story. Everything meshes together to tell the story and leave the reader to ponder the ultimate outcome. Like any good disaster story, I was left wondering if things had been handled differently, would the ending have changed?
What I enjoyed the most about this novel was the character development of Kate Holland. How the reader gets to know her through her own words. When she arrives, Kate goes on a walk and writes in journal the wonder she experiences of the natural world. Through her own words I saw her as a very timid. By the end of the novel, Kate has strength, courage and a will to survive that transcends through the horror.
The interactions of Kate with the other citizens of the small community and the development of those relationships is all documented in her journal. Mostar was another favorite character. Maybe because she was an artist, but more likely it was her no bull-shit attitude. Everyone in that community tip toed around the very serious situation that was starring them in the face. Only Mostar had the nerve to call it out.
There are some truly terrifying parts to this novel. The following happened fairly early in the book. Kate felt the urge to go for a walk down the road that had been washed out. At one point she thought she saw a boulder on the road. But then it moved, stood up and walked into the woods. The following exert is what happened next.
“When I looked again, the road was clear. The boulder was definitely gone. Then, as the wind shifted in my direction, I smelled it. Eggs and garbage.
I didn’t consciously consider what to do next. No internal debate. this was reflex. I turned and started walking back. My eyes kept scanning back and forth in a shallow arc, like they teach you on the first day of driver’s school. I tried to keep my pace steady, my breathing constant. I tried not to dwell on what I’d seen. An animal, a deer. Maybe that ‘boulder’ was just a speck in my eye.
But the smell was getting stronger, and I couldn’t keep from speeding up. I thought I saw something move off to my right, a sudden space opening between two trees.
I quickened again.
Silly. Irrational. Tired. Information overload from the news mixed with memory flashes of the bloody, butchered rabbit.
A light trot, at first, long controlled breaths. That feeling. The back of my neck. Being watched. My trot became a jog, my breath thundering in my ears.
I could not have imagined the howl. I definitely heard it, just like the other day. Deep, rising pitch, echoing off the trees. Lightening kicked up my stomach.
Sprinting, gasping, the world shaking in front of me.
And fell. Just like in one of those stupid, cheesy horror flicks when the dumb blond eats it just before the knife-wielding psycho gets her. At least I had the presence of mind to close my eyes, hold my breath, but after face-planting in the ash, I couldn’t help but inhale.
Coughing, chocking, eyes blurry and stinging, I tore forward.
Don’t turn! I remember that clearly. Shouting in my brain. Don’t turn! Don’t think! GOGOGO!
Thighs burning, lungs.
I ran until I saw the roofs poking just above the driveway rise. The endorphins hit. Made it. Home. Safe!
He was coming toward me, Mostar behind him.Pages 88-89 Devolution by Max Brooks
This book is a cautionary tale about forgetting that nature can and is dangerous. Just recently there was an accident locally where some downhill skiers went out of bounds. One of them skied into a tree well and died. We hear all the time that visitors to Yellowstone and other national parks are injured because they tried to pet a bison or feed a grizzly bear. I blame Disney for this with the way it anthropomorphizes inanimate objects and wild animals. Wild animals are wild. Even the cute ones.
And just because you can make a call on your satellite phone doesn’t mean that bad things won’t or can’t happen to you when you are in the wilderness. The characters in this book thought technology would save them. They didn’t consider the idea that they wouldn’t be able to depend on it. None of them, with the exception of Mostar, had any idea of what it might take to survive the situation they were in.
I did not feel like this was a horror story. There were horrific events. To me, Devolution, felt like a survival story. Catastrophic natural event caused a series of things to happen. I enjoy a good survival story and this was no exception. Not a book for everyone. But if you like disaster stories or survival stories, this book has all of those components and a mysterious ending.