Do you believe in the possibility of Sasquatches? Do you believe that there are vast expanses of wilderness on this earth that could hide these creatures from the eyes of man? And do you believe that if there is a natural disaster that causes wildlife to flee its normal climes that it would leave the Sasquatches without sustenance and that they too would flee the disaster and look for other sources of food? Sources of food that are not used to being hunted by gigantic apelike creatures. This is what Max Brooks has imagined in his new novel, and what Brooks accomplishes in “Devolution” is suspense, drama, unflinching horror and a novel that Stephen King would be proud to call his own.
The book may not be everyone’s idea of beach reading (unless you like entrails with your sunscreen), but it is a compelling read. And reading it near the ocean (not generally known as Sasquatch habitat) is probably far better than in a remote cabin in the woods, where nocturnal noises take on a more sinister pale in “Devolution.”
We are told at novel’s beginning that the only remaining account of the tragedy at Greenloop is a journal pulled from the wreckage written by Kate, a new resident at Greenloop, who was writing the journal at the recommendation of her psychiatrist. Kate and her artist husband, Dan, have been invited to live in the Edenic Greenloop community that consists of seven houses deep in the woods of Washington state. The founder envisions an escape into nature with all of the modern conveniences including weekly Amazon drops at the Greenloop helipad. What the founder did not envision was a volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Rainier that would cut off all access to the outside world, which is hurled into a state of emergency that has more pressing concerns than the tiny community in the forest. A few days after the eruption, the spine-tingling howls in the forest begin.
As the mythical Sasquatch emerges from fur trader tales of yore to become a very real presence that is setting off motion-sensored lighting in the backyards of Greenloop, some of the residents believe that apes are not carnivores and can be placated with primitive communication attempts. Spoiler alert: If those residents were correct in their hypothesis, “Devolution” would be a much different novel, but Brooks intersperses passages from Jane Goodall and other ape observers that clearly show apes can be aggressive in their behavior.
“Devolution” devolves into a primal fight of man against beast. A beast that was once contained only in our imagination has now been unleashed on an unsuspecting community of who some may call bed-wetting liberals in a book that has the potential to make bed-wetters out of all who read it.