Max Brooks is easily one of the smartest literary figures of our time. He created an effective survival guide based around zombies with The Zombie Survival Guide, then went and created a frightening, true story-like depiction of a zombie apocalypse with World War Z. He delved into the comic book world with an illustrated version of The Zombie Survival Guide and the graphic novel Harlem Hellfighters, which tells a fictionalized account of the mostly African American 369th infantry regiment during World War 1. He’s been on numerous podcasts and lead seminars for military cadets regarding the future of war.
You’d think just being the offspring of Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks would be enough for him.
In June, Max Brooks released his latest horror-thriller Devolution: A Firsthand Account Of The Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. This story follows the progressive community of Greenloop, just an hour and a half south of Seattle in the wilderness of Washington. Living in eco-friendly smart homes powered by sunlight and waste while controlled by iPhones and iPads, the community enjoys the luxury of technology far away from the claustrophobia of city life.
Things are going well at Greenloop until Mt. Rainier erupts, cutting off all forms of communication between the community and civilization. The eruption of Mt. Rainier also forces the wildlife to relocate, bringing the community face to face with the wild–and something more frightening.
Brooks’ literary alter ego journalist investigates the horrific massacre that takes place at Greenpool. Through Greenpool citizen Kate Holland’s journal and interviews with park rangers, zoologists, and Kate’s brother, “the researcher” pieces together the events. Through this investigation, “the researcher” learns of the community’s one-on-one encounter with a pack of Sasquatches–and the frightening aftermath.
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Max Brooks’ style in this story is equivalent to the sci-fi greatness of Michael Crichton–specifically Jurassic Park and Next. Each chapter opens with a quote or statement by specialists in the zoological world, like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, that sets up what is going to occur in said chapter.
This tactic is reminiscent of Crichton’s Dr. Ian Malcolm character, making a statement about iterations and chaos theory that prepares the reader for what is to come. Plus, Brooks incorporates factual studies and observations on the hunting styles and primal rage of apes. He grounds the myth of the Sasquatch with scientific reality–a tactic Crichton used in his evolution-driven Next.
Now, sure. Some may consider the aspect of journal entries by Kate to be a stretch. How could this city girl find time to document her experience while suffering an unimaginable terror? However, this is a character devoted to documenting her daily activities as self care. Detailing her experience may be the only thing keeping her sane through this scary scenario.
Plus, it’s still a sci-fi novel. There’s always room for a little stretch of reality.
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The frightening fun of this tale comes with the pack hunting Sasquatches immigrating from their now destroyed territory to Greenloop. Using Bigfoot lore, Brooks takes the animals’ tree-knocking communication and gives it a chilling and suspenseful weight. A sound that makes the community members stop dead in their tracks, believing death is minutes away.
The chills continue as Kate scans the woods in darkness, looking over trees and rocks for the creatures. After that, the sheer terror of realizing that what she thought was a large boulder has stood up and moved locations. A moment compatible to Dr. Grant’s experience watching living Velociraptors in the jungle of Isla Nublar.
From page 1, this story grabs you with a chilling adventure into the world of cryptozoology and evolved primates. A gripping suspense thriller bringing the horror of being hunted by an evolved species believed to be myth. Additionally, it is paired with a critique on humanity’s devolution in times of despair and panic. It showcases our reliance on technology, our arrogance toward the natural world, and our fight-or-flight response when we are stripped of both. If you’re looking for a heart-pounding, sci-fi tale with plenty of real science to make it believable, and this one to your list.
Devolution: A Firsthand Account Of The Rainier Sasquatch Massacre is available where ever books are sold. It is also available for audiobook format featuring the voices of Judy Greer, Nathan Fillion, Kimberly Guerrero, Jeff Daniels, Mira Furlan, Kate Mulgrew, Steven Weber, and Max Brooks himself as the researcher.
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