An epistolary novel by Max Brooks (WORLD WAR Z), DEVOLUTION tells the story of the Mount Rainier Massacre through interviews peppering the journal entries of one of the people who was there. This one took me a long time to get the motor of engagement started, but once it did, it really roared.
The story begins with a young urban couple moving to a remote eco-community called Greenloop. Here, the residents live close to nature while maintaining all the comforts of the big city. When nearby Mount Rainier erupts, all these comforts evaporate. And worse: The eruption has forced an animal migration, including a particularly monstrous, hungry, and previously hidden type of beast: the thing we call Bigfoot.
The narrative plays out primarily through the wife’s journal. Over time, we get ongoing snippets of interviews from experts, park rangers, and others. The two work together pretty well, with the journal bringing us there as the events unfold and the interviews adding context, background, a look at the bigger picture of the Rainier eruption, and so on.
Not gonna lie: It took me a while to get into this, so much so I put it down a while ago and only recently came back to it. For one, I didn’t find the protagonist particularly likable to a level I could invest. It’s kind of the point, as she’s been pampered by civilization and eventually transforms under the pressure to adapt and survive, but the preamble describing Greenloop and daily life there through her eyes wasn’t particularly engaging for me. Besides that, I have an odd bar for willing suspension of disbelief. As with other epistolary works, I had to get past the mental hurdle that she spent an enormous time writing in her journal so that I could just accept the convention and go with the flow.
Once Rainier blows its top, however, things get very, very interesting. The community slowly realizing its predicament, the transformation to self-reliance, the advance warnings something horrible was coming and all of its reveals, the drive to survive, and the various tactics the residents use to defend themselves against an incredibly powerful and ferocious predator were all pretty much perfect.
By the end, I can’t say I fell in love the way many readers did–the book has more than 8,000 reviews on Amazon with an average 4.4 rating, and I can see why–but I did like this one a lot. It’s a clever, realistic, and informed take on Bigfoot; an excellent thematic view of survival and adaptation; and overall a very strong survival horror story.