Devolution by Max Brooks
Penguin Random House, hb, £12.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Part journalistic interviews, part found journal entries, Devolution charts a naturalistic commune’s descent from the peak of civilised eco-living to a feral bloodbath. Told primarily through the journal of Kate, whose therapist has asked her to keep a diary of her thoughts as part of her healing process, we are transported to Greenloop, a self-sufficient community of once-commuters who know work exclusively from home thanks to the best wifi the world has to offer. Everything is perfect, carbon neutral and cut off from the stresses of city life. Until Mount Rainier explodes leaving them trapped from the outside world.
Suddenly, Greenloop’s inhabitants need the outside world like never before, especially when the nature they were so desperate to get close to starts rummaging through their bins, displaced from their homes by the rivers of hot mud. With the deer and the rabbits come the predators, the mountain lions. And something else. Something tall, covered in hair, with much bigger feet than a man who want to make Greenloop their new home. Civilisation verses nature, who will win?
For anyone who has read some of Max Brooks’s previous work, World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, Devolution will follow a familiar format. An unnamed journal is asked to investigate the disappearance of a man’s sister, Kate, when their commuter community vanishes during a natural disaster. What follows is a series of interviews with park rangers, animal behaviour experts, and Kate’s brother woven in and around excerpts from Kate’s diary.
There is an obvious bittersweet nature to the story. We know what is going to happen otherwise we wouldn’t be reading the book, a bit like World War Z, but it is the personal journey of Kate and the other residents of Greenloop that interested me. In a crisis, the true strength of their characters are revealed as those who once appeared strong and in control crumble while others find they are capable of more than they ever thought possible. And just as in World War Z, the character crafting is as vivid as the scene setting and the action.
Having read a number of Max Brooks’s works, including Minecraft: The Island and World War Z, I was really keen to get my hands on Devolution and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great book from start to finish and I highly recommend it.