Can Max Brooks, author of the bestseller World War Z, hit it big again? Can he step away from the zombie apocalypse and terrorize us with another mythological/supernatural(?) creature – one that we haven’t read much about? Yeah, he probably can.
A group of environmentalists move in to a small, isolated community (called ‘Greenloop’) in the Pacific Northwest. They appear to have an idyllic life, living off the grid, and if anyone looked capable of surviving a disaster, it would be these secluded environmentalists. And then Mount Rainier erupted.
Now truly cut off from the rest of civilization, the group begin to realize that they aren’t quite as self-sufficient as they believed. Forced by nature to hunker down and find a way to fend for themselves they begin to accept their lot when they begin to hear strange noises from the woods, and notice that wildlife that is running from the cataclysmic eruption, but toward something in the woods that is even more deadly. Can the Greenloop humans share their corner of isolation with whatever is out there? If not, who will win the confrontation?
It’s not a spoiler to note that the ‘something’ in the woods near the Greenloop camp is a Sasquatch, or Bigfoot (just note the subtitle of the book). But reading it, we don’t really get to the Sasquatch moments until quite late in the book.
The book opens with an Introduction which is quite reminiscent of World War Z. The ‘author’ (we want to think it’s Max Brooks but when we get to the end we’re not so sure) explains the background to the story we’re about to read. It’s ‘factual’ of course. Much research has been done but still the information to follow can’t be verified and the reader should “judge for yourself.”
The bulk of the book is then supposedly transcripts from the diary of Kate Holland, a Greenloop resident, who details everything from their arrival to camp, to the eruption and its effect on the Greenloop community, to the fear surrounding the unknown creatures just outside the community, to the actual attacks.
Surrounding the excerpts from Kate Holland’s journals are a miscellany of journalism reporting, mostly (but not entirely) featuring the author’s interviews with Frank McCray (Kate Holland’s brother). And there are endnotes! All good readers know that non-fiction uses footnotes and endnotes to notate a source or provide additional information, whereas fiction doesn’t generally use endnotes, therefore this must be a factual account, right?
Brooks works this concept (making it look like a work of non-fiction) really well, with just the right amount of material from different sources. But what really makes this book a good read are the characters. Though we tend to know Kate Holland mostly through her thoughts on the others and events surrounding her (and some from the interviews with her brother) she stands out as a quiet (maybe not so quiet?) leader among the group. We get a good, personal look at all the major players in this massacre, and by the time events unfold to the climax, we’ve become completely invested in these people and their lives.
This was one of the issues I had with Brooks’ World War Z … we didn’t connect with any of the survivors (to quote my own review). He addresses that here and for that, this is a stronger book (though I’m not sure Sasquatch will have the same selling power that zombies do).
Looking for a good book? Max Brooks improves on his ‘reporting’-style fiction and makes a stronger connection to the characters in his new book Devolution, making it a horror/thriller that will certainly chart many bestseller lists and well worth reading.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
author: Max Brooks
publisher: Del Rey Books
hardcover, 320 pages