Did you know that Mel Brooks’ son is responsible for some of the most foundational zombie books of the 21st century? Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide debuted in 2003 and ascended the charts until it attained international bestseller status, becoming a fixture on humor bookshelves. Brooks followed that phenomenon with the epic World War Z, a nontraditionally told apocalyptic zombie novel that purported to be “an oral history of the zombie war.” You might remember this one more for its Hollywood adaptation starring Brad Pitt. The novel was noteworthy for its dispatch-like narration and its ominous, faux-historical seriousness.
Barry carries over that technique to his new creation, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. That’s right: It’s about Bigfoot. Rather than telling its story from “official firsthand accounts,” it focuses on journal entries from a woman named Kate Holland, a rather generic character who acts as the reader’s proxy as she descends into a community called Greenloop, located in the Mount Rainer region. Holland’s journal entries are interspersed with third-party narratives to offer outside perspective. Although I found that this narrative approach lessened the potential tension, there’s no doubt that it was a novel way to approach the story, giving it a fun human touch.
As with World War Z, Brooks devotes a ton of research to his sasquatch tale, and therein lies the fun of Devolution. The Greenloop community where the horror takes place is meticulously built; you really have a feel for the environment, as well as the characters’ place in it. This intricacy of setting boosts the realism where there are gaps in characterization—perhaps a failing of the journal-type narrative. You’ll enjoy Devolution for its fun sasquatch esoterica and not necessarily for its people.