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BOOK REVIEW: DEVOLUTION by Max Brooks- The Horror Hypothesis

DEVOLUTION by Max Brooks

Review by The Horror Hypothesis

“They all want to live ‘in harmony with nature’ before some of them realize, too late, that nature is anything but harmonious” -Max Brooks 

I've been mired in a prolonged reading slump over the past few months.  Besides ARC’s and the occasional short story, most of my pleasure reads have fallen completely flat.  I know I'm far from alone in this slump - this year has kicked most of us into some form of survival mode.  Well, I am happy to report that DEVOLUTION triggered my bookish fight or flight response and brought me roaring back to life.  I devoured this novel in 2 sittings.  

It is good to be back.

This book really made me miss Michael Crichton - it’s as if Max Brooks extracted Crichton’s literary DNA from a chunk of amber and cloned it in a top secret lab.  I mean this as a true compliment: DEVOLUTION is a research-based (some fact, some fiction), technology-centered, natural disaster survival thriller about a small group of humans dealing with a volcanic eruption that triggers a Bigfoot ambush. 

If you love JURASSIC PARK, pick this up yesterday.

Its narrative structure is similar to Max Brooks’s Zombie novel, WORLD WAR Z.  It’s told through interview logs, journal entries, and passages from a variety of other primary sources.  The meat of the story comes from the POV of Kate Holland, a recent resident of Greenloop, an eco-conscious, “smart” technology backed community created by an Elon Musk (or John Hammond) inspired entrepreneur named Tony Durant.  Tony’s heart was in the right place when he created Greenloop, but like all utopias, his calculus was off.  The community relies on drone-delivered food and fiber optic internet so when Mount Rainier erupts and these modern items the community relies on are taken out of the equation, the residents are left to deal with the consequences.  

When DEVOLUTION isn’t moving the plot forward at a blistering pace with Kate’s journal, it hits the reader hard with a variety of well crafted bits of satire and social commentary.  This novel is a true warning for those who believe that modern technology will save us all.  In the event of a natural disaster - when humanity's true survival instincts are tested - we devolve.  

My critiques of the novel are minor:  the journal entries often resemble straight-up narrative fiction.  I could suspend my disbelief for the most part, but once you hit dialogue and action starts taking place, it’s a novel.  I also found the protagonist, Kate, to be highly unlikeable and underdeveloped compared to some of the other characters.  These issues did not impact my reading too much.  The side characters are interesting and the Bigfoot action is tremendous.  

This has been a tough year which has exposed the many flaws in our society.  Could you find toilet paper or hand sanitizer in March?  Could you find meat at Costco?  DEVOLUTION is a prescient, timely thriller.  A blockbuster film waiting to happen, DEVOLUTION is the rare “popcorn” thriller with actual things to say.

I recommend listening.

5 Stars     

The Horror Hypothesis - Night Worms Bio Donnie Hypothesis is an avid reader, writer, and collector of horror fiction.  He runs the Bookstagram page, “The Horror Hypothesis,” which advocates for the Horror literature genre as a whole.  He currently lives in Central Virginia where he spends most of his free time reading, making music, playing video games, and watching movies.  

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