Devolution

While not a “hexploitation” or a 1970s weirdness book, Devolution by Max Brooks (probably best known for World War Z) does caress the pleasure nerve I have for Bigfoot-related things not involving Go Pro cameras and dudes beating on trees with sticks. I’m firmly in the “I don’t believe they exist, but would love to be proven wrong” camp when it comes to Sasquatches. My heart has broken too many times and the innocence of my youth is long vanished, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the occasional visit to metaphorical (and sometimes even literal) Bigfoot Country.

Devolution shares similarities with Brooks’ World War Z in that it uses the narrative frame of a tale told via surviving evidence and interviews with people after the event it chronicles ended. In this case, the event was “The Rainier Sasquatch Massacre,” which initially leaves open the question of who was doing the massacring of whom here. Any uncertainties are quickly resolved when we learn that the unnamed researcher compiling the book is using the journal of Katie Holland, a resident of the tiny eco-friendly, yet technologically-cutting edge community of Greenloop, as its primary source. The journal was discovered in the ruins of the community in the wake of a natural disaster, a disaster which seemingly forced a population of Sasquatches into contact with the residents of Greenloop with fatal results.

Katie’s journal entries make up the majority of the novel, with each chapter further fleshed out by transcripts from interviews the researcher conducted with those connected to either the occupants of Greenloop or who participated in the recovery and rescue operations post-disaster. Quotes from various real world sources begin each chapter, all of which pertain to some event about to befall the Greenloop residents in the hours and days to come.

I found Devolution to be a quick and enjoyable read, the perfect summertime book to kick back with in the evenings before bed. Brooks crafts a believable narrative, especially the behavior and ecology of the Sasquatches (which he clearly researched and assembled from existing theories of Bigfoot behavior), and has the unintended benefit of being prescient of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the events that strand the Greenloopers are geological rather than biological, the breakdown of systems and the unrest that occurs in its wake isn’t too far off from what we experienced in the early days of the pandemic and might see again in our lifetimes.

As someone who grew up seeing the grainy footage of the Patterson-Gimlin film in a dozen Bigfoot documentaries, Devolution was a nostalgic trip back to my childhood—albeit with a higher body count. The novel spurred me to stream a few vintage Sasquatch movies over the past week and to enjoy even the worst of them (well, maybe not Curse of Bigfoot which was godawful). Much like childhood, itself, it’s easy overlook their flaws and remember fondly a time when it seemed like science would find conclusive evidence of an indigenous North American primate at any moment. Alas, nearly fifty years later, Bigfoot remains the undefeated Hide-and-Go-Seek champion of the Pacific Northwest.  

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