Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
My rating: 4/5 cats
LAST CHANCE TO SPOOKTOBER!!!
when oregon’s mt. rainier erupts after having lain dormant since 1894, chaos ensues as waves of lava and walls of fire engulf the volcano’s surrounding cities. meanwhile, far from the frenzy of damage control and rescue operations, a different kind of drama is unfolding unobserved, as the eruption causes the local wildlife to flee to safety. these furry/feathery refugees include birds and squirrels and bunnies but also a number of rarely-glimpsed bipedal apex predators who are forced out of the shadows of legend and into the midst of a tiny community of people who have chosen to live away from civilization and its amenities, but will come to miss it very much when sasquatch comes knocking. figuratively. bigfoot doesn’t stand on ceremony.
even before the bigfoot threat, the group of let’s call them ‘isolation tourists’ find themselves unprepared for being completely cut off from the rest of the world. forgotten in the more immediate disaster relief efforts, their regular supply drones aren’t coming, and their romantic illusion of remote off-the-grid living becomes horrifyingly real.
some worst-case-scenario food for thought:
Again, you can’t just blame Tony, or even the whole tech industry, for not being prepared. They all should have had emergency supplies on hand, but, really, who does? How many people in L.A. have earthquake kits? How many midwesterners are ready for tornadoes or northeasterners for blizzards? How many Gulf Coast residents stock up for hurricane season? I remember partying in New Orleans before Katrina and people talking about “when” the levees fail. Not “if,” “when!”
And that’s just the dramatic stuff. How many have a fire extinguisher in their kitchen or emergency flares in their car? How many of us have opened the medicine cabinet in the middle of the night to find that one pill bottle we so desperately need has a long-expired label?
and once the hominid v. hominid competition for resources and territory escalate into a true life-or-death survival-of-the-fittest scenario, things are gonna get crazy.
although it’s a crypto-horror novel, it’s written with the same tone of convincing realism as World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, using a similar format of interviews and found materials to cover multiple angles of how a disaster escalates: the logistics of rescue operations, the psychology of folks in crisis situations, and a pretty logical extrapolation of animal behavior applied to these unknown creatures.
it’s horror, sure, but there’s an excellent survival story at the heart of it, and the group dynamics are very well-developed here, as a bunch of relative strangers are tested under pressure and either do or don’t overcome their greed and reluctance to contribute to the greater good—in this case, nothing short of the small-scale survival of their species. it’s an anthropologically thorough microcosm, and i loved watching it unfold; the period of confusion before the dawning realization of the threat, the practical exchanges of goods and skills as they try to *actually* succeed as an independent community, the distribution of labor, of individuals finding their purpose within the group; their latent qualities emerging into roles of leadership, mentorship, comfort, usefulness, the strategies developed for long-term sustainability or defense in the face of the evolving conflict, the…head in the freezer.
the character-standout is the bomb-ass mostar; a woman who has seen some shit and come out the other side fighting, but the best thing about this book is that it builds to a siege, which is an inevitability, not a spoiler, you ninnies. lemme just take a minute to swoon over a good siege. how do i love thee, booby traps? let me count the ways:
internet failed me, so insert Robin Hood Prince of Thieves GIF here
and the boobiest trap of them all:
i read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War ages ago, but i remember being impressed with how much novelty brooks was able to bring to the done-to-(walking)-death zombie narrative—how many unconsidered repercussions and situations he explored.
even still, i didn’t know if i would dig a bigfoot book. the only sasquatch books i’d read were monsterporn—and that includes bigfoot AND yetiporn because diverse reading is important.
my reading list/reviews, because you asked:
for bigfoot fetishists:
for yeti enthusiasts only:
and since a rose by any other name would breed as sweetly, Bred by the Beastmen, which is at the very least sasquadjacent.
marking my very first foray into the platonic bigfoot novel, i thought this was great fun and, like World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, i was impressed by his writing chops. i really hope brooks has more of these in him, because his style is such a welcome alternative to the typical horror novel, and i am—as the kids say—here for it.