Devolution by Max Brooks
Despite the horror framework, the real strength of this book is not in the monsters, but in the character development. Bet you weren't expecting that. When you first meet Kate Holland she's a neurotic mess and her voice is annoying enough that if I hadn't known people were going to die excitingly awful deaths sometime soon, I might have put the book down. But it takes very little time for her to get you on side. Her and her husband are the last to arrive at their new home in a super high tech version of an off-grid community and it means she's the proverbial outsider. Through her perspective we get to see the place and its people with unflattering clarity. The social politics of this escape from humanity style set up are immediately apparent and entirely recognisable, each power play and misstep detailed by Kate with insight and humour.
In fact, it was all so engrossing that when the creatures did finally show up, I was a bit disorientated... To all intents and purposes, I'd forgotten about them. After the explosion of Mount Rainier closes the group's avenues of escape and takes out their tech, I'd been reading the book as an environmental disaster/survivalist story. But that's precisely why it works so well. Everything feels dangerously real. Whether it be food hoarding or ashes covering the houses' solar panels or the disintegrating relations between people, it's suspenseful because it's so plausible. So when the danger becomes something less credible, you're already in the right mindset, primed so that you're not thinking 'well, that's unlikely', but 'dammit, not ANOTHER thing, how are they supposed to deal with that too...?' By them, I mean Kate, because by this time, you're going to be a fan. She's an incredible character and her transformation in to what felt like her real self was such fun to experience. Adversity clearly makes some people shine and Kate shines bright. (I'm not convinced it'd work the same for me.)
On top of that, there's some BRUTAL action. People lose their heads. And I mean actually lose them when they're ripped off by Bigfoot gone mad. It's creepy and bloody and surprising. The whole thing is pure entertainment, even if does hit a little close to home. Well worth a few hours of your time.
This Devolution book review was written by Emma Davis
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