By Max Brooks
Max Brooks, son of Mel, deals in dystopia. With World War Z he managed to take the hoariest of the horrors; the practically antediluvian zombie apocalypse and resurrected it into an urgent new form. For his new tour around the end of the world, he’s getting a little more outré: Bigfoot attacks! Yes really, whilst it sounds like one of his dad’s lesser ideas this is very much not a comedy. Brooks is primarily a cultural satirist: using technicolour B-movie monsters and from them extrapolating very real anxieties that have their teeth rammed deeper into society than any vampire could dream of.
In Devolution the principal human cast are a gated community of eco-friendly tech-utopians of a kind that will be very familiar to anyone who’s ever watched a Ted Talk. Think vegan Elon Musk and try not to wretch. The group wax lyrical about Rousseau’s ideal state of nature while stockpiling junk food, smugly disavowing capitalism whilst revelling in the spoils. As one character notes: “Those poor bastards didn’t want a rural life. They expected an urban life in a rural setting.” It’s funny and frightening in equal measure when the monsters reveal the true requirements of life in the wild.
Forced out of hiding by an unexpected volcanic eruption, the Bigfoot tribe (if that is the correct nomenclature) clash with the utopians to compete for the sparse post-magma resources. Soon it becomes apparent that the ‘devolution’ of the title cuts both ways and that the state of nature the humans seek is a failed one. For the post-pandemic reader the overarching thread of the tenuous nature of civilisation is far more frightening than Bigfoot could ever hope to be.