Once upon a time, I drank a can of Coca-Cola every day for lunch, and someone said to me, “Don’t you know that they clean semi-truck engines with that crap? It’s so acidic, they just dump on and it strips the grime away.” Devolution did that for my brain. Max Brooks, author of World War Z, is a master of channelling the best of a genre and distilling it into a bomb that hits all the brain’s pleasure spots. This time the survival story involves sasquatches, also known as Bigfoot, that North American cryptid alleged to be our very own great ape. After Kate Holland and her husband Dan move into a strange Green Oneida community, headed by a charismatic tech-bro, a natural disaster knocks back to the dark ages, and heretofore unknown sasquatches come looking for an easy source of protein.
Greenloop, Washington, exists as a kind of experimental community. It’s pretty much wholly owned by Tony Durant’s sinister megacorp, but it uses sophisticated technology to heat houses with bio-waste, deliver groceries by drone, and grant it’s eight families unlimited WiFi access to work from home. This includes newest members: Kate and Dan Holland, whose marriage is only held together by their obsession with social status; lazy, old-money academic Reinhardt; affluent social bubble couple Effie and Carmen and their daughter, Palomino; middle-aged vegans Bobbie and Vincent Boothe; Tony, and his Instagram model wife, Yvette; and the mysterious artist Mostar, a older woman bearing obvious visible and psychological scars. Mount Rainier erupts, however, devastating Washington state, and triggering a sasquatch migration into a now-isolated Greenloop and it’s helpless residents.
It takes a while for Rainier to actually explode, as narrator Kate instead catalogues the tedious lives of the characters who live in satirical affluence. Everyone has a kind of superficiality and cringe-worthy arrogance. Sometimes the weird kind of revenge fantasy-level idiocy of the cast comes off a bit too strongly (especially in Reinhardt and germaphobe Carmen), but the satire pays off when the sasquatches break loose to wreak havoc. These caricatures of modern privilege aren’t merely murdered off, but actually get and blow chance after chance at redemption, simultaneously driving the plot and providing a dark humor.
After all, a book about sasquatch needs humor. This story is aware, thank you, of how likely it’s execution actually is, so it turns the gore and action up to eleven. Mostar, a survivor of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, literally spearheads the assault against the sasquatch by constructing traps, palisades, and improvised polearms to help the Greenloopians defend themselves. As she chronicles the carnage in her therapy journal, Kate grows from a neurotic wife obsessed with her husband getting the latest technology and high-paying tech job to the heart and soul of the community. Kate uses her knowledge of calorie counting and fad diets to ration out her neighbor’s groceries, as Dan puts advanced engineering training to basic manual labor. This kind of Macguyver bootstrapping makes a whimsical fantasy, about the achievements of everyday doofuses, who need only to get off the couch to transform into Bear Grylls.
But, of course, the fight is not without casualties. Sasquatches do not play nice, and there’s a horror aplenty to be experienced. The prose moves quickly as an adrenaline-spiked heart. I read it in three days, but only because I bothered to sleep at night, and wanted to draw it out.
Three out of five stars
Page count: 282
Favorite quote: “If there’s anything worse than visualizing your own death, it’s knowing that you caused it.”