Devolution by Max Brooks [7/10]

Horror is a genre that rarely works for me (that is, the fright factor remains low) but “Devolution” is a wonderful exception, and if you enjoy placing yourself in the hands of a masterful scaremeister, I can heartily recommend it. What is surprising is that Devolution reprises a staple horror trope, that of Bigfoot, the huge, apelike creature roaming mountainous areas. The novel also trots out a classical conceit, the discovered journals of a victim, in this case, a woman who settles with her husband in a modern, communitarian village deep in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. When a volcanic eruption leaves them landlocked and out of communication with civilization, the dozen or so villagers find themselves confronted a growing menace. Brooks assembles a wonderfully diverse, astutely observed group of utopians, and the classic horror novel trajectory is buttressed with post-event interviews and observations and news items. The writing, hewing to the core character’s journal, is alive and rich. Devolution is a hoot to read, intelligent as can be, and yes, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

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