Saturday, May 16, 2020

Devolution by Max Brooks

I’d been thinking a lot about Max Brooks lately. This pandemic has made me looking for my copy of his Zombie Survival Guide.  When I requested an eARC from NetGalley months ago, I never imagined that the world would start to resemble something from one of his novels.

I have enjoyed Max Brooks’s work for years.  I still remember picking up the Zombie Survival Guide at the Borders bookstore in Columbus Circle from the new paperback table.  I knew nothing about it and was instantly hooked.  Later, I devoured World War Z - it was so creative and well thought out.  It felt very realistic.  Too realistic.  

I saw Max Brooks at New York Comic Con a few years ago, talking about some of his comic work.  He didn’t want to talk about the execrable World War Z movie, and neither do I (but I expected better from a script by J. Michael Straczynski). Brooks was cool, and funny, and thoughtful, and kind.  I love it when authors I like turn out to be cool people in real life!

I was stoked when I got this book, hoping I would enjoy it as I did World War Z.  It did not disappoint.  Devolution is about. Bigfoot attack that wipes out a small enclave of about a dozen homes.  It is presented as the diary/journal kept by a woman for her therapist, annotated by a researcher and supplemented with a few interviews.  Max Brooks has an incredibly readable style and this is quite the page turner.  Sometimes the conceit of the structure of the novel worked against it - there were times where I just stopped and said to myself “no one would actually write a journal like this” or “ if these events were happening, this woman would’ve quit journaling by now.” That being said, it was a super fun book.  The monster biology was interesting and the human dynamics felt very real.  

But a lot of this novel hits home a little too hard during this pandemic.  I’m sure that Max Brooks didn’t know when he wrote it how jarring it would be to reference the hospital ship Comfort heading to a major metropolitan area to help out during a disaster, or how raw it would feel to read about some isolated lonely people desperate for the world they once thought was safe.  

I saw the video Max Brooks posted with his dad about social distancing.  I read his piece in the New York Times in March.  I think he might agree that while this is a great book,  it not necessarily a great book for right now.  

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