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Max Brooks discusses new horror novel ‘Devolution’ with Northwest Passages Book Club

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 25, 2020

Carolyn Lamberson interviews author Max Brooks Thursday night.  (Screengrab from video)
Carolyn Lamberson interviews author Max Brooks Thursday night. (Screengrab from video)

New York Times bestselling author Max Brooks (“World War Z”) joined Carolyn Lamberson for a Northwest Passages Book Club livestream to discuss his new horror novel, “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” Thursday night.

The story follows the city-raised residents of “Greenloop,” an eco-community settled near Mount Rainier. Soon after the last residents move in, the group’s high-tech, utopian dream shatters when Mount Rainier erupts, cutting the community off from civilization.

As animals start venturing out of the forest in search of food, evidence of a mysterious, humanoid predator with large feet emerges and the residents of Greenloop begin to wonder whether the volcano isn’t the only thing chasing them out.

Lamberson opened the discussion with a tongue-in-cheek question: “What do you (Brooks) have against Washington state that you can take our pretty mountain, blow it up, cause death and destruction and then send a horde of marauding, murderous sasquatches in, too?”

Brooks, the son of comedian/director Mel Brooks, explained that his problem with the state is the same problem he has with North America as a whole: We’re too new to be safe.

“Most cities around the world are time tested, they are thousands of years old. So they’ve been there long enough to understand where they should be in relation to large events that may happen every 500 years,” he said, alluding to volcanoes, earthquakes and droughts.

But in North America, he explained, we decided to build New Orleans in a bowl below sea level and San Fransisco on a shaky peninsula, surrounded by volcanoes.

“We are little teeny fleas on a very temperamental dog,” Brooks said. “That is our content. And as if that’s not bad enough, we are dismantling all the emergency management systems that we’ve had in place to predict and prepare and react.”

Lamberson recalled a character from the book saying at one point, “The whole country rests on a system that sacrifices resilience, for comfort.”

“I’ve spent a career writing about what could possibly go wrong,” Brooks said. One of the sources of catastrophe is that we believe “we are in a new age, an age of perpetual peace and prosperity and Starfleet is right around the corner,” he added, quoting historian and political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

Shifting gears slightly, the conversation switched to the origins of “Devolution.” Brooks had first planned to write the story for film, but the project slipped out of development. Years passed when, with encouragement from his wife, Brooks decided to ask Legendary Pictures Productions founder Thomas Tull for the novel rights to the story.

Tull was quick to agree. Years of meticulous, painstaking research later, Brooks was ready to write. Now the book is finished and the film is back in development.

To view the livestream recording, visit www.spokesman.com/northwest-passages/brooks-livestream.

“Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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