Book Review: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks (2020)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

“It’s great to live free of the other sheep until you hear the wolves howl.”

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

JOURNAL ENTRY #9 – OCTOBER 8

Does she suspect what I’m trying to dismiss? The smell, the howls, the large “boulder” I’d seen on the road. Now this. I’m sure I’m just trying to come up with an explanation for something that doesn’t make any sense. That’s me. A place for everything and everything in its place. I’m just grasping on to what I’ve heard. And I haven’t heard much. I’m not into that stuff. I’m the practical one. I’ve never been interested in things that aren’t real.

To me, Greenloop was the Titanic, right down to the design flaws and the lack of lifeboats. They were extremely isolated, miles from the one public road which was miles from the nearest town. And, of course, that was the idea. With modern logistics and telecommunications, the world must have still felt very small hip hop alben kostenlos downloaden. But then Rainier cut those connections, and the world suddenly got very big.

Though it’s much smaller in scope than World War Z, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe Max Brooks’s Devolution as World War Z with Sasquatch (Sasquatches?) instead of aliens – and, oh yeah, a lava-spewing volcano setting the backdrop.

Like the former, Devolution is told through a variety of eyewitness accounts: primarily the journal of Kate Holland, one of the few (assumed) survivors of the titular “Rainier Sasquatch Massacre,” but also a mix of private and public interviews – including with Kate’s brother Frank, who was supposed to be living in Greenlop in her place – as well as government documents and, weirdly, one deathbed flashback (Hannah!). All are compiled into a book, published roughly thirteen months after THE INCIDENT.

Kate and her husband Dan – a failing/flailing tech bro with an ego as fragile as an eggshell – have been in Greenloop but a week when Mount Rainier erupts. Designed and implement by billionaire (one would assume) Tony Durant, Greenlop is a small, “high-end, high-tech eco-community” located in the Pacific Northwest wilderness. Consisting of just six households, all situated in a ring around a common meeting house, Greenloop is the very definition of exclusive. Everything in the homes is “smart,” from the solar panels, biogas generators that turn poop into power, and battery units to store it all, down to the helipad for when an electric car ride into town just won’t do word 2016 kostenloser.

Though they have tried their best to isolate themselves from the hustle and bustle of city life, Greenloop’s residents are still very much dependent on the outside world for their continued existence. Tony brags that “every citizen of Greenloop generates between two and four service jobs for their fellow Americans” – which would seem to contradict the community’s sustainability, no? But I digress. A mix of white-collar professionals – CPAs, psychologists, philosophy professors, and computer programmers – the residents all rely on high-speed, fiber optic internet: to telecommute, communicate with their loved ones, and order groceries. While the houses do generate their own power, food is another matter: aside from the odd fruit tree or herb-growing window box, most of their provisions are ordered online and air-dropped by drones.

So when the nearby, long-dormant Mount Rainier finally erupts, Greenloop’s selling point becomes its downfall. Lahars overtake the one road out of Greenloop, and the cell phones and internet go soon after, thus severing Greenloop’s contact with the outside world herunterladen. But their situation quickly goes from bad to worse, since the humans are not the only ones facing a harsh winter coupled with a food shortage. The eruption, it seems, has sent all the nonhumans fleeing down the mountain, right into Greenloop’s path: including some belonging to a species never seen before. Creatures of myth and legend and not a few cheesy B movies.

Spoiler alert: these guys are no Harry Henderson. More like the murderous chimps Jane Goodall observed hunting in the Gombe rain forests.

Devolution is totally bonkers, in the best way possible. There’s so much going on here, much of it (intentionally or not) entirely too plausible and close to home in the time of COVID-19. There’s the obvious: being trapped and isolated in your house all winter, nary a fresh tomato or bottle of Kahlua to be borrowed, begged, or stolen. But Brooks goes a little further, concocting this “perfect storm” of factors that conspire to devastate Greenloop – including a slash in government funding that wiped out the early warning system and stymied rescue efforts, as well as food riots in Seattle and a sniper on the I-90 that bumped survivors down on the priority list mp3 download youtube for free german. Greenloop’s residents are adrift, lost, forgotten:

Someone just had to go for help. There simply wasn’t any other choice. Why? Why are we always looking for someone else to save us instead of trying to save ourselves?

Watching 45 fight with state governors over PPE gear and ventilators really drives the feelings of isolation and desolation home. Part of me feels like this book couldn’t have been released at a more horrifyingly serendipitous time. And that’s what good horror does, right? Taps into the fear that’s already lurking beneath the surface.

Then there’s the misplaced idealism and general white upper class privilege of Greenloop. Maybe it’s eco-friendly, in some ways (is trucking in fresh fruits and veggies for eleven people really environmentally friendly? really? why no victory gardens, Tony?), but very few people can actually live like this; it isn’t practical, or affordable poker herunterladen. Yet they are totes the change they want to see in the world (eyeroll).

There’s also the cult of personality surrounding Tony, the mansplaining and hepeating which, coupled with the man’s utter uselessness in an emergency situation, makes this feel like a thinly veiled stab at Elon Musk. Again, I am so here for it! (BPAP machines are not ventilators, my dude. Why are you even.)

While I think we’re supposed to care about how the siege affects Kate and Dan’s relationship, I was much more interested in Mostar. In sharp contrast to her softer and more coddled counterparts, Mostar is badass: a survivor with zero fucks to give. A survivor of the Croat–Bosniak War and May 1993 shelling of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the young artist assumed the city’s name as a way of making sense of a tragedy.

GROSS: … And so you’ve taken on the name of your city as a form of public remembrance.

MOSTAR: Well, I know to some it sounds like … what did Jerry Seinfeld call “Sting”? “A prance-about-stage name”? [Chuckles.] But the inspiration came from Elie Wiesel, when he said, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” That is what my life, this new life I’ve been given, is about herunterladen. That is why I became an artist. […]

GROSS: And you feel that discussing tragic events in their barest form runs the risk of repelling people?

MOSTAR: Not always, but far too often. We can’t just mourn the deaths, we also have to celebrate the lives. We need Anne Frank’s diary, but we also need her smile on the cover. That is why I decided to become an artist, when I had that inspiring moment.

When the Sasquatch start invading Greenloop, Mostar doesn’t employ any of the mental acrobatics that seem so popular with her neighbors. From jump street, she’s hiding out in her garage, using her artistic talents to fashion weapons: spears, javelins, spikes, flamethrowers. But that’s not all: she rallies “Katie” to start a garden in her garage, teaches them how to trap and skin animals, and gives Dan the kick in the ass he needs. This diminutive, gray-haired grandmotherly artiste proves to be Greenloop’s (would-be) saving grace.

Mostar simply doesn’t have the (white, Western, upper-class) luxury of ignoring the problem, of refusing to see and name the danger in the world apple watch zifferblätter herunterladen.

Yugoslavia, another country I’d read about in school. A war in the ’90s? I would have been about those kids’ age. I didn’t exactly follow current events back then. The ’90s were O.J. and Britney.

Even at Penn, I only took intro to poli-sci and all I remember is the term “ethnic cleansing.” And Professor Tongun, from Sudan, “Like a tree in the forest, America doesn’t hear foreign suffering.”

Shelling. Snipers. Siege fries. Mostar.

It’s a thing of wonder, and also unimaginable despair.

That said, the story’s not without a few hitches; for example, while Brooks generally does a good job explaining why Greenloop is so ill prepared for anything more serious than a paper cut, am I really to believe that there’s not a single hammer to be found? Like, I’m hardly what you’d call a skilled do-it-yourselfer, but even I own somewhere around six hammers, if only for picture-hanging purposes.

Bobbi and Vincent the vegans really ticked me off too. Even though we later learn that they’re vegan for dietary reasons (to beat Vincent’s cancer, now in remission), they get all bent out of shape when Mostar injures a mountain lion that was mere seconds away from devouring a child herunterladen. And of course everyone freaks out when Mostar suggests establishing a defensive perimeter around the village to scare off the Sasquatch. Say what now? I’ve been vegetarian/vegan for more than half my 41 years – for ethical/animal rights reasons – and, while I’d never delight in killing or injuring a sentient creature, you do what you gotta for survival.

Of course, this all could have been part of the group’s mental health strategy of “deny, deny, deny.” What wasn’t was Kate’s classification of the Boothes as ‘the good kind of vegans’ – that is, vegans who don’t make her feel bad or uncomfortable or conflicted about her own choices, just through their very existence.

They also weren’t judgy about those of us who aren’t vegan. Does that sound judgy from me? You know what I’m talking about: all the vegans in Venice, especially the new ones. The way they’d look at Dan’s leather shoes or my silk blouse or how one of them called a fish tank a prison. Seriously, we were at someone’s house for a party and this guy totally went off on them about their koi pond herunterladen google playstore. “How’d you like it if you were imprisoned in a tiny air bubble at the bottom of the ocean!” The Boothes weren’t like that. They were so nice.

Not that Kate needs any help in this regard (emphasis mine):

I can’t see death. You know that. I’ve told you about that time in New York when I couldn’t walk through Chinatown with all the ducks hanging in the windows. I told you about how I can’t even eat at any of those restaurants with the lobsters in the tank because it feels like death row. I told you about when Dan and I went out to Catalina for Valentine’s Day and I got seasick down below because our spot on deck had this dead fly crusted to the railing with one of its wings flapping in the wind. I know it’s hypocritical. I eat fish and chicken. I wear leather and silk. I enjoy all the benefits of killing without ever having to do it myself. I know all this but I just can’t. I can’t see death.

Projecting much, Kate? (Kudos to Brooks if he created this juxtaposition on purpose, though I doubt that most readers will pick up what he’s putting down.)

Devolution works on so many levels: social critique, stealth learning through entertainment, cultural mirror – and, yes, visceral horror songs for ultrastar deluxe for free. I could practically taste the stench of the Sasquatch when Kate describes their musk. This is good stuff, and at the very least took my mind off the real-life horror show transpiring outside my door, if only for a few hours.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: The Harlem Hellfighters, Max Brooks & Caanan White (2014)

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

“How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

In 1917 we left our home to make the world “safe for democracy.” Even though democracy wasn’t exactly “safe” back home youtube mix herunterladen.

We went by many names. The 15th. The 369th. And before going “over there,” we called ourselves “The Black Rattlers.” Our French allies called us “The Men of Bronze.”

And our enemies called us “The Harlem Hellfighters.”

Recruited in Harlem, trained in Camp Whitman, New York (and, disastrously, Spartanburg, South Carolina), and eventually deployed to the Western Front in France, the 369th Infantry Regiment – otherwise known as The Harlem Hellfighters – changed the course of history, even as its own government engineered its failure images from a website.

The 369th spent 191 days in combat – more than any other American unit, black or white. None of their men were captured by the enemy, nor did they lose any ground; in fact, they were the first men to reach the Rhine River giphy download kostenlos. The 369th volunteered to stay behind in the front trenches for an expected German bombing the day after Bastille Day, 1918, even though it meant almost certain death netflix serien und filme downloaden. One of their soldiers single-handedly fended off German raiders with only a rifle and a bolo knife; for this, Henry Lincoln Johnson earned the nickname “Black Death” – and was the first American to receive the French Croix de Guerre (the Cross of War) wie kann ich einen film herunterladen. In 2003, the US awarded Johnson the Distinguished Service Cross; his supporters are still lobbying for the Medal of Honor.

(More below the fold…)