Review: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Publishing information: Ecco (February 10, 2015)
Paperback, 272 pages
Genre: Horror, psychological thriller, fiction
From the publisher:
“Written with the narrative tension of The Road and the exquisite terror of classic Stephen King, Bird Box is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat horror thriller, set in an apocalyptic near-future world—a masterpiece of suspense from the brilliantly imaginative Josh Malerman.
Something is out there . . .
Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?
Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?
Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.”
Buy your copy here: Amazon
I picked up Bird Box at a local bookstore a few months ago when I browsing for a new Halloween read. (Side note to booksellers: I can’t resist your handwritten tags about the books you love. My wallet asks that you please, please stop.) The bookseller who recommended it mentioned that it was not only creepy content-wise, but it also took place locally which kinda upped the spook factor. He was right. So, while I meant to read this during Halloween (see my post about my Fall TBR), I wimped out and didn’t actually start reading until the snow was peacefully falling outside.
Five years into an apocalypse, Malorie must flee to a place of safety with her two young children. The problem is she doesn’t know who or what she’s fleeing from. All it takes is one look at this unknown menace, one glimpse and that person becomes a monster.
The initial premise of the story is not unusual: something is now here and disrupts life so completely that the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Even the psychological aspect of the story is not unusual. I think everyone, to an extent, has a fear of the unknown. Fear of what you don’t know and what you can’t see isn’t always rational, but in the case of Bird Box, what you don’t know can very much hurt you.
Bird Box is one of those books that I just sped through. I flipped through the pages sitting on the edge of my seat. There were certain scenes that haunted me long after I was finished. I particularly liked the achronological story-telling. It’s not a gimmick that works particularly well in a lot of stories, but I think that the author executed it well. I routinely rant about present tense first person, but this is what it’s meant for. I thought that the pacing, the development, and the storytelling were all well done.
Did I like Malorie? I don’t think it matters. She’s a survivor and survivors aren’t always likable. In fact, I wonder if survivors always like themselves. To be honest, she doesn’t have the luxury of caring about that. She has to go on. She has to survive and teach two small children to survive. What I liked was her resilience in the face of uncertainty and constant fear.
This was true psychological horror, both for the reader and the characters. It’s not (necessarily) a gory or jump-out-and-scare read, but the story plays tricks on your mind. I loved that you don’t know what or who this “monster” is. Do I want to know what they look like? Do I not? Overall, I think Josh Malerman wrote a creepy and compelling story that pushes you to the edge of your imagination and then sticks with you long afterwards.
As a final thought, I think this book could be even better as an audio book or even if it was read aloud. The act of closing your eyes and NOT seeing during the story could go a long ways.
Buy your copy here: Amazon
Drink Pairing: Rum. Just straight rum. Maybe you can dilute it with well water.
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