- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 8 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.com Release Date: May 13, 2014
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00JLMU4IQ
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Bird Box: A Novel Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
Now, imagine an entire world where that feeling is with you always, and there are not enough lights in existence to chase it away. That is the mood of Bird Box for the entirety of the novel. The premise is simple – that something unnatural has entered the world as we know it, and that to look on whatever-it-is for even a second drives a person into immediate murder-suicide insanity. The story follows a small group of survivors who hole up in a house with all the windows blacked out, and who never venture outside unless sufficiently blindfolded. To raise the tension, the novel interleaves two stories of the protagonist, Malorie, between the past and the present – the present consisting of her escaping with two four-year olds on a river to a hopefully “safer” place, and the past of the how she survived the world going mad and killing itself. The telling is crafted in a manner that would lend itself to a very creepy and disturbing cable series or horror film.
So – if you are into creepy, ominous, foreboding, oppressive, and occasionally unspeakably violent stories, then you will love Bird Box. I could not put it down. In fact, I may have been afraid to put it down because of the unspeakable thing lurking behind me …
Bird Box is the same, but catchier. It opens with a woman named Malorie waking up and deciding that today is the day she will row twenty miles down a river, blindfolded, with her two young children, to try to reach other survivors. And that’s when I said “wait, hold up. Twenty miles to where? Why blindfolded? Survivors of what?” And just like that, Josh Malerman got me.
It all begins five years before, in the present day, somewhere in Russia. A couple of guys are in a car, the passenger asks the driver to pull over, then viciously and gruesomely murders him and kills himself. It’s a weird anomaly, like the guy who ate the other guy’s face in Florida a while back. Normally, a story like that would hit the news, then fade. But before long, there are many more such stories that all end the same way - with the perpetrator killing themselves before anyone can find out why. And as the events spread to the US, there are more and more paranoid theories, and fewer and fewer people to repeat them. The only constant is that the people who have been driven mad have opened their eyes outside.
Malorie has just found out she is pregnant when she loses her sister, parents, and everyone else she has known. She finds a house with a few other survivors, and the grim vigil begins.
The only way to describe Bird Box is as a whirlpool. We see Malorie of today, blindfolded with two small blindfolded children, navigating a river by sound alone, then we circle back to the house where she waits to give birth, then back to today. With every loop, the pace of the story picks up, and we are drawn more and more quickly to the center, the horrific night that the babies are born, and the fate of the others who were in the house. Simultaneously, there are fresh nightmares on the river in a number of flavors, including the creatures that have nearly destroyed humanity, a bad guy of the human variety, and even wolves.
Bird Box was short and nasty in the best way. It’s like jalapeno fudge. It doesn’t sound that good, really. As I said, speculative, post-apocalyptic works usually turn me off. But hey, I do love chocolate, so I decided to try a bite. It was sweet and smooth, then BAM the heat kicked in. Totally different from what I usually enjoy, an unexpected jolt, but delicious nonetheless.
The babies added a deeper level of emotion to the narrative. The fear and tension were unrelenting in both storylines, but seeing what Malorie went through to keep the little ones safe threw an element of heartbreak into the mix. It was actually harder for me to read how she trained them to always keep their eyes shut than to read the graphic murder/suicide passages.
The prose is not poetic, but smooth, not descriptive, more statement of fact. I will admit, I initially wanted more description. I think I was spoiled by The Stand (uncut version) where every nuance of the End of the World was spelled out in excruciating detail. With Bird Box, there’s just one word - creatures - and we are left knowing exactly what Malorie knows, which isn’t much at all.
In the end, it’s that leanness that is Bird Box’s strength and weakness. You’re thrown from one time period and situation to another, all of them breathlessly tense, until the final few pages. There’s no nice neat bow tying everything up. There’s no awkward explanation shoe-horned in. It’s less about the how and why, and more about the “now what?”.
Malerman’s stripped-down prose is a perfect way to drive the narrative, but it doesn’t work as well when it comes to characters other than Malorie. Tom is the generic Calm Wise Leader. The other women are just… there, and with the exception of the bad guy(s) (no spoilers here!) the rest of men are interchangeable. We got a few sentences of backstory for some of them, but there isn’t enough to differentiate them from each other, or to generate any real emotion for the ones that are lost.
Overall, Bird Box’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, and I look forward to seeing what Josh Malerman does in the future.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS
One of the best parts about Bird Box were the characters. For me, Malorie was an extremely unlikable character at first but by the stories end I came to realize what a strong, brave and caring woman she truly was. Also I loved the children. Despite their less than ideal upbringing you'd think the kids would be full on crazy as well but somehow they seemed to be the most sane and rational of the bunch. Maybe because the children perceived things differently than Malorie or the other adults in the story or maybe it is because they had someone else to rely on to keep them grounded. Either way I really liked them.
Another thing I really liked about Bird Box was how the story was more show than tell. Usually I like to see everything, I want to know who the Villain is, be it monster or human and if someone dies it better be shown but because Bird Box was more Psychological thriller than Horror the lack of descriptions work. Were kept guessing right up until the end who or what is really causing this plague of crazy.
Now although I really liked Bird Box, the story did have a few minor annoyances that kept me from rating it higher.
One of the things that really bugged me was how the demonic force causing the insanity plague behaved. Sometimes people would go crazy because they were in close proximity to others, sometimes they'd be by themselves, other times animals were affected and then boom, three chapters later they'd be fine. Sometimes a person would open their eyes and be fine and other times even with eyes tightly shut they'd die. I get this erratic pattern was supposed to add another level of insanity to he story but for me it didn't work.
Another thing I absolutely hated was how Malorie refused to name the children. Calling them "boy" and "girl" served no purpose except to shock the reader into thinking of them as less than the 4 year old children they actually were. I believe by calling them "boy" and "girl" instead of by a Human name it was a way for us to visualize them as just glorified tracker dogs for Malorie (hence all the talk of training them) instead of two helpless little children lacking love and guidance However, maybe it's the mother in me but knowing how poorly they'd been treated made me want to love them even more so maybe that was the Author's intent after all.
While I did certainly enjoy Birdbox and the terrifying world Josh Malerman created, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the stories end. After so much darkness, the dawn of a new day for the precious few who survived just felt a bit cliche. Would the ending stop me from recommending the story to others? Absolutely not, it was still good. I just personally expected something bleaker with the way the story was heading.
With that being said, I'll be rating Bird Box by Josh Malerman ★★★★.
Recommended For Fans Of: The Road, The Waking Dark, American Psycho.
*Copy reviewed purchased. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in an which way for providing them.