Bird Box: A Novel Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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“This completely compelling novel contains a thousand subtle touches but no mere flourishes-it is so well, so efficiently, so directly written I read it with real admiration. Josh Malerman does the job like a fast-talking, wised-up angel.” -Peter Straub (―Peter Straub)
“[A] chilling debut… Malerman...keeps us tinglingly on edge with his cool, merciless storytelling [and] douses his tale in poetic gloom….An unsettling thriller, this earns comparisons to Hitchcock’s The Birds, as well as the finer efforts of Stephen King and cult sci-fi fantasist Jonathan Carroll.” (―Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“The author uses understatement and allusion to create a lean, spellbinding thriller that Stephen King fans will relish.” (―Publishers Weekly (starred review))
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I just finished Bird Box and I'm quite torn about it. The novel is fast-paced and a real page turner. I devoured it in just a couple days and couldn't wait to see how it ended. But now that it's all said and done, I'm left with a tinge of disappointment. I feel like the ending left something to be desired.
- The author wastes no time getting the action going. From the first chapter, I was invested and needed to know what would happen. There was no long hike to get to the good stuff; it was already there.
- The plot is quite fast-paced, alternating between flashbacks and present-day events. You find yourself torn between needing to advance the story, and know where Malorie is headed with her children, but also desperately wanting to know the backstory here and how this dystopian future came to be. The author provides both, satiating you nicely.
- The feelings of desperation, fear, anxiety, and helplessness that Malorie feels are palpable to you as the reader. I felt legitimate sorrow and fear for her. I felt quite invested in her well-being, especially after learning her backstory. She is a respectable, strong, and likable character.
- The "creatures" really could have used greater development. Their behavior is inconsistent and erratic, making it feel almost as if the author doesn't have a clue about them either and is just as much in the dark (no pun intended) as the characters.
- In a similar vein, I found it very strange that everyone seems to know that, before the madness sets in, people see something. How would anyone know? Those who see it immediately kill others and/or themselves. Who is offering this news? How is this confirmed? Did someone see one, start to go mad, call the local news, explain what he/she saw, and then go on a killing spree? This plot hole felt a bit lazy.
- Malorie's children are the strongest, most intelligent four-year-olds on the planet. I would have found them more believable had they been six or seven, not four. Also, they are not superheroes. Explaining that the boy has the ability to closely identify the page number of a book his mother is on after hearing her flip through it is ludicrous.
- Finally, just how unbelievable the survival of some of these characters would be. Imagining wandering a neighborhood or driving a car without sight, and always managing to come back with great new supplies, was just a little too much for me. Swinging a broomstick around as you walk and hammering a small stake into the ground to note your residence...I had a very hard time believing these activities would be as simple and effective as the characters would have you believe.
So, overall, give it a read if you're up for something spooky and thrilling. The book is quite unsettling and eerie and the author sets that tone very well. I just feel that more detail could have been used to really propel the story to the next level. I would definitely read more by this author in the future.
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 …
This book was also unusual, and that's no easy feat with a post-apocalyptic, dystopian story. We don't really ever find out too much about what all went wrong with the world; we learn only that no human can survive seeing whatever horrors remain out in the open world.
The protagonist describes her daily life to us as best she can, given that she has been unable to EVER open her eyes outside. She also cares for a 4 year old. Part of the story is also comprised of her flashbacks to a time when there were a number of people in her party.
It is such an unsettling story. The absence of sufficient information to allow us even the most elementary grasp on what has happened, what horrors exist that would so affect a person just by being seen that they would cease to be human or alive, or in any case, would no longer be counted amongst the living, these ideas creep the hell out of the reader...or at least they did me. Maybe they die from the sight. Or perhaps it drives them mad. What is not questionable is that seeing one of these horrors marks the end of that person's life.
Quietly unforgettable, and superb at getting under one's skin, I highly recommend this awesome horror story. And lucky for us all, it's another one of those books that grabs hold at page 1, and won't let go until the last page. I hope those of you who end up reading the book enjoy it AT LEAST as much as I did.
Top international reviews
Bird Box is a dystopian novel set in an apocalyptical setting where people see creatures and go mad, ultimately dying and sometimes taking others with them. The story of the protagonist is set in two time points - when everything goes wrong and she needs to seek refuge, and the current time, where she is having to find a new place with two children.
It is spooky and creepy. At one point I was reading it in the dark and something fell off my bed, and I have to confess to absolutely jumping out of my skin. I found the book hard to put down because I felt like it was all building up to something.
And then - nothing. A total cliche of an ending. You never get to find out what was out there. It's just some creature. Everyone has to live without looking outside and that's that, end of story. They find a new refuge and carry on.
It did grip me but totally fell flat. I'll not be rushing to watch the movie adaptation unfortunately.
Come to this book with the right expectations. It's going to be a quick read. There are going to be moments that niggle with inconsistency. The writing won't set you alight with poetic brilliance. But I can almost guarantee you this: you will be creeped out. You might even be scared. Like me, you might have nightmares, and you might jump at tiny out-of-place sounds. Bask in these rare qualities and enjoy them.
From the blurb alone I may not have ever picked this up, but the reviews from some of my favourite reviewers convinced me to give this a go. And I adored it.
This had me completely gripped throughout. When I wasn’t reading it, I kept thinking about it. This completely got in my head, as a horror/thriller should. It even made me rather paranoid at night.
Josh Malerman’s writing was fantastic and I can’t wait to read more from him.
People scared, people hearing sounds, people scared, people hearing sounds, nothing happening. About half way though I got so bored reading the same thing over and over again that I skipped to the last chapter. I can tell you that it really wasn’t worth reading - still nothing happened. I’ve given it two stars for the first part of the book which was interesting, before it become boring and repetitive. I’m sure this book could have been condensed to a quarter of what it is.
I found it hard to put down and read it over three very enjoyable sittings. Malerman successfully captured the fear and dread Malorie and the children lived with. The idea of the blindfold as armour, while it ultimately disables you is terrifyingly brilliant. I might have liked the conclusion to provide some more answers, but at the same time, it might have been one stretch of the imagination too far.
In an apocalyptic alternative reality, an abstract thing inhabits our planet; a demonic indescribable entity that if gazed upon, will send a human being to his or her death.
Malorie, our beleaguered heroine, has no option but to embark on a twenty-mile river trip to possible safety, blindfolded and in a small rowing boat. To make matters worse, she has two small children on board who are also blindfolded. The kids, used to living life under instruction, never complain. They just do what they’re told. Kept in the dark for much of their young lives, the children’s hearing is acute and so the river becomes their amphitheatre.
And this is where the book knocks spots off the movie. The book’s raison d’être (that humans must not see in order to survive) is compromised in movie format because we, the viewer, can see, and so the fear of the unknown becomes diluted. Sound becomes so much a part of the book's DNA that I was almost listening to the pages!
Though not usually a lover of lean prose and meagre character development, this book kept me in its thrall. And hats off to the author for imagining such an original and terrifying premise.
Look, it has its inconsistencies, but the story was fraught, sensory and claustrophobic. I applaud John Malerman for hitting the ground running with a nail-biting debut thriller and I dearly wish I hadn’t seen the movie first.
This book is a harsh reminder that sometimes things we can’t see are scarier than the things we can see.
Bird Box takes place after an eerie phenomenon begins to occur on a global scale. People begin to see something and then they kill themselves. No one knows what this ‘something’ is as no one has survived seeing it. People begin boarding up their windows, blackening their windshields and staying away from other people. There is no way of knowing what this ‘something’ wants, where it came from, what form it takes, or what the future of humanity will be.
Our main character is Malorie. We flick between 2 time frames as we learn how Malorie heard and dealt with this crisis and then also where she is now and trying to save her children. From the time of her children's birth, Malorie has been training them on how to survive in this world. She has making them wear blindfolds outside and putting them through rigorous tests to train them until they have the preternatural hearing of bats. All this preparation is for the day they will finally leave the house and try to find others, to find a safer place to live.
The storyline and tension builds up and just when you get to a critical point, we switch back to the other time and build the momentum again. The writing and pace is good and easy to follow. There are only a few characters but each has their role to play. There are many shocking things that happen and things that people do when they are put in this situation.
People start to group together and the dynamic of having a house full of refugees in the back story will feel familiar. Who to let in, or not, concerns over sharing limited resources, discussions over what adventuresome risks might or might not be worth taking re looking toward the future, or in trying to learn more about the cause of their situation. This was all very interested and many situations in real-life can relate to this.
I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it. Some parts were slow and some of the characters are a bit vague and don’t really have a presence. This book could have been a bit shorter but the storyline was gripping.
This is the question posed by 'Bird Box', which focuses on the efforts of Malorie, a single, pregnant woman who takes refuge in a house with fellow survivors. The story unfolds in two narratives (which now appears to be obligatory in all novels), as we see Malorie moving into the house and then, some years later, rowing blindfolded down a river with two children.
The writing is taut and the premise interesting. There are no easy answers here, and (thankfully), we don't get any gung-ho heroism, simple morality or easy answers. As one might expect, the terror in an world unknown world comes in equal measure from the external menace and the reaction of people to it.
It would be a lie to say that reading 'Bird Box' is enjoyable - it is pretty grim stuff. Nothing wrong with that, although it does rely on the reader being sufficiently engaged and curious to plough on through the misery to the end. It reminded me of 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy, which is a similarly gruelling experience, depicting (wo)man's capacity both for survival and also for weakness. I feel enriched for having read these books, but have no desire ever to do so again.
There really isn't much I can say that isn't already known about the central storyline and I don't want to give away any of the plot. What I would say though is this - I came across this book as a result of the Netflix Film as I am sure many people are also doing now. I read the book before I watched the film, my sister watched the film before she read the book. Either way it doesn't matter because the film and the book are chalk and cheese. Needless to say the book is 100% better than the film as is so often the case. In this case I would say maddeningly so - I can never understand how some authors are so cash hungry that they are willing to allow their work to be completely annihilated for the small screen and the mind boggles as to why the writers/director of the film thought it was such a good idea to mess with the book so much.. Anyway, apart from that little rant, I only have good things to say about this book and I am currently on a mission to get all of my family and friends to read this instead of watching the far inferior film version. READ THIS BOOK!!!
The story is utterly grim. After the first evening reading, I literally had troubles getting to sleep. Here we have a young woman with two small children, in an unknown location, locked in a house, terribly afraid of something and about to make her decision to move to a safer place, which she has heard of. In retrospect we learn what has been happening: all of the sudden, people all over the world started to die, mostly by atrocious suicide, in mysterious circumstances. The author doesn't say why but people remark that everyone who died has seen something before their deaths. And that simply seeing it was sealing the unavoidable fate. The woman, pregnant at the time of the original events, found refuge alongside others, in a remote house, which they secured and managed for months on.
Naturally, as a reader you are eager to discover what was that the people were seeing, where it came from, what for, etc. Well, here is where the book will disappoint you because you will never find out any of the answers! Which is what made me think that maybe the book was not to be read so literally. Maybe it was about the humanity, society or some other more-or-less abstract forces within or beyond humans? But whichever I tried to dissect the book, I was failing.
If it was the former, then the book isn't really that great. There is much of a muchness throughout the chapters. People fearing, people dying, months passing and in the end, no conclusions offered whatsoever. Malorie and her children moved to another location, better managed that the forlorn house, but whatever was happening out there, continued. No answers were given.
If it was the latter, that the book was to be interpreted in a metaphorical way, then I completely failed to decipher it. There is a passage when one of the characters tries to explain - him apparently immune to the 'whatever' - that it is in the heads of people, that it is people who bring it on themselves. While this is what triggered me to try to see another layer in the story, Mr Malerman simply did not offered enough content to properly decode it. Most of the book really focuses on the practicalities of a restrained life (some of which were unconvincing and not believable) and people's fear. It is an apocalypse, which simply befell the entire society but in a completely unconvincing way, almost overnight, without organised response, detached from the modern reality. It's like you left the town on Monday and came back on Tuesday to a completely different reality, with no government, no social media, no communities, no friends or families, total inaction.
Maybe the movie will be better.
It is I think a great new dystopian idea - don’t look or you will die! This in itself leaves the reader with a myriad of questions! What is it?! The writing is excellent, a relaxed easy style of writing that flows nicely and that manages to make you genuinely feel something - to care for the characters and to feel the fear with them and for them. The characters in the book are nicely developed, especially the main character Malorie, a harsh person but a survivor. They all come across as pretty fallible people, it feels like an honest portrayal of how we would/could behave in this environment. As such I liked all the characters, the good and the bad equally, all well written and had some depth. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next for a good deal of the time reading this book. The ending was not what I thought it would be but it was good, brought to a satisfying conclusion.
Overall a well thought out book, very dark so not for the lighthearted, I love dystopian futures and this does not disappoint - a truly riveting read! No question this deserves a solid 5*/5 for me.
Because I’d loved the film so much, I was a little sceptical—but the book is even better. Malorie, our main character, is strongly written and the narrative really delves deeper into her psyche, allowing us to see new layers that the film didn’t have. We see her weaknesses and her faults as she battles to keep her two young children alive in a world where opening your eyes can get you killed.
The other main characters are well written and believable, and we see how stress brings out the worst and best things about humanity.
Remarkably, the plot of the film is strikingly close to the book. Of course, there are some differences (such as some events happen much closer together in the film and it also has a main character doe much later than in the book), but all the other essential elements are there—the book just develops many more, such as the survivors’ use of animals in keeping them safe from the creatures that will drive them mad if they see them.
I was delighted to see the book kept the back-and-forth non-linear narrative that the film had. I just loved that structure.
There is a lot of darkness in this book and a few scenes that made me feel queasy. Warning for suicide, murder, and graphic violent content.
This is a must-read for apocalypse and dystopian fans.
The storyline whizzes backwards and forwards between a woman, Malorie, rowing a boat down a river with two 4 years old children on board and events leading up to this ‘escape’. There’s been an apocalyptic event which started in Russia and spread to other areas of the world. People who ‘see something’ kill others and then themselves- violently. The way of avoiding the something is to wear a blindfold or keep eyes closed. A house becomes a place of safety for a number of people, including Malorie. The people survive by wearing blindfolds whenever they are out of the house.
That’s it really.. Too far fetched for me even if the plot idea was a sort of dystopian look at the future. There are far too many loose ends and far too many things that are not explained, the something amongst them.( I still don’t know what it is).
Writing is quite good though.
Still, I think I was expecting to like this more than I did. The general concept was great, and I kind of both liked and disliked the vagueness with which the “creatures” or whatever were described. I was expecting some big revelation to come at the end, but again that’s because I didn’t realise there was a short story there.
There are some great bits to the book though, and I think the worldbuilding was pretty good. A great example was when a character suggested that babies should be blinded at birth so that they weren’t at risk. That also foreshadowed the ending nicely. Another big plus was the way in which parts of the story were told through the sense of sound. It helped to engage you as the reader by the senses and to make you feel as though you were really there.
I think this book is also a great example of a writer withholding information from the reader to successfully build a sense of fear and unease. As the reader, it’s easy to empathise with the characters because we can understand ourselves what they must be going through. I also think that’s why the protagonist is a woman trying to protect two children. It taps into our society’s perception of women and children as the more vulnerable members.
So all in all, it’s a pretty good post-apocalyptic novel and I enjoyed reading it, but I also don’t think it was perfect. I’d be interested to see what Mallerman comes up with next, but I also wouldn’t rush to grab a copy of it. That’s partly because of the short story that was included at the end, which made it almost feel like an indie book. In fact, I wasn’t too impressed by the quality of the paper or the overall aesthetic of my copy either, and I’m pretty sure Harper Voyager just used Lightning Source to print it.
I’m still glad that I read it though, and I’m glad that I read it before watching the movie. They were both pretty good, and they were both pretty good in their own different ways. At the same time, you won’t miss too much if you just watch the movie and don’t read the book. I’d recommend them both for what it’s worth, though, so be sure to check them out if you haven’t already.