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Bird Box: A Novel Paperback – February 10, 2015
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Malorie, a young mother of two children known simply as Boy and Girl, is a survivor living in a postapocalyptic world, raising her children to use all their senses, especially their listening skills, as sight is not an option here. In this world, the survivors struggle to stay alive by living indoors with all the windows boarded up. The sight of whatever is outside is causing people to become violent murderers, as well as suicidal, in the most horrific ways possible. The book moves back and forth over a four-year period when all the insanity began, exploring the personalities of the people that came together and survived and how they managed to live after all forms of communication effectively withered and died with most of the population. The characters are involving, the story moves along very rapidly as the suspense builds, but unfortunately, the ending is a disappointment. The reason for all the bloodshed is never explored or explained. Still, recommend this one to readers who enjoy a blend of horror and postapocalyptic fiction. --Stacy Alesi --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A book that demands to be read in a single sitting, and through the cracks between one’s fingers. There has never been a horror story quite like this. Josh Malerman truly delivers.” (—Hugh Howey, New York Times bestselling author of Wool)
“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))
Top customer reviews
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
Josh Malerman did a great job of creating a suspenseful and eerie story that had me engrossed from the beginning. From the very start, Malerman established a sense of danger and fear that resonated throughout the book until the end. Malerman managed to tap into a fear that perhaps the majority of us don’t think about: the loss of vision. It’s a part of our lives that we aren’t actively aware of and for the most part take for granted, so to write a story in which that most cherished sense is taken away, gives the story another level of terror. It really plays upon the common saying of “fearing the unknown”. You are never sure about the exact nature of the book’s danger, but the knowledge that there is something outside that is a major threat is enough. Malerman writes his scenes in which this idea is never far from your mind and thus, tension is prevalent in almost every scene. Being able to maintain and build upon it is one of the things that made this book an engrossing read.
These elements I have spoken of wouldn’t be as effective if it weren’t for his characters. The way his cast (Malorie, Tom, Olympia, Felix, Jules, Cheryl, Don and Gary) reacted and adapted to the phenomenon is what makes the story go. If you didn’t buy into their fears and doubts, how can the reader be expected to do the same? The thing about his characters (like in other horror stories whether it be in literature or film) is that they are really just average citizens who are trying to survive in a scary new world. The intrigue lay in how they all adapt physically and psychologically and taking on roles that are forced upon them that they wouldn’t necessarily take in their previous lives. It was especially interesting to read Malorie’s journey from the beginning and seeing her progression to a survivalist. It’s through her that we see the effects of what the new world brings upon a person and how one’s mentality must change if one is to survive. It brings the moral/ethical question of the length a person will go through to survive.
I may not be a big fan of the horror genre, but I like to think that I can recognize a good horror story/movie when I come across one and Bird Box was a good one. It was a good combination of gore and psychological thriller.
The book kept me on edge with Malerman’s tension-filled scenes that forced me to keep reading so I wouldn’t be left in suspense for long.