Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Published by Ecco on May 13, 2014
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg: 4.02 (as of 2019-11-12)
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 motley 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?
How do I begin to review Bird Box? First published five years ago and probably one of the most hyped horror novels in recent memory, I had sky high expectations going in. And somehow Josh Malerman managed to exceed every single one. I think we all know how difficult it can be to write five-star reviews that are not just “I adored it” ad nauseam, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
This is truly one of the most creative, original pieces of horror media I have ever consumed. I’m sure many are familiar with the concept at this point: a post-apocalyptic world in which creatures roam the Earth who will end your life if you set eyes upon them. The Netflix adaptation led to criticisms that the plot was too similar to A Quiet Place for comfort, but obviously this novel debuted long before the aforementioned film.
You are saving their lives for a life not worth living.
Malerman is able to use this kind of environment to his advantage, building up a level of tension I’m not sure I’ve experienced in a novel before. I was literally on the edge of my seat and there was a moment or two where I actually jerked in surprise. Aside from the atmosphere, it was incredibly interesting to see what the characters would come up with in order to navigate this new world.
The characters themselves were honestly forgettable, but that didn’t matter much to me. All of the novel’s other merits more than made up for it. When I think back on this, I don’t expect to remember how much I loved the characters, but how much I loved the atmosphere and the writing itself. That being said, I did think the exploration of Malorie’s motherhood was interesting. She is often asking herself whether she is a good mother, and it’s a difficult question to answer. In trying to protect her children, she must also do things she probably never imagined she would.
How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them? Malorie doesn’t know the answer.
TL;DR: This was a tense, legitimately scary novel that I’ll be recommending to all horror fans.