Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

This review was originally written and posted in August 2015. But considering the Netflix movie has just been released, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to migrate this over from Goodreads!

18498558

★★★★

Echo | 2014

Opening Hook: Russia is once again fucking things up for the rest of the world.

Main Character: Last longer than I would.

Plot Twisty-ness: One of the more unique books I’ve ever read.

Yeah, okay, so I really liked this book.

While I was reading, I was reminded of an episode of Supernatural where Castiel reveals his true angel visage to a woman and her eyes burn out of her skull. Humans are simply not equipped to handle the overwhelming righteousness of these holy warriors’ true form. But this woman couldn’t help but look. She needed to see, couldn’t live in that moment without knowing. And so bad shit happened to her, even though she’d been warned. 

I feel like if I had been in this world, I’d be dead. For realsies. I give myself 3 minutes.

I wouldn’t be able to not look at this mysteries, unfathomable thing that is causing people to lose their minds and horrifically kill themselves. I’d be tilting my head back, just taking a peak under my blindfold, like when I was a kid and cheated at pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at birthday parties. 

Definitely dead.

It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.

The story flips between the present and the past. In the now, Malorie and her two small children, who she’s trained to have an almost super-human sense of hearing, are on a boat on the river, blindfolded, trying to make their way to a safe place. Malorie is unlikable but never lacks sympathy, or humanity. A delicate balance that I was impressed by. In the then, Malorie watches as these phenomena of people killing themselves after seeing something erupts in Russia, and eventually goes worldwide. No one is safe, and this new reality hits close to home as Malorie’s sister kills herself. Alone, Malorie looks for survivors and ends up in a house with several strangers who are just trying to live without looking outside, ever again. 

Can you even imagine? So dead.

I love the idea of this book – that there are things in the universe that are too big for our puny human minds to comprehend; that we’d go totally nuts if we ever saw them. I read a lot of murder mysteries in which the “monsters” are always human, as is the case in reality. But if there was something more, we aren’t even creative enough as a species to guess at what it might be. The house full of survivors settle on “creatures”, because of course. Scary creatures. But I love that Josh Malerman never gives even a hint as to what these things might be outside of the housemate’s standard guesses. He lets the mystery hang, driving you crazy as a reader, as you’re only left with the characters’ limited ideas and vision, and your own imagination. It was really well done.

I don’t know that I really consider it an “apocalyptic” novel, like other reviews have, because it’s really just a story of one house, on one street, full of people who can never look outside again, so they can never know the state of the world. Is it over? Are the creatures still around? Are they gone? And once they leave is the apocalypse then over? This rang more of classic locked-room mysteries to me in a lot of ways, featuring characters who have no choice but to live like it was end times. The tension that this situation created was done so well. Even normal conversations had my stomach knotted up, waiting for something to happen. 

And don’t even get me started on Gary. Dude was the creepiest part of the book to me. Forget driving a car blindfolded through corpse ridden streets, or knowing something is beside you but not being able to open your eyes to see what, or listening to a dog go so fucking crazy it breaks its own bones. Fucking Gary was killing me. And the guy on the boat – Oh, shit THE GUY ON THE BOAT!

Bird Box was creepy and full of tension playing off of the unknowable, letting the reader’s imagination run wild inside the ambiguity. I wasn’t crazy about the ending or the prose, which I found occasionally bland, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the reading experience for me. 

4 creepy Gary smiles way up!

🔪🔪🔪


Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, 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 remains, 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’s 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. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unravelled that will have you racing to the final page.


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