There are very few books that I can say that I genuinely felt nervous while reading. Every sound or brush against a character made me feel tense, and it is because of this that I have to commend Malerman. Very often in books the big monster reveal can end up making everything less scary. Sometimes it ends up being better if the “monster” is never fully revealed. Nothing is more terrifying than the unknown, and when it comes to horror, the reader’s imagination that is the writer’s best tool.
The creatures in Bird Box are incredibly intriguing. Characters are forced to look away for fear of going insane, but then there is that curiosity there. That desire to see what causes the madness, to know what it looks like, to take just one peek. As the reader imagining a world where we’re all blind, listening to every sound and guessing whether it was just a regular animal, a leaf, or perhaps one of them—the suspense and immersion is killer and one of the strongest aspects of the novel.
“How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?”
The story goes back and forth between the present-day, Malorie taking the children down the river, and going back four years to the start of the apocalypse and the events that took place in the house with other survivors. With all the intense build up throughout the story, as the book hit its climax I actually found it to be—if you can believe this—disappointing. No, it wasn’t with the creatures. It wasn’t even particularly because of the characters either. Actually, it was just one particular scene.
In order to immerse readers, it has to be—at least to a degree—believable. I could roll with the concept of an apocalyptic world where everyone goes mad, it’s a sort of twist on the traditional zombie scenario. I could also go along with Malorie’s young children being more physically capable than the average preschooler. Hell, I could even accept the fact that a majority of the people in the story barely did anything to protect themselves outside of putting blankets over their windows, which is funny considering the rampant violence and fear of these creatures getting into the house. It seems like nobody is taking all of the proper measures to protect themselves. That last point alone puts a big hole in the survival aspect, since they take a ton of other precautions but for some reason never board up the windows.
No, I could deal with all of those things for the sake of the story.
It was the final scene that did it for me, where I just went, “No way. This is too much. Things just don’t happen that way.” I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but all I’ll say is that the the attic with both pregnant women just passed the point of being believable for me. Everything just seemed too convenient, obviously set up for an exciting climax that to me was just too over the top and it pulled me out of the novel. I wanted to rate this book higher purely for it’s unique concept and the fantastic writing, I really did, but the mild plot holes and the way the story is tied up was what held this one back.
Title: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
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?