Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Having watched the Netflix film when it first came out in 2018, I was excited when I recently discovered that Bird Box was originally a book! I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and ultimately thought the premise was very strong. As all book people know, the book is always better (besides a small number of exceptions), so it was time to test the theory once again.
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 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'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.
Alternating through different periods of time, we focus on three different timelines:
The buildup to the apocalyptic disaster
Malorie's time during her pregnancy living with a group of strangers, trying to survive
4 years after having her children, where she is escaping to try to find a better life where she won't have to live in fear
The continuous jumps through time added plenty of suspense to the story. Every chapter would end on a suspenseful note, and you'd never be able to immediately satisfy your desperation to see where it leads as you have to wait a few more chapters until your questions are answered! The book was very well paced, with a tantalising mix of likeable characters, and others you will despise. The book was not written from a first person perspective, however I still felt a deep sympathy for Malorie and the situations she found herself in (as they were never from a fault of her own). One of the main benefits to books not being written in the first person, is you are able to have all loose ends tied, as we see things from the perspective of an 'all-seeing' narrator as opposed to a single character. This created some issues for me when I wasn't granted a resolution on some plot points. The ending seemed to be tied up so perfectly, however there were other elements left answered (it now makes sense that a sequel has just been published). Without delving into any spoilers, there is a scene that is a massive turning point in the plot. Instead of this being described in detail (gruesome detail, granted), the opportunity felt missed and the scene was overlooked and rushed. The horror was more extreme in the book than in the film (which I enjoyed) although not too gory that it would be off-putting for newcomers of the genre. Despite there being a fantastical element (the creatures), I wasn't put off by there being an element of horror that would be considered as 'unrealistic'; something I would ordinarily be turned off by. The reason why this was never an issue was the book never focussed on this. The focus was on something you cannot see and the fear and impending consequences of you seeing it. Overall, I would highly recommend Bird Box to newcomers of horror as well as veterans! I am very excited to try out the next book in the sequel: Malorie.
Initial Prediction: 4 stars
Final Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: 27 March 2014 (my edition: 29 January 2015)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genres: Horror, Thriller
# of Pages: 387