Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Published: May 13, 2014 by Ecco
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Synopsis: 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 unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.
Review: WARNING: The best way I can review this book is with a good/bad/ugly comparison, which will almost certainly include major spoilers for this book. Consider yourself warned.
Good: I really love the way Josh Malerman writes. He is very adept at creating suspense. Some parts of this book made me feel like I would crawl out of my skin with the anxiety of the moment. He is a very good writer.
I loved Malorie. She is a strong, kick ass woman. She starts off the book pregnant, scared, and with no idea of how she is going to cope in this new world. But she does. Not perfectly. Sometimes not even competently. But she moves forward all the same, trying to protect herself and her children.
I really loved the uniqueness of this world. I can honestly say that I have never read a book that portrayed the apocalypse this way. An unknown…something, that has a devastating effect on humanity. No one knows why. No one knows how to stop it. No one even knows what it is. It’s a terrifying concept, and I loved it.
Bad: The audiobook narrator was a really bad fit. Every time she did Malorie’s part the narrator made her sound timid and scared. There were undoubtedly moments when that was appropriate. But like I mentioned, Malorie is a tough, kick ass woman. When she stands up in her boat and says “Get away from me!” it is not a trembling, quavering plea. It is a command to GET THE F*** AWAY! In fact, it says it in the text for that line, it is a command, it is angry. So that was really annoying throughout the audiobook.
I didn’t like the villain. It felt really cheap and out of place. I still can’t quite remember why everyone thought he was such a horrible guy originally. The whole plot felt like the author thought he needed a villain apart from the “creatures” so he scrambled to add in this side plot. It wasn’t necessary. It detracted from the overall plot.
Ugly: There were a few things that bugged me the entire way through the book.
Why didn’t Malorie name the children? It was so incredibly weird that she just calls them Boy and Girl. And then says at the end that names are a luxury for safer times. Okay…..that literally makes no sense. Every human calls other humans by a name or nickname to identify them. Even if she called them a cutsie nickname it would have made sense but Boy and Girl? Wtf! It made it impossible for me to relate to them as characters at all.
There were some serious physics problems with how Olympia died. She dies shortly after giving birth to a child. First off, I won’t get into the logic problems of two pregnant women going into labor at exactly the same moment. Or the logic of a whole group of adults leaving the two laboring women all alone in the attic to go argue. But Olympia jumps out a window after giving birth and they mention in graphic detail the umbilical cord getting caught on the window sill and her body being suspended by it. Um, this was very obviously written by a man who has no idea how childbirth works. The purpose of the umbilical cord is to be detach itself from the uterus after birth and then come out. Even if it remains attached if pressure is put on it then it will tear away. There is just no possible way that scene is happening. It was completely bizarre. I had no idea what the point of that scene was except for a gross factor but it was weird.
The “creatures” were also really inconsistent. Most of the time they don’t even seem to be interacting with humans at all. They are simply present and it drives the humans insane. Then, later on, they seem to be physically stalking the humans but only enough to scare them. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, a creature is trying to forcibly remove someone’s blindfold. This particular scenario never happens again. So, which is it? Are they simply inadvertently having this effect or malevolent? Because they display both traits.
So, in the end I enjoyed the story but it was also pretty deeply flawed. I am interested enough to read the next book and see what happens next.