Bird Box (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Josh Malerman
Published By : Ecco
Year Published : 2014
Genre / Tags : Horror, Thriller, Dystopia, Mystery
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 262 pages (Hardcover)
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.
Bird Box is a tense horror/thriller stand-alone with a modest page count at just 273 pages. The writing style jumps back and forth between present and past while generating a sense of dread during both phases. Even though the “present” phase reveals too much about what will happen to the characters, it in a roundabout way increased my curiosity about how and why things turn out the way they do. The tension is also well-handled. You’ll know early on that bad things are going to happen- a multitude of bad things- but aren’t sure exactly when or how.
I looked forward to reading this after watching and enjoying the film adaptation on Netflix. Comparing the two, the adaptation is decently faithful and brings to life every (or at least most) major event(s) from Bird Box while adding a lot of other content for added tension, conflicts- and in my view- a more memorable and varied set of characters.
Getting back to the book, Bird Box’s cast of agreeable and vaguely likable mid twenty-somethings kind of blend into one another. An exception being the male co-lead who is just a bit smarter, more savvy and likable than the rest of the bunch. He almost borders on Gary Stu territory in his tendency to just be awesome at everything.
The heroine is gritty and suffers much in way of internal conflicts. Is she a bad mother, or driven to extremes that will help the children in the long run? Is it even worth it to keep trying to survive and build in this new world?
There is one more character that interested me, but even mentioning any defining traits about them too easily approaches spoiler territory. In summary, there were three characters that I felt had anything really notable to talk about– out of a large cast that falls flat by comparison.
Though I was less enthusiastic about the characters, absolutely everything else worked for me. The mystery of this deadly, apocalypse-causing creature led to layers of development and a constant stream of new things to learn about how it works, what its weaknesses are, how safe or unsafe the characters are, etc. If that creature counts as a character it was the most interesting of the book.
I’m not super schooled in horror/survival/thriller hybrids, but Bird Box struck me as being very imaginative or at least unusual and surprisingly thorough given the short length. Barring characters, I enjoyed pretty much every technical thing that mattered in this book. The pace is fast. The story is interesting. Lots of surprises and tense moments. The climax and ending was a point of high chaos and pretty much unputdownable. I didn’t love the ending though. It just happens fast, conveniently, and while still leaving a lot of questions behind. This definitely comes off as a first-book-in-series despite being a stand-alone. (Update : A sequel is on the way, possibly sometime this year, 2020.)
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why You Should Try It – The monster (or whatever it is) at the center of Bird Box seemed unique and full of captivating details. Very tense apocalyptic setting. Short page count and a brisk pace to match. Story has many high points exploring multiple genres. Skipping back and forth from present to past is a risky narrative choice, and worked out pretty well.
Why You Might Not Like It – For creating a story about surviving nearly impossible odds, a focus on building a cast to care about should be at or near the top of the “important things to accomplish” list. I barely cared about the characters here. This book could have failed if it didn’t leave me so endlessly curious about the goings-on.
Thanks for reading my review of Bird Box! Have you read it or plan to? I thought this would just be a stand-alone book but recently found out a sequel is coming out. Very curious about that and hoping it expands more upon the world here since there is definitely some potential. Planning to read it when it comes out. ~ Kitty