Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

Eight stars

After having this book so highly recommended to me by one of my friends on Goodreads, I decided to delve in to see what Josh Malerman might have to say in this twisted novel. Early into the story, Malerman introduces readers to his protagonist, Malorie, a young and somewhat fearful woman. Scrubbing the walls and carpets of blood stains, Malorie appears highly agitated and yet focussed on her task at hand, which serves only to up the ante of what is yet to come. The reader soon learns that something sinister is going on in the world; something that cannot be easily explained by anyone. It appears that out there, lurking in the open air, is something or some THINGS that will turn people mad simply by making eye contact. People are shut into their homes, covering windows and isolating themselves from the sights and sounds of the world beyond their doors. When venturing outside, blindfolds are used and aural stimulation becomes key. Malorie is set to challenge this world and after the death of her sister, answering the call in a newspaper, to find a group of people who are putting up a united front against whatever might be lurking. Arriving, Malorie makes the untimely admission that she is pregnant, wondering how she will raise a baby in these conditions and almost has herself ostracised before she enters the ‘safe house’. As the group prepares to reach out with others in the world, everything around them is crumbling. Running water becomes more scarce, food is strictly found within one’s pantries, and telephone lines begin to fizzle out. As the child inside her grows, Malorie encounters another woman who arrives at the safe house, also with child, and they work together to allay fears of the others that their offspring will not be detrimental to the greater whole, but a blessing. Trapped in their house as a bird might be in a cardboard box, Malorie and the others must find a way to subsist and not come into contact with the forces that could be anywhere at any given time. The narrative is interspersed with a ‘flash-forward’ of Malorie travelling in a boat with two small children who call her ‘mommy’, heading on an unknown adventure, though visual precautions are still high. What lies out there, in a world where a single twig cracking might mean imminent danger? Malerman offers readers little time to relax and ponder this, as things get more and more disturbing with each page-flip. A stellar piece that will keep readers up well into the night, for a multitude of reasons.

I’d not heard of this book before the other day, so when it received such hype, I had to see what Malerman might have done. The book reads very easily, though it is not ‘simple’, layering ideas and eerie thoughts between two time periods. Malorie is a well-developed character with complexities build into her backstory, as do some of the other characters that emerge as the story progresses. It is their individuality and the zig-zig pace of the narrative that gives this story some of its odd development, though one would be remiss not to think about the larger ‘happenings’ outside the four walls of the house. While there are some threads that remind me of Stephen King, more because of the odd way the characters act in the face of this unknown terror, Malerman stands firmly on his own two feet in his writing. Fair warning to the reader, once you start this book, you will find yourself enveloped in its progress and may find it hard to put it aside. It is that creepy that one must forge onwards, as Malorie and her children did in the boat, if only to see when and where terror might strike next. Beware and keep your eyes down, on the page (or the audiobook player, in my case) and do not interact with anyone until the final sentence. You’ll be glad you followed this simple rule! 

Kudos, Mr. Malerman for a stellar thriller. I will surely be putting this book out there for anyone who has an interest in the slightly (or extremely) eerie and psychologically stirring novel.