I don’t know if I will ever be able to truly ascertain how good Josh Malerman’s Bird Box actually is. I read it this summer at probably the darkest point of the year. I lost someone very close to me, someone very dear to me. Actually, as I was reading this book (in a period of 12 hours), I lost this person I’m talking about. Sorry to be vague, but that’s the unfortunate nature of some things.
I read the synopsis of this novel and I thought it would give me a distraction that I really needed at the time. This novel came to me at the right time, and while it’s content and concepts didn’t help me get through my hard time, it did indeed offer a distraction. I wanted it stir some emotion in me other than sadness. I knew that it was in the horror genre, and honestly, I thought being scared would be better than being sad. I didn’t quite get the lack of sadness though.
In Bird Box, something is out there. Suddenly these “creatures” show up, and one glimpse drives a person into a violent mania. This sudden appearance essentially creates an apocalypse and drives people into blindness. If one ventures into the outside world, his eyes must be covered in fear of potentially seeing these creatures. Malorie is an expectant mother who joins a group of “survivors” as they try to figure out how to create a life in this new world of danger.
I didn’t get my lack of sadness from this book because it is about nothing but death. A glimpse of these creatures is “like infinity … something too complex for us to comprehend” (47) ultimately pushing that person to madness and death. Typically a person is moved to violence against those around him, and ultimately himself. There are characters, though, who just kill themselves after seeing the creatures.
It’s a strange novel. Life is illustrated through human ingenue as being so adaptable. The creatures cause mayhem and yet humanity finds a way to continue existing while they inhabit the planet. In a cliche, life goes on.
Yet in other ways there’s a questions as to whether there are really any creatures at all. It’s almost a religious debate because you can’t see them, but you see their effect. And the simple belief of their existence changes the world.
Malerman is a strong writer. So much of the novel is cloaked in uncertainty — really in unknowable blindness. It had me nervous at times. My heart was pounding at moments. I could feel the novel creeping towards the necessary fate. Again, it was mimicking my own life at the time. The days leading up to my loved one’s loss were so uncertain yet very sure.
I thought Bird Box was good. I made it through really fast because there are moments you can’t put it down. I did get a few chills, but I would call this novel more of a thriller rather than a horror book. I never felt scared, though I did feel tense for the characters. Definitely worth a read, and I’ll be watching Malerman for future work.
Favorite Passages in Bird Box
How horrible. After all this struggling, all this survival. To die because of an accident. (3)
They were safe there. Why did they leave? Is the place they are heading going to be any safer? How could it be? In a world where you can’t open your eyes, isn’t a blindfold all you could ever hope for? (98)
“We need to make progress. Otherwise we’re waiting for news in a world where there is no longer any news.” (105)
Man is the creature he fears (231)
You can smell it, too. Death. Dying. Decay. The sky is falling, the sky is dying, the sky is dead. (244)
The feeling of something inside her that must get out is the horrifying and incredible feeling she’s ever known. (248)