[Review] Bird Box — Josh Malerman

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Book Title                  Bird Box (Standalone)
Author:                        Josh Malerman
Number of pages:  272

Synopsis:

josh malerman - bird box book coverSomething 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?

(re: Goodreads @ Bird Box by Josh Malerman)


Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:

– I have no sales pitch. If you enjoy ambiguity, uncertainty, and if the blurb interests you, then by all means read Bird Box
– Psychological horror set in Detroit that feeds on the unknown; there is gore but it’s not over the top
– The writing is succinct and can feel choppy; displayed through past-and-present narrative
– Limited growth in a majority of the characters as they were generally dragged along by the plot

Initial Thoughts

This might be the shortest review I’ll go on record of having written.


Afterthoughts:

Premise

It was an ordinary day. Now there is something in the world causing people to go mad, to go berserk, to die. But only if your eyes are opened. Only if you see it. So keep your eyes closed. Listen. Be alert. It is no longer an ordinary day.


Setting

The setting is quite average (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). The story takes place in a plain suburban neighborhood in Detroit after an unknown thing creeps across the Eastern hemisphere into the West.

And I’m calling itthing because I’m unsure how I can describe some ominous entity that lacks tangible, verifiable truth. Is that the point? Probably. Is that something I can get on board with? Ehhhh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯… 

The scare-level is on par with the feeling you get walking around your home in complete darkness. If you can’t handle that much, then this book is probably not for you. Gore? Yeah there’s a bit. The brunt of what’s unsettling is knowing you’re surviving on what you hear; the fear that you’re tiptoeing around some claustrophobic black hole with it potentially near you. That’s what’s terrifying.


Narration

Uncertainty is what drives this story forward. It’s wildly unputdownable and weaves past-and-present narratives while messing with your head in the right ways. The writing style is distinctly precise and choppy. I wouldn’t say it’s juvenile. It simply doesn’t overdramatize what’s happening; as if each thought is something said while short of breath. Because no one has time for purple prose when you’re tensed up and trying to scapegoat death.


Characters

Expanding upon Narration, Bird Box appeals to those conversations with your buddies when you talk through your post-apocalyptic game plan. The entire survivalist premise doesn’t even hinge on the protagonist being likable (although that would have surely helped). Malorie was tolerable–that’s it. I’m used to reading fiction with non-skeptical protagonists so it was refreshing to witness a character who does try to question everything. (This just sounds as if all the other characters I’ve read are idiots…)

The main problem I had with most of these characters is that though I was engaged in their struggle, I never felt compelled to root for their survival…at least not in a genuine humanistic way (is that a shitty thing to say?). It’s strangely manipulative that plot drags these characters along to the extent that growth becomes hindered and stifled against the dangers lurking in the shadows. Ultimately, I blame the 100-foot pole I read this story with

I would like to say that it’s not typical that you feature depths of characterizations in the horror genre but with it learning more to the psychological horror/thriller side of things, I’d argue that point.

I’m also putting this out there: I question the naming of Malorie as a protagonist on the basis of the author’s last name (Malerman) LOL.


Overall

Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is an experience that’s difficult to talk about. It’s neither here or there: saying too little and I do the book a disservice; too much and I cross the spoiler line. It’s a psychological horror at heart with an imaginative subtext that really just flew over my head. That’s the major crutch to this story: it builds and builds and builds and when you’re expecting fireworks….it ends. Slowly cut to black; ending with a question mark.

Your guess is as good as mine, really.

Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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15 thoughts on “[Review] Bird Box — Josh Malerman”

      1. Lol. Unless it’s a magazine on dirt bikes, motorcycles or cars, I highly doubt it! As much as I would love for him to be a reader, he’s not. He’s always up for the movie version of books, though!

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  1. I’m not really into psychological thrillers but I have heard people really rave about this one. I totally think all the building and building to nothing would annoy me!!

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    1. It was really difficult to critique this book in my standard rage-filled way without being too spoilery — so I’m glad you’re still interested in reading this. The story was definitely fun. The ending might not have been for me since most reviews I’ve seen rave about the book as a whole!

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  2. This one is on my TBR for this year since I’m participating in a horror reads challenge. I’ve heard it’s a great book but it seems that Birdbox wasn’t as impressive a read to you as it is to others. The way your describe the build up and abrupt end makes me a little doubtful that I’ll like that.

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    1. Bird Box would be a perfect horror read!

      Perhaps hype and high expectations were there for this book that I set the bar too high (I too mostly saw rave reviews for it). I do appreciate the books that make you think–Bird Box certainly does that–but I just don’t think I was satisfied with the finality of where the story was going. Do have a go at it though!

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