Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a wonderfully crafted tale of modern-day survival against a deadly mysterious force of evil, woven with dread and the fear of the unknown from the get-go. I can honestly say it has been one of the most enjoyable reads for me this year so far. Whilst I’m not typically a fan of the horror or psychological thriller genres generally, I found myself enveloped in the adventure, eager to find out what would happen next.
At the heart of the story is Malorie, a single parent with two children, and their desperate attempt to reach safety away from the creatures that threaten to send them over the edge just like everyone else. As for these creatures’ appearance, nobody (alive) knows, for the mere sight of them drives you crazy, causing you to attack and murder those around you, and then yourself. With shades of Medusa, the main line of defense is to cover your eyes at all times when outside or barricade yourself in, blocking out any view through windows and doors.
Malerman skillfully switches between present and past, building the world and its key events that lead to the protagonists’ decision to make a break for it. Early on, an expecting Malorie reaches a bunch of other survivors, who all haplessly work together to stick it out as long as they can. As things get progressively worse, and rations start to deplete, their sanity is tested not just by the outside horrors, but also by each other.
I initially picked up Bird Box when Netflix released the film on its platform to a wealth of hype. I’m really glad I went for the novel instead. I haven’t seen the adaptation yet, and I’m not sure I will, simply because the entrancing sense of foreboding fear and uncertainty I felt from the book is not something I think could be replicated visually in the same way. When reading the story, instead of picturing the characters, I would picture myself in their place, blindfolded and unable to see what terrible things were before me. Witnessing the characters scramble around on screen just wouldn’t have the same effect.
A definite recommendation to fans of the genre.