Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bird Box

The world went through a catastrophic change when creatures arrived. No one knows what they look like, where they came from, or what they want because everyone who sees one goes mad and attack themselves and others. The book is split into two narratives that take place years apart. In one, Malorie just found out she was pregnant as the world fell apart. She traveled to a house where people invited others with an ad in the paper, but she suffered the loss of her sister along the way. In the other, she has two 4 year old children in that same house alone and tries to make it 20 miles down a river to escape. What happened to the others in the house and will Malorie make it down the river with her children?

Bird Box is a brilliant horror novel that takes the fear of the unknown and makes it more extreme by being an immediate danger. How can you fight something you can't see and don't know anything about? All the remaining people have to walk around outside with eyes closed or blindfolded to get around, limiting the amount and way of travel they can do in a day. The dangers of the outside world aren't only from these eldritch creatures, but also wild animals reclaiming the empty world and other people. Windows must be covered and no one knows if it's even safe to be outside at all. The vast majority of people seem to die quickly as most neighborhoods encountered are abandoned. Considering curiosity and disbelief, this seems pretty accurate. Once a person goes mad, it's kill them or be killed.

Both of Malorie's stories occur in alternating chapters for the most part. The earlier story has a house of 7 people coexisting in a small space, sharing resources and a chores. It can get claustrophobic and tense over the smallest things being in such close quarters. Tom is the leader due to his big ideas. Everyone else is happy to do the bare minimum to survive, but Tom wants to figure things out and keep progressing as much as possible. George before him experimented with optics and tried to figure out if they could view the creatures through a prism or camera. Needless to say he was wrong. The others are even resistant to leaving the house for resources, which would only lead to their deaths. An interloper arrives posing as a friend, manipulating the weakest link of their group and bringing in a human threat. While all of this is going on, Malorie and Olivia worry about giving birth and the health of their babies as they get close and closer to their due date.

The later story shows how Malorie lives now with her two children, training them to navigate the world without their vision. In a normal world, her treatment of them would be considered abusive. She's desperate for her children to survive and goes to great lengths to do so, like hurting them if they awaken with their eyes closed, keeping food from them if they won't go outside, and punishing them if they can't identify and track things with their eyes closed. They have names, but she calls them Boy and Girl for almost the whole novel as if to emotionally distance herself from them. Together, they travel by boat in hopes of moving to a different, more established group. Along the way, creatures, wild animals, and mad men stand in their way plus they have to hope they don't pass the place since they are blindfolded. The children have been molded to never question, stay quiet, and listen. Their trip is filled with tension as they get caught on the banks or encounter things along the way. I want her to make it so badly because she's been preparing for 4 years.

Bird Box is an incredibly creative story that never reveals what the creatures are, but it doesn't have to. The world has changed permanently because of them, causing some to go mad and others to live a difficult, isolated existence. The format gave the reader the story in small bits from each side until it only moved forward. I loved every page of the book and I look forward to reading more from Josh Malerman.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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