Updated: Nov 14, 2018
As a science fiction and horror writer, I feel obligated to tell everyone when I've read a good book. Bird Box by Josh Malerman ranks on the top 10 list of books I’ve flown through in recent years. It’s so suspenseful. Malerman’s timing in storytelling is impeccable, and that's part of what makes this book so awesome.
It's also being turned into a movie featuring Sandra Bullock. I'm not sure why the directors are making Malorie's character so much older than she is in the novel, but I'm sure the adaptation will be worth checking out:
The ending of the book leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and that seems to have upset some people. What are the Bird Box creatures? Why does seeing them make people go insane? I’m curious how these answers will be addressed in the movie. I'm okay with how the author left things, though.
He chose to tell the story realistically. The characters were left in the dark regarding information about the creatures. Everyone was; the government crumbled and even the radio fell. Ultimately, survivors were left in isolation. Some risked their lives to perform tests for informational purposes, but most played it safe. To suddenly create some plotline that answered everyone’s questions would have felt inorganic.
In life, we don't always have the answers we seek. That can be scary. When your life is on the line, even scarier.
The book is told primarily in present tense, which I loved! So few authors are willing to take that leap. The idea is that there’s some type of creature that’s been introduced/released on Earth. The very sight of these creatures causes people to become suicidal, homicidal maniacs. People fear them so much that they stop going to work and stay at home. They nail blankets to their windows, wear blindfolds when outdoors, and pray they have enough food to survive. Not everyone makes it. The use of present tense made me feel like I was right there with the characters experiencing everything.
Writers: consider using present tense when you need to create suspense.
It’s not the chaos that’s so frightening, however. It’s the blindness. Not knowing what lurks around you, relying on the smallest cues of smell, touch, and hearing to survive. Your life can depend upon knowing the difference between the touch of a falling leaf and the accidental brush of a shoulder.
The characters themselves are compelling. Each has their own unique personality that contributes to the story in some way. Malerman is ruthless to them, but how can you not be in a story that takes place during an apocalypse?
The non-linear timeline added so much depth to Bird Box. We get to see how Malorie’s current experience of trying to escape to a safe location is influenced by her past and the people she’s met. Constant flashbacks can be irritating, but they were used in a way that created suspense. The chapters blended in unique ways. As a writer, I can only imagine the planning that must have taken place to make it all work!
Bird Box is a quick read, but overall it’s well-done and was really enjoyable. I would recommend it to any fans of the horror and apocalyptic genres.
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