Friday, October 27, 2017

Review: BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

Rating: 4/5 stars

There is a thing outside, and if you look at it, you will go insane. It is happening all over the world, and no one is immune to the insanity. Quick, put a blindfold on to save yourself. It is there, right next to you. You don't know what it is, but if you look you will die.

I loved the concept of this novel, and I think Josh Malerman delivered on that concept well. The writing was thoroughly engaging. The story is told back and forth between the past and the future, and the transition between time periods was well timed. The pacing kept me entertained and constantly searching for new answers to new questions.

We follow Malorie and her two children over the span of four years as they try to blindly (literally) navigate this world. They are trapped in a safe-house until one day when Malorie decides to leave in search of humanity and a better life. She must travel over twenty miles completely blind, relying only on the hearing abilities of the two kids with her.

The main question I had while reading this book was what is it exactly that is outside? What can the people not stand to look at? While the book does not address the answer to this question, I found an interview with Josh Malerman where he mentions what concept led to this book's creation, and thus what the thing outside essentially is. (Skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven't read the book and don't want to know.) He says that he once heard the following statement: Man will go crazy if he tries to comprehend infinity. And that got Josh thinking, and he came up with the idea of personifying the concept of infinity into a monster. He doesn't directly say that is what the thing is in Bird Box, but that idea is the driving force behind the novel. I inferred that the people in the book are seeing a creature that represents all of infinity, and that is why they go crazy; they have no way of understanding that. I was seriously blown away by that idea when I found out that's what it was. Fascinating.

I didn't originally intend to, but I ended up listening to most of this book on audio. I chose to because, in the book, the characters rely solely on their sense of hearing instead of sight, and listening on audio produced a similar experience for myself. The descriptions are all about how things sound, and that impact is amplified when you're hearing the story instead of reading it.

I've heard Bird Box described as a horror novel, but I didn't think it was particularly scary. It was suspenseful and eerie, but not terrifying to me, although it might be to some. This is a tiny, quick book, but it pulls you right into the story and won't let go until you reach the last page. I look forward to reading more from Josh Malerman in the future, especially if his stories are as gripping as Bird Box is.

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