BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman
Bird Box is one of the most original and downright terrifying horror novels I’ve ever read. Set in the near future, the novel begins in a vaguely post-apocalyptic wasteland that used to be suburban Michigan, where a young woman, Malorie, leads her two children to a rowboat, all of them blindfolded. Five years previously, there was some kind of event which wiped out the majority of the population – there’s something outside, and when people see it, they’re driven to madness and violence. There’s only one rule in the new world in order to survive: don’t open your eyes.
This is more of a survival story than I had been expecting from a horror novel, but I was okay with that, because it focuses on the elements of survival that I find particularly interesting. How does a group of individuals move forward together in a lawless world? Which social norms from the old world are worth preserving? At what point does survival stop being enough? (It’s strangely reminiscent of Station Eleven in this regard.) I highly recommend this to anyone who prefers their horror light on the gore and heavy on the psychological.
But survival is only one element. Bird Box is scary. The tension that Josh Malerman creates in this novel never lets up, even for a second. Malerman taps into a really primal fear – fear of the dark, fear of the unknown. What’s so remarkable about Bird Box is that the scariest passages aren’t necessarily ones where you see horrifying things happening. It’s the ones where the characters are taking a tentative step outside, eyes closed, not knowing if they’re mere inches away from danger.
No, it’s not perfect; yes, there are questions that go unanswered, but I loved this. The atmosphere is unsettling and frightening, the characters are real and flawed and believable, and the climax is incredible. What a delightfully creepy and striking book. I wanted to start it again the second I finished.