Friday, January 18, 2019

Bird Box - Josh Malerman

Summary: Something is out there...something terrifying that must not be seen.  One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence.  No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children.  Living in an abandoned house near the river, Malorie has long dreamed of fleeing to a place where her family might be safe.  But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat--blindfolded.  One wrong choice and they will die.  And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey -- a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her.  Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman's breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

My Review:  I don't know if you are Netflix fans, but just before Christmas, Netflix released a film called Bird Box that I really wanted to watch.  This is unusual for me, since I don't generally watch or read anything that falls into the horror/thriller category.  It's just not my bag; I like being able to sleep at night.  Eventually, I decide not to watch it, but imagine my surprise when, a few days later, I stumbled upon the book version sitting on one of my own bookshelves.  I didn't even know there was a book version, let alone remember I owned a copy!  It seemed meant to be, so I crossed my fingers and dove in.

Bird Box (the book) is a nerve-wracking, pulse-pounding, nail-biting, hand-wringing, edge-of-your-seat-the-entire-time kind of book.  Not sure what I mean?  Think The Walking Dead meets The Reapers Are the Angels meets The Quiet Place, with an unquantifiable foe that incites brutal, homicidal madness in anyone who sees it. 

The story itself alternates between past and present perspectives.  In the present, a woman named Malorie is desperate to survive, as nearly everyone she loves has been killed.  The only way out of her current situation is to escape down river in a rowboat in search of a rumored safe haven.  As if that weren't hard enough, she does so with two young children. Oh, and everyone is blindfolded.  On a river. And did I mention they were BLINDFOLDED!! Yikes, right?!

In flashbacks to the past, a little more of Malorie's backstory comes to light -- the early days of "the problem," societal degeneration, her harrowing journey to the house that would become her home until she was forced to flee, and several things that happen in the interim.  Thanks to the author's narrative technique, I understood little more than the characters themselves, and nearly nothing about the pressing threat, and served more as a silent spectator, pressed against the wall, in a truly frightening nightmare.  As you can imagine, that is a pretty terrifying place to be.  But also kind of deliciously so. 

For me the most nerve-wracking part of the book was the obvious differences between past an the present.  In the past viewpoint, Malorie shared a house with more than a half dozen people -- healthy ones, with a good stockpile of food. They should have been their four years later when, in the present, it's just Malorie and her children.  Obviously something happened.  But what?  WHAAAT!??!  I read this book cover to cover in around 5 hours and it seemed like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire time.  Drop it does and it's a doozy -- a veritable pelting of shoes, so be ready.

I won't say more, because to do so would be giving too much away, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting scared senseless while reading this book.   I'd recommend this book to anyone with a strong stomach for suspense who isn't bothered by some cursing or violence, and likes any or all of the following: The Walking Dead (tv show), The Quiet Place (movie), and/or The Reapers are the Angels (book).  
My Rating:  4 Stars.

For the sensitive reader:  Some swearing and fair amount of violence.

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