Tension. The very act of tensing up, sitting on the edge of my seat, dreading the hiss of that next page flipping over, is something I haven’t experienced in quite a few years. Tonight, I’m happy to say that I’ve rediscovered the genuine thrills of reading a well paced, taut, and character-driven novel. I started reading Bird Box by Josh Malerman this past Sunday, and I’m thoroughly hooked.
The story opens with Malorie, a lone survivor with two children, standing on the edge of a pivotal decision. To leave their home, with its blinds shut and its windows covered, and take a perilous journey 20 miles downstream to reach a new refuge is a risk to their lives. Creatures that ushered in the apocalypse haunt the world outside, their mere image driving any person who lays their eyes upon them to rabid, homicidal, and finally suicidal madness. Malorie and her children have only the aegis of a single boat, a small batch of supplies, and three blindfolds to prevent them from seeing the unimaginable.
In the past four days, I’ve plowed through 175 pages of this heart stopping thriller. Malerman, who is also the lead singer and songwriter of a band call the High Strung, has a pitch-perfect voice for the dread that permeates Bird Box. He also breathes a fiery hope into Malorie, who has grown resolute and hardened from five years of surviving. It’s amazing to read how she prepared her two children for the horrors of the world outside, training them to recognize every single noise in the house and outside, from the sound of her smiling to the crunch of leaves in the forest. And boy do those subtle sounds bring out the goosebumps.
The way in which Malerman flip back and forth between the present and past is very fluid, and sheds more light onto Malorie’s history with other survivors, including an optimistic teacher named Tom and another pregnant mother named Olympia. The threats Malorie and her Boy and Girl encounter on the river are numerous, and their possible demise is never far from my mind.
I can’t recommend Bird Box enough. The suspense and violence are abundant as hell, as is the human will to live and pick up in the aftermath of an all-too-visible cataclysm.