We’ve seen the apocalypse so many times that fresh explanations for the end of the world must getting harder and harder to come by. Thankfully, Bird Box delivers an intriguing spin on the wrecked world outside and a protagonist who is both complex and easy to root for.
Malorie lives alone with two children, Boy and Girl, who she has been preparing for this day: the day they leave the house and take the boat on the river. However, they must make this journey without opening their eyes.
Over the course of the novel, Malorie remembers how people all over the world lost their mind and turned violent after witnessing something unknown, and how she took refuge in a house with fellow survivors.
What is it that people are seeing that turns them mad, and how did Malorie end up by herself?
Josh Malerman splits the story evenly Malorie’s journey with the children and her time before in the house, jumping back and forth at the end of every chapter. The former is very tense survival horror, as the three confront the reality of what the world has become without being able to see it.
The latter is equally effective; a slow-burn that uses Malorie’s pregnancy as a ticking clock device. We know something awful happened, but what we don’t know is how.
The explanation for what it is that caused the global disaster is given fairly early, but Malerman sensibly keeps the details unclear. He makes the most of forcing his characters to fumble around in the dark, turning a simple trip to the garden into a nailbiting sequence. Malorie makes for an excellent lead; she serves as the reader’s own sceptical voice of mistrust while remaining the heart of the story.
Bird Box is a short novel at under 250 pages, but it’s a highly effective thriller that will keep you gripped until the final chapter.