Bird Box by Josh Malerman is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic novel published in 2014. Not one of my favorite reading genres, the title stuck in my mind after the 2018 release of a movie with the same name starring Sandra Bullock. I have yet to see the movie, but the book impressed me so much that the film is on my movies-I-have-to-watch list. The novel sells for USD 9.99 on Amazon. I read the novel through a Scribd subscription. Bird Box is a five-star read because of its original content and premise as well as skillful presentation through multiple timelines.
There are several characters, but not so many to become difficult for readers to keep in order. Mallorie is by far the most important as she is the narrator and, for most of the novel, the most stable and enduring adult survivor. Two children, named “Boy” and “Girl,” will accompany Mallorie on a sort of “road trip,” except for the fact that the trip is on a river. The trio travel to seek sanctuary and survivors. The journey is immensely complicated by the blindfolds that Mallorie and the children must wear. They do not dare look at their surroundings because of the creatures that will devour them, first mentally, then physically through various forms of victim induced suicide. This trip takes place in the present time. While on the journey, there is time to reflect on how Mallorie, Boy, Girl, and the rest of the world got to this point.
Mallorie and sister Shannon lived almost healthy lives together preceding the EVENT. Mallorie was worried that she was pregnant and about her future or lack of it with her boyfriend. Disturbing news reports from Russia spoke of an EVENT occurring in which people went mad for no reason before going on a killing spree of relatives and anyone in reach. Alternatively, victims committed suicide, but the end result was death, and no one was thought to recover. The EVENT spread and caught the sisters’ attention when deaths occurred in Alaska and spread south to the rest of the US. It became clear that those dying had seen something. To view the EVENT resulted in death. People covered the windows of houses; they stayed home, and, initially, those who went out for food and supplies looked around quickly and furtively to avoid viewing the cause of the EVENT. The latter strategy did not help, and humans were forced to live in isolated houses dependent on whatever stockpiles of food and supplies they had prepared before the outbreak.
The depression of living such an isolated existence was too much for Shannon. Mallorie assumed Shannon had to look out the window, and the look is what caused Shannon to kill herself. Alone, Mallorie searched for survivors and found a group in a nearby well-stocked house. Jules, Felix, Tom, Don, Cheryl and later Olympia, who, like Malorie, was about four months pregnant provide author Malerman the opportunity for many character stories. The group mostly cooperates, but there are tensions, especially on the enlargement of the community. Newcomers are not welcome as they will more quickly deplete the food supply. Tom, the group leader, generates ideas for survival. How can they obtain food? Is it possible there are other survivors and, if so, how can Tom’s group communicate with them?
The group has a violent breakup which coincides with the birth of Mallorie’s and Olympia’s children. Mallorie and the two children are the only survivors. To survive, Mallorie puts blindfolds on the children and herself. The three will live primarily in a world of darkness for almost four years as Mallorie prepares the children to identify sounds. She is preparing them for a journey which she and the children will take by a small boat on a river. The children will be the primary navigators as they will tell Mallorie what they hear as she navigates the craft. The children will identify threats. I found their skills and bravery to be the most challenging part of the novel to believe. Four-year-old children? After I accepted this, the story went well.
Survivalists will love this story. The measures that Mallorie and all her housemates took to survive blind in the new world were creative and, for the most part, well planned. Somewhere in the story, readers will become aware of why the author chose the title. There are several mysteries and surprises along the journey, but the big question is, did the trio make it? Writing the answer to that would be a complete spoiler. There is a comfortable surprise at the end.
As of the date of this post, the novel has 2423 reviews on Amazon; 61% of readers rated the book at five stars. After writing this review, I read one other review, the first one appearing, which registered three stars. The rating made me interested in the discussions, and I will now read several more of them although it won’t affect my review, posted before reading the criticism of others. I will also learn more by Josh Malerman.