I read The Bird Box over a year ago, and it still sticks with me as one of my favorite horror reads. I am extremely picky when it comes to horror, because the classic horror tropes (woman walks into dark basement, man walks into abandoned home, etc) really drive me insane. It’s fun when horror novels are realistic and the characters actually act like smart people for a change. I also particularly appreciate when authors leave stuff to your imagination. Every detail doesn’t need to be explained to me. Mystery in horror is always scary. The Bird Box checks both of those boxes for me.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Published by Ecco on May 13th 2014
Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, 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 remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it's time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat--blindfolded--with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?
Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.
A large majority of this book takes place in a home with blacked out windows and doors that you don’t open unless absolutely necessary. It’s centered around the three people living in the home: a woman and her two (sort of creepy) children who were born in the home. There is some back story as you learn how things came to be, who else used to live in the home, why they are no longer living there, etc. There’s a lot of references to creepy things that have happened in the past, and you have to work through the story to find out what exactly went on.
It’s the home life that is particularly terrifying. As the reader you know that this family is relatively safe so long as they stay within the home. You know that when they go outside (which they only do for essential supplies), they need to be blind folded lest they see some sort of monster (is it a monster? you don’t really know…) that will cause them to die a horribly violent, self-inflicted death. The amount of tension that you experience as a reader when these characters go outside is unreal. It is so FREAKING SCARY. The author did a fantastic job making you feel insecure with the characters outside.
Oh man, and then there’s the “bird box.” The characters acquire birds that they place on their porch to serve as sentinels if someone (or something) is on the porch. When those birds signal arrivals… I CAN’T EVEN. It’s so stinking scary! I’m getting giddy (with terror) just thinking about it.
And so, of course, the whole point of the book is to have our mother with her two children leave this safe home they’ve lived in for YEARS and travel to what they’re hoping is a safe haven. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IF IT ACTUALLY EXISTS. She’s leaving security behind and taking an enormous risk. It’s just TERRIFYING.
I adored the amount of tension this book contained. If you like subtle, more mysterious horror (aka if you liked the movie Signs until they decided to show the STUPID aliens), you will love this horror novel.
Have you read The Bird Box? What were your thoughts? If not, what do you think of a more subtle, mysterious type of horror novel? Do you like it? Or do you prefer the more obvious, jumpy scares?