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: 20 miles downriver in a rowboat blindfolded with nothing to rely on but Malorie's wits and the children's trained ears. 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. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motley group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside and confront the ultimate question: In a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?
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.
©2014 Josh Malerman (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
I can't say enough good things about this story. Its so good.
What to expect:
This is a quiet slow book. Its told both in present tense and via flash backs.
A sense of terror surrounds every word. I haven't read anything so dreadful since Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
Not much in the action department. But you will be on the edge of your seat due to Malerman's excellent delivery.
I'd completely recommend this story. I was expecting less. Thought it could have fallen apart at any time. But it works all the way to the end. Out of the many hundreds of audible books I have listened to, this is up there with the best of them.
From Austen to zombies!
I've noticed a lack of good old scary stories in the last few years. Gory shock value is all over the place, and that's fine for what it is, but I've often wished authors would spend more time on their characters' psychology. Bird Box turned out to be just what I've been looking for.
Malorie and her sister have moved into a house together when reports start to come in from all over the world: normal people are glimpsing something that instantly turns them into crazed killers. While the Internet boils with theories, people gradually stop driving, stop shopping, and finally they just barricade themselves in their homes with the doors and windows blocked. Society eventually falls apart, yet Malorie finds hope and musters the strength to go on. But she can't live like a prisoner forever, so she begins a terrifying blindfolded journey to what she desperately hopes will be enduring safety.
I have to say it took me a good half-hour to get into this one. The narrator didn't really do it for me, with uneven reading volume and more angst than seemed necessary. It didn't help that Malorie imbues even the most boring object with intense dramatic feelings.
But I'm really glad I spent the time, because Bird Box turned out to be one of the best books I've listened to for a while. After the first chapter or two, we meet the real Malorie (not just the dramatic one) and hear her story--which is compelling, to say the least. By midway through, I completely understood the feelings those objects brought up, and the angst, too.
The real star of this book is the author's handling of his themes: fear, bravery, putting faith and trust in others and yourself. All those things can be scary, but sometimes you just have to face them anyway, even when you're blindfolded. Malorie and her friends give it their best, with varying results, in an evocative illustration of what it's like to be part of a group of survivors.
Throughout the book, Malorie's memories of the past alternate with her frightening present, creating suspense that made it really hard to stop listening. I did the last three hours in one go, putting off bedtime again and again.
There isn't a lot of how-and-why here, and logic nitpickers ("That couldn't possibly happen! It'd be more like..." etc) will probably be driven insane. But if you're looking for real horror, Bird Box is a sustained scare that will keep you thinking long after the book is over.
A 3* novel that entertains like a 5*novel.
Bird Box captures Audrey Hepburn's helpless groping in Wait Until Dark, the gripping uncertainty of Algernon Blackwood's, The Willows, and the gruesome self-mutilation of M. Night Shyamalan's, The Happening; three stories with the shared conceit of the fear from what we can not see. Remember being blindfolded and led through a haunted house -- a bowl of peeled grapes becomes eyeballs, dried apricots are withered ears, and a tub of cold spaghetti in oil passes for guts? The limited senses, the power of suggestion, and Fear, itself at work.
Malerman uses the ancient fight-or-flight response as a tool as much as he does the language, creating a novel that might challenge those two instincts that are the embodiment of fear. With no visual accounts, other than a few before the you-don't-know-what hits the fans and a few seconds of blind folds off in the house, the book is lights-out experiential, dependent on the narrator, Malorie. She tell us what is happening without the What, Why, Where, or How details and processing -- kind of gut reaction narration .There is also little revealed about the characters Malorie lives with for 4 years, so we don't get much about the Who's either. But Malerman keeps the tension relentlessly taut and in the moment, necessitating the remaining senses that feed your *mind's eye* operate in hyper mode.
In 1938, Orson Welles gave one of the best demonstrations of this whole conceit when on the eve of Halloween he presented, via Mercury Theater on the Air, a radio drama, The War of the Worlds. The resulting mass hysteria sent hundreds of national guardsmen reporting for duty at local armories, and possibly as many as a million people fleeing into the night, believing that invaders from Mars had laid waste to New Jersey and were headed west. While this is a great pulse-raising gimmick for a short story, the sensory deprivation of this delivery become evident in the hours it takes for a novel to play out. We never know the origin of the entity, there are no witnesses, there is never a description of a malevolent creature; we can't even build an entity (it's a little like getting hit in the head in the dark). If an author is going to rely on me and my imagination to fill in the big blanks, he also has to work with me and my ruminations -- and mine were thinking increasingly outside Malerman's claustrophobic little box until it burst open. His story trickled down to -- it can't hurt you if you can't see it -- and that kind of squashed the drama. But, just in time, the story comes to an abrupt end, blindfolds off, pulse normalized, imaginations on cruise.
I have to give this a high recommendation. It's Twilight Zone, Outer Limits fun; if that's your genre, don't miss this. Whether you come away with praise or disappointment, you are almost certain to enjoy getting there. Bird Box is a "you just have to be there" kind of read, and it is especially effective listening to the story. (The narration is good, nothing stands out as annoying or noteworthy.) One of those that will keep you ear-bud bound from start to finish.
This book was on a couple of lists of "great short audio books", and even had a glowing review from Stephen King, so I thought it would be a great first audiobook to see if I could get a friend interested in Audible. We listened on a road trip, and both of us were annoyed all the way through. I had to keep promising that usually audio books are better.
This story is painfully slow and none of the characters are well-developed, not even the story's two most important roles. The plot takes from The Happening, but isn't even as plausible as that. What about seeing the creatures makes people crazy? How did people manage to travel with no experience living as blind? How did society collapse so completely if all you have to do is not open your eyes out of doors? You never find out.
A lot of other reviews remark on how great the suspense was, but I ended up feeling like Malerman has never heard of Chekov's Gun. He'd stage a dramatic scene, let the suspense build around it, and then--nothing. This happened repeatedly in the first seven or so hours of listening, with no action really unfolding until the very end. I only kept listening to figure out what happens to everyone, and when that FINALLY happened, it was a disappointing mess.
I don't think I'm that hard to please, but a lot of other people really liked this. Maybe it isn't meant to be listened to in one sitting.
Currently listening to Breakfast of Champions.
Nothing specific--just a "meh" performance.
Olympia. Why not just have Mallory have twins if you need two children? The coincidence of two women being exactly as far along as one another, and going into labor on the same day is ridiculous. And for goodness' sake, name the children, or at least explain why you didn't.
As for the rest, it's not that I would cut them, but I'd flesh them out. Tom is supposedly really important to the story, but I never cared about his character one bit. With most of the supporting characters, they ended up being only as interesting as the darn dog.
I felt like this was a short story that Malerman decided to make into a novel, but the execution didn't work. If you need to flesh out a story, develop your plot and characters, don't just add in situations that go nowhere.
I'm calling bullsh*t on this book. Interesting premise to begin with but ultimately its just one long slow burning tease with no reveal at the end. I kept reading through a fairly implausible narrative for one reason - to find out what had caused society to break down. A few minutes from the end I began to realise the author wasn't going to tell us and while I'm all for mystery and interpretation, the lame ending to Bird Box is just a cop out. The human race literally just closes its eyes to the thing that threatens its survival. And don't get me started on how plausible it is for people to navigate their way through towns, forests and rivers on foot, driving a car! and paddling a rowboat without the use of sight - in real life a blindfolded person can't walk for 50 metres without beginning to walk in circles. I pick up each book expecting to have to suspend belief to give the story permission to take its course, but the author needs to do his bit and earn that trust.
I'll grant that there a few genuine moments of suspense built up during the story, and I'll accept that what's unseen can be scarier than what's seen, but the reader is after all just an observer and the author of a story that asks for so much blind (pun intended) acceptance of the premise needed to throw us a few bones. Frankly, I think the author deliberately chose not to reveal what the "creatures" are because he knew no one would have accepted it. The "mystery" is just a lazy device to cover over a premise not fully thought through to a satisfying conclusion.
So I find myself confused - this book has so many gushing 4 and 5 star reviews - what did I miss?
I can't think of anyone.
Boredom. Slow moving story that just left me ready for it to be over. Though the last quarter of the book was more interesting, there was no resolution to the story, which was disappointing; I guess the author wanted room for a possible book 2, or just didn't know how to resolve the story within the confines of the blindfold.
The narrator was the saving grace of this book. Cassandra Campbell gave unique voices to all the characters, and did a superb job bringing their emotions to life.
The performance was a little overdone, but outside of that, I can't think of a single thing I would improve. This was the most creeped out I've been by a novel in many years. Definitely would recommend!
Author did his best to apply (spoiler alert!) the concept of going mad at sight of something. For my part, I was not convinced at the concept and the story behind it. There was not much attention to the discussion of why or how it could happen. It was as if someone randomly picked a concept and the aıthor had to go along with it. I am not counting some of the impracticalities like driving a car without sight or being able to return to where you began in the first place blindfolded... Why there was no intervention by the authorities, why did not this guy (spoiler alert!) who was immune did not harm her etc. etc.
I loved, loved this book. I literally found myself standing still, holding my breath, several different times to listen to what happened next. The creepiness level is awesome, the writing is beautiful, and interesting, and perfectly paced. Malerman jumps between the past and present keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout the book. The story unfolds in such an interesting way, like nothing I've ever listened to before. The suspense was almost painful. Wow this book was good.
The character development is great, but it's really the situational development that makes you care what happens to the characters. I kept putting myself in their shoes..."what would I do?" That made me care about every minute of this story.
I also loved the ending.
The narrator was good most of the time. She only got four stars because her "in distress" voice was really annoying and a little tiresome and too "one note." She had the same voice for scared, annoyed, mad, etc.
Josh Malerman, I'm a fan. Keep them coming. Super well done for a first book.
I highly recommend this book.
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