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
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.
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.
I don't write reviews. I don't often give five stars, This book is the exception. From start it grabbed me and kept my interest.
I've never had the pleasure of listening to Cassandra Cambell's performances but she did a wonderful job.
The dog... that is all I will say.
Buy this book but don't start it to late at night unless you want to be dragging at work tomorrow.
Reader. Wannabe writer. That's a picture of me standing in line to see Stephen King!
Not a fun summer read.
In this book terror takes the form of a knock on the door, a change in the sound of birds cooing, and imagined threats. “Something” is out there! Something unidentifiable, something that, though you don’t know what it is and wouldn’t know it even if you saw it, if seen would drive you mad to the point of murder and suicide.
Malorie, a young mother, attempts to pilot herself and her children down a river in a rowboat blindfolded. Her destination is a supposed refuge some 20 miles downriver. How Malorie got to the moment of this desperate act is the bulk of the story. She spends most of her time pregnant and scared in a house full of characters that are ill-defined and largely uninteresting. There are Tom, Don and Jules, among others. Tom is fatherly and curious, Don is paranoid and angry and Jules is good with dogs, and that’s about all we get to know about them. They bicker and they plan and they debate the nature of something they can’t see, have never seen and can’t study. All they know is if you see it, you die, and you will likely take a bunch of other people with you when you go down.
Seeking things with the ends of broomsticks and moments of attempting to identify half heard sounds are obvious attempts at suspense and terror, and end up being neither suspenseful nor terrifying. Imagine you’re standing in full daylight on a beautiful spring morning watching someone blindfolded, obviously terrified of what they only think they’ll run into, attempt to fill a bucket from a well. Yeah, that’s how I felt throughout the whole book. I waited for something to happen, something that wasn’t imagined by the characters or from a second-hand story they heard on the news.
And the soft, tremulous voice of the narrator only added to the heavy grayness of the story.
Perhaps this book wasn’t the best choice after reading exciting rip-roaring fare like “Mr. Mercedes” and “Skin Game.” Perhaps this is a story better suited to overcast, wintery days, but I found it somewhat depressing and claustrophobic. I wanted to rip off blindfolds and have the story just be told.
Unless you are satisfied with books that provide zero explanation of the origin or motives of the bogeymen, skip this one.
The storyline was unique, the narrator was impeccable, and the thrills kept me intrigued the entire time! Would definitely read anything else by Josh Malerman or listen to anything read by Cassandra Campbell for sure!
A different kind of book - suspenseful and mysterious as you listen. It doesn't answer all your questions at the end, but enough that it's a satisfying ending. Definitely worth the credit I spent on it :)
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.
Buddhist, philosopher, relatively sane day walker living day2day life w/ MS. Founder @sitandsayover + @antharia. Speaker/Author #nptech.
I'll admit I had a hard time getting into the beginning. I started the book over several times. I think for me (no spoilers) I just immediately struggled knowing who the main characters were' where things were taking place and an overall lack of knowing what was going on.
As the book progressed I caught on, if you will and one our character changed voice I was enthralled. The book became one I could not put down. The last half of the book is truly a frightening thriller.
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