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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, May 2014 - After finishing this novel, there is one thing I 100% regret – and that was starting it around 10 pm on a weeknight. This chilling debut is so well-written, and so suspenseful I had a very difficult time putting it down. The book is told from the point of view of Malorie, a young mother who is fleeing to safety with her two young children. She doesn’t know from whom or what she’s fleeing, but does know that just one glimpse will drive a person mad. The story seamlessly jumps from past to present as we slowly uncover just what has left the world in complete darkness. Bird Box is the quintessential page-turner and I’ll be eagerly waiting for Josh Malerman’s next work. –Laura, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 05-22-14

Don't look!

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.

56 of 62 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Masterful book paired with outstanding narration

Excellent blend of SF and horror. The author's ability to bring alive this story without revealing the unseen horror (or, more accurately, the creature that must be left unseen lest the viewer plunges into madness marked by homicide and then suicide). Malerman carefully construct the narrative, bouncing from events 4.5 years earlier with the present-day effort of Mallory to find some measure of safety for the two, unnamed children in her care. The opening chapter plunges the reader into an altered world, where windows are anathema, blindfolds are protection, and answers are out of reach. Society seems crippled and mostly dead, and unknown creatures walk the world - but these creatures do not seem to physically assault or stalk humans, but simply by existing and being seen inflict madness. The author then expertly jogs back in time to the early days when scattered and unsubstantiated reports trickle in of people going mad and killing others then themselves. We know immediately from the present-day chapters that Mallory is now alone with two children, but we don't know how she came to be sole parent in these dreadful times. We know she believes she must brave a 20 mile river passage blindfolded to try to find safety. In flashback, we find Mallory and her sister living unremarkable lives. Mallory finds she is pregnant as the news stories come faster and inexplicable events creep ever closer to their Detroit home. The flashback chapters depict a world falling apart, first slowly and then with extreme rapidity. We follow Mallory as she tries to find refuge with others, life in a new house, pregnancy waxing as we know that time in a this cooperative house with support and help are waning. As we move ever closer to the unknown catastrophe that leaves her alone. The story is well-balanced and beautifully crafted, melancholy and frightening, suspenseful and heart-breaking. Well worth the time, though you may find it difficult to gaze out a window while doing so.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Holy damn WOW!

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.

34 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

No idea what the hype is about.

What disappointed you about Bird Box?

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.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Currently listening to Breakfast of Champions.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Nothing specific--just a "meh" performance.

What character would you cut from Bird Box?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

30 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Don't fall for the hype

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?

31 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling

couldn't stop listening, The Birdbox is so very different than any Apocalypse you've ever read. I enjoyed it till the end and than never wanted it to end. I would like to hear how the characters handle their new life and new world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Eerie yet compelling story

The story kept me listening, waiting, hoping...I enjoyed the narrator's voice. Creepy story, very good!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Keeps you guessing

I usually stay away from "scary" books but this was downright enthralling. I couldn't wait for the work day to end so I could listen on my way home.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

couldn't stop listening all day and night straight

my first audible book for a 7 hour drive and man what a fantastic book. very gripping, listened until 3 o'clock in the morning because I couldn't sleep until I knew what happened!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Do yourself a favor and listen to this book!

Suspenseful & terrifying! I loved it, couldn't stop listening. Had me on the edge of my seat!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful