Josh Malerman’s debut novel, Bird Box, made a strong impression. Gaining positive critical acclaim, it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2015. The novel creates a haunting atmosphere with lush descriptions of a bleak and dark world.
In Bird Box, the sudden appearance of new and mysterious creatures have thrown the world into turmoil. Anyone who sees one will go horrifically crazy, causing deadly harm to themselves and others. No one knows how many creatures there are, what they look like, or what they are capable of. But they’re everywhere.
A small group of survivors tries to cope with this new danger by stockpiling supplies and covering all the windows and doors. Every blindfolded step outside is a hazard – not knowing what they could run into, or who. We follow the story through the eyes of Malorie, one of the young housemates, who discovers she is pregnant just as the world begins to change.
Years later, Malorie must venture down a river with her two small children, blindfolded and vulnerable, in search of a safe haven. The chapters alternate between the present journey and the past story of how Malorie found herself alone, hopeless, and terrified.
Bird Box relies on describing sounds, smells, and feelings to communicate the horror and build the atmosphere. The most unnerving scenes are ones in which Malorie cannot actually see what is happening. Malerman does a marvelous job of conveying Malorie’s fear to the reader. Her sense-deprived confusion is palpable and effective.
A film adaptation is supposedly in the works, to be directed by Andy Muschietti. Muschietti proved himself a capable director with 2013’s Mama and has the attention of audiences with his upcoming adaptation of It. I’m curious to see how he might adapt Bird Box into a film, using a visual medium for a book that relies on the lack of sight to build tension.
Bird Box challenges you to create the monster, and it’s a strong choice for the novel. The creatures are supposedly beyond comprehension, so any description would not be nearly as satisfying.
Malerman uses the fear of the unknown to tickle our curiosity and tighten our nerves. Sometimes it’s more frightening when we are forced to wonder what could be lurking out there, and just how close it is to touching you.