Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: BIRD BOX - Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman

I read the back cover synopsis and ordered a copy of the book BIRD BOX. Loved the idea that it was a debut novel from a writer I'd never heard of, and became more anxious for the arrival of my paperback.

If I'd had the time, I would have/could have read the taut 260 page novel in one sitting. You hear all the time about the "book I couldn't put down." I've had a few in my day. A few. BIRD BOX has been added to list. I didn't want to put this book down.

Malorie is a single mother. She has a boy and a girl. They are on their own.

That's it. That's where normal ends when it comes to synopsis. Everything else Malerman does is unique, twisted, and compellingly original.

Malorie is a single mother. She has a boy and a girl. They are on their own. Holed up in a house, all of the windows are covered. The place is rigged with speakers to amplify whenever something is outside. It's been four and a half years since Malorie has seen another person. The kids are four and a half years old. It has been almost five years since Malorie has opened her eyes outside.

No one opens their eyes anymore. Not outside. They don't look through windows. They can't. It's too dangerous. Malorie raised her kids to adapt to darkness. They're blindfolded most of the time, just like she is. She wants them to know how to identify sounds. All kinds of sounds.

She has a plan. It is reckless. It could get her killed. It might get her kids killed. However, the time has come, and supplies are running out. It is as good a time as any, and she knows it might have been fear more than anything that has kept her in one place anyway.

She wakes the kids and tells them that today is the day. Blindfolded, they leave the house and make their way to the river. Once on the boat, they have to navigate the water. Malorie is depending on the training the kids received. She wants their ears to be her eyes. Otherwise, the three of them are dead…

Something caused the crazy apocalypse. The news reports that came in suggested people "saw" something, went crazy, and either killed others and then themselves, or just killed themselves. Everyone started wearing blindfolds. Covering windows. No one still alive knows for sure what caused the insanity. No one still alive knows when it will be okay to remove the blindfolds. Maybe never.

Josh Malerman's novel, BIRD BOX, is non stop intensity. It is told in present tense, third person -- which worked wonderfully. Through gripping flashbacks we get the backstory, as well as the journey Malorie, the boy, and the girl, take down the river toward some unknown destination.

It comes together at the end. Questions get answered (not all!). And you realize that for the last one hundred pages you sat forward reading the book, not breathing. I kept holding my breath, and gasping. The climax is explosive, and chilling. The end is satisfyingly depressing, with a splash of hope. This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time. I already want to read it again.

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series
Wizard’s Rise
Wizard’s War
Queens of Osiris