Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box is like a classic zombie apocalypse story with an interesting twist: instead of monsters destroying the world, humans go mad and kill each other upon seeing something outside. The problem is, no one knows what it is that these people see, so the few survivors that are left shut themselves indoors and only travel outside with a blindfold.

It’s a bit like A Quiet Place, but with a focus on sight instead of sound.

The story takes place in a suburban town in southeast Michigan, and most of this is set within the confines of a single house. As with many horror/suspense stories, the unknown parts of the setting are just as powerful as the known. There’s an atmosphere of fear and dread throughout the entire story, even when there isn’t much happening.

Malorie is just trying to survive and get her kids to safety. It’s not easy raising children in a world where they can never look outside. Their entire world is limited to a single house, and Malorie has trained them since birth to have nearly superhuman hearing.

The story is split into two timelines. In the current timeline, Malorie is finally trying to escape her house to a better place. The only problem is that the better place is 20 miles downriver, and she has to navigate a post-apocalyptic world with her kids while blindfolded.

In the past timeline, Malorie learns she is pregnant just as news stories start to break about people going crazy and killing each other in horrific ways. She has to deal with the downfall of society and try to survive with the few sane people that remain.

Bird Box excels at creating a disturbing atmosphere. Every time someone has to go outside blind, even the most normal things are ominous. There’s also some graphic and disturbing violence.

It’s a little jarring when the narrative jumps back and forth in time, but this allows for certain plot points to be revealed in a more interesting way and maintains some mystery. Since many people go insane in this world, the nonlinear plot calls into question the sanity of the POV character at times.

You might enjoy this if you like your horror to focus on the unknown and the nature of human beings rather than the supernatural or high-intensity thrills. If you prefer a diverse and complex cast of characters, you might be disappointed. Malerman focused on nailing the atmosphere and tone of the book and only really fleshed out the main character and a couple of side characters. This is also not a book in which a lot happens, similar to scary movies where much of your fear comes from your own imagination.

Overall, this was a great book. I don’t read much horror but I enjoyed this a lot. Even better, it’s being released as a Netflix movie starring Sandra Bullock on December 21!

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