Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Bird Box

Read 11/6/14 - 11/9/14
5 Stars - The Next Best "it's the unseen, the unknown, that makes this a downright scary read" Book
Pages: 262
Publisher: Ecco
Released: January 2014

The world was slowing going mad. The news was reporting it one story at a time at first. These people, in countries far from here, they just lost it, murdered their families then killed themselves. And then, within just a few hours, another country, this one closer to home, where another nutter buries their children alive and then takes their own life. Pretty soon, the brutal  murder/suicides are happening everywhere. Now they're reporting that these people SAW something before they lost their minds. But no one's survived SEEING whatever it is long enough to tell people what it is they SAW.

So, naturally, people start taking precautions. Whatever is it, it's outside and it's moving or multiplying, and people can't risk accidentally SEEING it, no one's SEEN it and survived, so they shade their eyes as they run out and stock up on groceries, eventually shutting themselves in - hanging quilts and blankets over the windows, staying indoors for as long as possible, blindfolding themselves whenever they absolutely must venture out. There is no way they are going to lay eyes on whatever lies in wait out there.

When a report of the insanity hits close to their parent's home, when someone in their town puts up an ad declaring his home a sanctuary for those who need it, Malorie and her sister start going through the same motions for preparation. Only Shannon slips up and SEES one, ultimately offing herself in the bathroom with a pair of scissors, leaving poor pregnant Malorie all alone, with whatever it is OUTSIDE, with only the walls of the house between her and it. Malorie freaks out. She jumps into her car, and drives with her eyes closed - opening them only long enough to get her bearings and check out the road signs - and slowly makes her way to the sanctuary.

But wait a moment. I need to back up. Because the book doesn't begin there. The book, it actually begins with Malorie and her two children. It's been four years since the insanity first struck and her children have never SEEN the outside. Sure, she's brought some of the outside IN, but they've never seen the sky, the lawn, the river that runs behind the back of the house. The windows are still boarded and the things are still out there. Electricity, TV, Radio, the internet, it's all been dead for so long. She's been training her children to see with their ears, listening, hearing, understanding the world without the aid of their blindfolded eyes, because she's been preparing, and now, after all of these years, it's finally time for them to leave the safety of this house, her compromised sanctuary. It's time for her children, who were raised to sense subtle, invisible changes, who were taught how to see the world only through the lens of sound, its time for them to help her escape.

Josh Malerman's Bird Box is one intense, suspenseful page turner. It plays on all of our irrational fears - our fear of the dark, of the unknown, of death and dying, of what we can't see - while also playing on our vanities - the need to know what is going on, to watch, to see, to understand. Imagine this. Imagine what it must be like to be able to see, but to know that SEEING could cause you to go mad, go nuts, get all murdery and die. Imagine what it must be like to live inside a house, knowing you can simply peek behind the blinds or lift the corner of the blindfold, but to be too terrified to take that chance. To know that the choice to look could bring about your very death. Can you imagine how horrifically tempting that must be? How nerve wracking? How do these people NEVER peek?! How does the curiosity never outweigh the fear?

I keep thinking of this leftover bag of halloween candy in the kitchen. Every day, I walk by it a hundred times, and every time I walk by it, even if I don't look at it, even if I'm not thinking about it when I walk in there, every time I walk by it I suddenly have the urge to grab a piece of chocolate. And 99.9% of the time, once I've felt the urge, even if I've chosen at that very moment to walk by without grabbing one, within five minutes I'm back by the bag, pulling a piece out. I am weak. I am unable to stop myself from grabbing that god damn piece of candy, even though I'm not hungry, even though I know I should be watching what I eat, I still can't resist. HOW THE HELL DO THE PEOPLE IN THE BIRD BOX RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO PEEK?!?! I would totally peek. If I were determined to survive in that world, I would have to pay someone to cut my eyes out of my head with a mellon-ball scoop. Just knowing that something is out there somewhere, prowling around... it would get into my head and it would become the only thing I'd be able to think about until I looked. Fuck the monstercreaturethingies, just the thought of them and the battle I'd have to fight with myself to NOT LOOK would drive me mad. I'd be driven mad either way, so yeah, if I look at it that way, then I might as well fucking LOOK, right?!

So obviously, as I made my way through the initial confusion of the those first few pages, and the story line started to take shape, I thought wow, how cool. How interesting, and challenging, it must have been for Josh, as an author, to hinge his entire book on something the reader will never see. On something he has no intention of sharing with us and on the certainty that we would be driven on by our insatiable need to know. That hell-bent desire of his to keep us in the dark, to treat us like he's treated his characters, to never revel what is driving everyone mad, to feed into our fears and vanities, is what compelled me to keep reading.

A book that causes you to question every bump in the night, every knock at the door, every unseen breeze that tickles your skin, Bird Box puts its readers on high alert. While it might not invade your dreams in the way horror movies sometimes do, this cross-genre apocalyptic psychological horrorthriller grabs hold and  renders you incapable of putting it down. Clear your schedule before you crack this one open. You'll be up all night. I promise you that.

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