this is an incredibly original horror/psychological suspense novel that reminds us that with all great horror, the unseen is so much more terrifying than the seen. this is why japanese horror movies are so effective. they don’t rely on graphic special effects to build the suspense, and the way they manipulate shadows, sounds, and background space creates an unparalleled atmosphere that leaves a more lasting, haunting impression than “crazy chainsaw-toting psychopath” splatter films. which, don’t get me wrong, are also super-entertaining.
Bird Box takes place after an eerie phenomenon begins to occur on a global scale. starting in russia, moving to alaska, and eventually making its way to “a nice suburb of Detroit” where our story picks up, people begin to see…something. no one knows what this “something” is, because once it has been seen, it drives people to madness and suicide, frequently with some homicides along the way. people begin boarding up their windows, blackening their windshields, and staying away from other people. there is no way of knowing what this “something” wants, where it came from, what form it takes, or what the future of humanity will be.
malorie is living in a house with two children, both only four years old. from the time of their birth, she has been training “boy” and “girl” to live in this new world, making them wear blindfolds outside and putting them through rigorous tests to train them until they have the preternatural hearing of bats. all this preparation is for the day they will finally leave the house and try to find others, to find a safer place to live.
the story is told in alternating chapters between malorie “now” and malorie at the beginning of the event, finding out she is pregnant just as the world begins to collapse. we don’t learn much about the origin of the event, but we do get to witness how people respond to the experience, which for me and my survival bent is book-gold. this book does tension and people-thrown-into-isolated-community so, so well. under the dome, take notes.
how terrifying is it to not be able to see?? to hear a noise right behind you and not know what it is?? to leave a safe house to forage for food and not be certain you will ever find your way back?? to drive a car blindfolded through corpse-studded roads and not know if you will hit a pole or fall into a ditch?? to determine what is danger and what is just a leaf falling?
this is the best kind of building, creeping horror, and the writing is perfectly suited to the story. it is maddening at times when you want to be able to “see” what is happening, but you are at the mercy of the characters’ limited vision. impeccably done.
and that attic scene?? holy shit – that was so freaking intense.
i still have a handful of minor questions (and one very major one) but they don’t detract from my overall positive impression of the book. the premise alone gives it an edge over most horror novels, because it has been a long time since i have come across anything “new” in that genre, and you cannot beat the killer, page-turning suspense.
debut novel from a musician?? quit your day job, friend.