possible oblique spoilers for Bird Box.
i wouldn’t have thought that Bird Box needed a sequel six years later (and 2 years after the disappointing—YEAH, I SAID IT—netflix adaptation), but here we are and here it is and honestly? i thought it was great. when i first read Bird Box, the premise blew me away; answering the question, “what if lovecraft was actually scary?” by centering a horror novel around an unfaaathomable beastie, or species of beastie, that broke the mind, driving anyone who looked even indirectly at one into an uncontrollable homicidal and suicidal frenzy, causing…everything that happened in Bird Box.
this picks up seventeen years later, where survivors are still living behind closed eyes so they don’t see any creatures, always at risk of being berserker-murdered by someone else’s having seen a creature.
what breaks MY mind to think about it is that, in a situation like this, the threat could have passed and you would have NO WAY OF KNOWING. there you’d be, long after all the creatures had died or moved on, blindfolded and stumbling through what remained of the world making life harder for yourself for no reason. ‘course, you could also be here in this sequel, more than a decade after the creatures appeared and think “surely i am safe by now,” and risk a peek and OH NOOOOO!
i would not last very long at all, with my poor sense of time, fear of the dark and dislike of vulnerability. it would be the biggest fomo of all; i’d be convinced that i was the only person still blindfolded whilst everyone else in the world was frolicking around unencumbered, either laughing silently at me behind their hands while they looted all the good shit or creeping up behind me creeping up behind me creeping up behind me NO, BLINDFOLD OFF NOW!
ANYWAY, BACK TO BOOK
people more stalwart and patient than i am have adapted to living alongside these monsters—whose presence can be sensed if not seen—but all things evolve, and since the creatures have been thriving and increasing in number all these years, it’s a bit concerning.
and no one is more concerned about the creatures than malorie.
after fleeing the place they ended up at the end of Bird Box under spectacularly unpleasant circumstances, malorie and her children have spent the past ten years living quietly and simply in an isolated farmhouse, where she has become the very incarnation of the concept of surviving without living, or in her words—having become a living blindfold; her days entirely consumed by establishing routines and rules to protect herself and the children, her safety measures increasing rather than relaxing over the years.
olympia and tom are now teenagers, and they’ve never lived in a world that was safe enough to actually see. olympia’s understanding of human behavior and how the world used to be has come from novels, while tom is more interested in the future, restless with longing to be somewhere else, somewhere people are making scientific advancements and finding ways to live in—and even look at—this monsterfilled world. he’s a teenager, so he knows everything, and he’s a rebellious little scamp, impatient with his mother’s overcautious paranoia and her strangling apronstrings.
fortunately, something occurs that gives them all the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things. unfortunately, THE WORLD IS FILLED WITH MONSTERS.
it’s a smart and shivery horror novel, and re-reading it now in mid-pandemic isolation has added an extra level of horror onto the situation for me, the experience of watching a global health crisis unfold and fundamentally change the way people live; keeping them apart, limiting their movements, sacrificing their freedom—swap out a blindfold for a surgical mask and we’re all malorie; threatened by some new monster we don’t know how to stop (yet), not knowing how long it will last, how much damage it will do, when its next wave will hit and what fresh hells that will bring. and out there, there’re the same range of precautions and reactions—some people aren’t even wearing gloves while others are out walking their dogs in full-on gas masks with layers of plastic trash bags over the rest of them and some people have gone mad and are yelling with anachronistic fury at actors on the teevee screen, “STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE! STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER! DON’T GO OUTSIDE, YOU FOOL!” where a and c are me.
but here’s the thing—josh malerman created the hellscape of Bird Box and ended it on a
positive cautiously optimistic note. and this sequel balances the monster-horror with themes of family and future and progress and hope and *spoiler alert* it does not end in complete soul-crushing despair.
so maybe we’ll get through this.
stay cautiously optimistic with me.
well, look at this!
wait, no—i mean DON’T look at this. AAAAAAAAHHHHH COVER YOUR DAMN EYES!!!!