The Bird Box | Josh Malerman | Rougeski Review

Don't Open Your Eyes

The Bird Box

The Bird Box by Josh Malerman is much more than a horror story; it is a cryptogram, an occult metaphor for whatever it is that stalks us, not just as individuals, but as a nation, or a species.  What is that monstrous thing that frightens humanity so profoundly that most fear to face it?

As in The Day of the Triffids, The Bird Box focuses around the inability to see what is approaching, either through blindness or fear.  In The Bird Box, hordes of nebular creatures walk the earth.  One look at them causes insanity which quickly leads to violence and suicide.  Malerman wisely avoids revealing details on the creatures.  To do so would destroy the power of their significance.

The tale opens with Malorie, a woman with two children who fights to survive in this apocalyptic America.  Boy and girl; the children have not yet been given names.  Since they have spent their first four tender years of life basically locked in a house, a wooden box, it could be said that they have not yet officially come into the world, so a naming would be premature.  On the other hand, perhaps they have no names because they hold such a tenuous grip on life that their loss would be felt less profoundly if they remain unnamed, illusory as are the deadly invaders.  A group of diverse individuals who live in a house with blacked out windows take Malorie in and protect her.  Tom takes special interest in her survival.  He stands as an icon of loyalty, courage, and sanity.  Another one of the group also stands out.  He appears to be immune to the power of the creatures.  He has seen them but did not commit suicide.  Perhaps his version of insanity does not focus on self-hate but instead turns that emotion into hate for others.

Since the creatures appeared, Malory has focused only on survival and later on finding a safe haven for the children. She has conditioned them to see with their ears. Their ability to hear with hyper ability might allow them to function in a world where vision is lethal, but hearing is safe. They can hear a smile, sadness, and fear. Wearing blindfolds, Malorie and the children feel their way to a river, climb into a row boat, and travel blindly along the waterway in search of promised sanctuary.

As soon as they board the boat, the story line leaps to the past. Readers learn of the appearance of the creatures and a bit of Malorie’s non-linear backstory. Although both trajectories are written in present tense, chapters bounce back and forth between the present journey and the past where Malorie lived with a group of other stranded survivors. The temporal switches also make the journey seem longer without becoming tedious. As the journey continues, the flashbacks occur more often and are less organized. This brilliant tactic not only serves to add complexity to the plot, but it also serves to emphasize the danger and amplify the tension.

Filled with fear of what may lurk at the next turn of the river, Malorie keeps rowing, haunted by Tom’s prophetic warning: You are going to have to open your eyes.

The moment between deciding to open your eyes and then actually doing it is as scary a thing as there is in the new world.

The setting is well described. Visions of black windows will haunt readers. When the characters don their black blinders, readers will experience the setting as if they are a there—only using their ears and fumbling through darkness infested with madness.

The author does overwrite in an effort to reach for some ethereal form of high literature. Instead, he writes in common language. This offers the text the ability to connect with readers at a basic level, enabling the intimacy of shared fear. Although the present tense is an unpopular choice of readers, it works well in this instance by locking readers into the moment, breathless. Malerman manipulates meaningful archetypical symbols to create a powerful subtext. Blindfolds. Captive Birds. And perhaps most importantly, crossing a river that often stands for a symbolic death and rebirth.

The Bird Box can be enjoyed by readers who are enthralled be the power of fear, hope, confusion, brotherhood, love, and all the things that make us human and worthy of existence. Readers should find a time when they can hunker down and read the entire book at one sitting. Join Malorie and the children on their harrowing, sightless journey through total darkness where every sound could signify the approach of madness.

The Bird Box comes highly recommended.

The moment between deciding to open your eyes and then actually doing it is as scary a thing as there is in the new world.

he Bird Box by Josh Malerman is much more than a horror story; it is a cryptogram, an occult metaphor for whatever it is that stalks us, not just as individuals, but as a nation, or a species.  What is that monstrous thing that frightens humanity so profoundly that most fear to face it?

As in The Day of the Triffids, The Bird Box focuses around the inability to see what is approaching, either through blindness or fear.  In The Bird Box, hordes of nebular creatures walk the earth.  One look at them causes insanity which quickly leads to violence and suicide.  Malerman wisely avoids revealing details on the creatures.  To do so would destroy the power of their significance.

The tale opens with Malorie, a woman with two children who fights to survive in this apocalyptic America.  Boy and girl; the children have not yet been given names.  Since they have spent their first four tender years of life basically locked in a house, a wooden box, it could be said that they have not yet officially come into the world, so a naming would be premature.  On the other hand, perhaps they have no names because they hold such a tenuous grip on life that their loss would be felt less profoundly if they remain unnamed, illusory as are the deadly invaders.  A group of diverse individuals who live in a house with blacked out windows take Malorie in and protect her.  Tom takes special interest in her survival.  He stands as an icon of loyalty, courage, and sanity.  Another one of the group also stands out.  He appears to be immune to the power of the creatures.  He has seen them but did not commit suicide.  Perhaps his version of insanity does not focus on self-hate but instead turns that emotion into hate for others

Since the creatures appeared, Malory has focused only on survival and later on finding a safe haven for the children.  She has conditioned them to see with their ears.  Their ability to hear with hyper ability might allow them to function in a world where vision is lethal, but hearing is safe.  They can hear a smile, sadness, and fear.  Wearing blindfolds, Malorie and the children feel their way to a river, climb into a row boat, and travel blindly along the waterway in search of promised sanctuary.

As soon as they board the boat, the story line leaps to the past.  Readers learn of the appearance of the creatures and a bit of Malorie’s non-linear backstory.  Although both trajectories are written in present tense, chapters bounce back and forth between the present journey and the past where Malorie lived with a group of other stranded survivors.  The temporal switches also make the journey seem longer without becoming tedious.  As the journey continues, the flashbacks occur more often and are less organized.  This brilliant tactic not only serves to add complexity to the plot, but it also serves to emphasize the danger and amplify the tension.

Filled with fear of what may lurk at the next turn of the river, Malorie keeps rowing, haunted by Tom’s prophetic warning:

You are going to have to open your eyes

The setting is well described.  Visions of black windows will haunt readers.  When the characters don their black blinders, readers will experience the setting as if they are a there—only using their ears and fumbling through darkness infested with madness.

The author does overwrite in an effort to reach for some ethereal form of high literature.  Instead, he writes in common language.  This offers the text the ability to connect with readers at a basic level, enabling the intimacy of shared fear.  Although the present tense is an unpopular choice of readers, it works well in this instance by locking readers into the moment, breathless.  Malerman manipulates meaningful archetypical symbols to create a powerful subtext.  Blindfolds.  Captive Birds.  And perhaps most importantly, crossing a river that often stands for a symbolic death and rebirth.

The Bird Box can be enjoyed by readers who are enthralled be the power of fear, hope, confusion, brotherhood, love, and all the things that make us human and worthy of existence.  Readers should find a time when they can hunker down and read the entire book at one sitting.  Join Malorie and the children on their harrowing, sightless journey through total darkness where every sound could signify the approach of madness.

The Bird Box comes highly recommended.

The Bird Box by Josh Malerman is much more than a horror story; it is a cryptogram, an occult metaphor for whatever it is that stalks us, not just as individuals, but as a nation, or a species.  What is that monstrous thing that frightens humanity so profoundly that most fear to face it? As in The Day of the Triffids, The Bird Box focuses around the inability to see what is approaching, either through blindness or fear.  In The Bird Box, hordes of nebular creatures walk the earth.  One look at them causes insanity which quickly leads to violence…
Alphonse Loves It.

The Bird Box

Plot
Characters
Complexity
Setting
Setting
Originality

Alphonse Loves It.

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