book recommendations dystopian fiction horror

Bird Box: Unseen Fears are the Greatest Fears

It took me a couple days to catch my breath after this one. Yes, I just read another horror book even though I said that I almost never read horror. In all honesty, I didn’t think I would actually finish this book. I thought I’d read a page or two to find out what all the fuss was about, think the book was stupid, and then move on to something else. But when the opening couple of pages start talking about children sleeping under chicken wire, how can you not keep reading???

Now for the background. Let’s just start with the Goodreads description, because it’s concise and spoiler-free:

Something is out there…

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motley group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. 

But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

In Bird Box, author Josh Malerman takes the scariest of all horror concepts, fear of the unknown, and pumps it full of raging steroids to make the whole book about this very thing. Not only does no one know what this “thing” is that is making everybody go violently mad, but they aren’t able to even look without risking their own sanity.

It would be so easy to find out. If she could just open her eyes for a moment she could see she was alone. She could see it was just a leaf. Nothing more. But she can’t.

In the hands of a talented writer, think of how far the creepiness factor can be taken just because no one can see what’s happening. Malerman does an excellent job writing scenes that make you keep turning the pages based on every sense but sight. Of course the whole book isn’t a bunch of people bumbling around in the dark. People can open their eyes as long as they’re safely inside with all windows completely covered, and as long as whatever’s outside doesn’t get in…

The story alternates between Malorie’s current predicament of trying to get her and her two children safely down a river blindfolded, and also into her past memories. With the past narrative, we follow the thread of Mallorie’s memories from the beginning of the world’s collapse, to her arrival at a safe house full of strangers just trying to make it, and to the birth of the children and the eventual unraveling of their insular little group. Which brings us to where she is now – just trying to get her and her children to safety.

In a world where you can’t open your eyes, isn’t a blindfold all you could ever hope for? We left because some people choose to wait for news and others make their own.

This is a tightly woven story. Things are always happening and the story moves along in a very satisfying way. At first I did not see how this whole thing could play out well in such a short span (305 pages), but Malerman manages to do it without glossing over anything. Nothing dragged and I finished the book completely satisfied with all questions answered. I don’t think I would even want to read such a horrifying book for more than 350 pages, so I’m very happy about this! My only complaint is that the climax was a bit unbelievable. You’ll know what I mean when you get there.

This is a debut book from a musician, so I’m jealous that Malerman got an extra ration of talent.

If you’re looking for a short, creepy thrill, I recommend Bird Box! As for me, I think I need a little hiatus from horror.

American expat in Taiwan, book lover, Mandarin language learner (on a good day), homeschooling mom to two boys, book blogger for fun.

2 thoughts on “Bird Box: Unseen Fears are the Greatest Fears”

    1. Thanks, Karen! I was surprised that I liked it. I think there must be a certain type of well-done (no senseless slashing) horror book that I like, and I’m going to keep my eyes open for those kind of books from now on.

Join the discussion!