It’s hard to avoid the Bird Box craze these days. Ever since Netflix dropped its new movie based on the book by Josh Malerman, memes of a blindfolded Sandra Bullock have taken over my social networking feeds. People (in the real world) are even taking a challenge by getting into their cars and driving blind on public roads.
Thrillers are not my typical fair. I like them in small doses and far between. But, Amazon had a sale. The book was cheap. And, folks seem to love the book. So, I was game. I needed a breather between heavy doses of epic fantasy anyway.
Malerman did not disappoint. I spent part of Saturday night wading through the back yard with my high-beam flashlight as I gathered the remaining cats for bedtime. With each step, I almost felt something move out of the corner of my eye. I’m fairly certain I scanned every inch of the yard for some critter. In my mind, it was one of the local possums searching for food, but I had to be sure. The thing that plagued me was that I never saw a possum. Or anything. That’s what made the book so good. It’s the unknown, the unseen that’s frightening.
Note to self: bring all the cats in for the night before reading thriller/horror books.
The story follows a woman named Malorie as the world experiences an apocalyptic event. Something is causing people to go crazy and commit suicide. All they really know is that it happens when people see something, creating a society of people who board up their homes and only go outside blindfolded. And, Malorie learns that she is pregnant when events first unfold.
The premise for the novel is genius. Not having the ability to see makes every decision more frightening. Simple things like going to the well to draw water or scavenge for canned food become all the more difficult. Will this be the day that I “see something” and kill myself?
The present day plot of the novel follows Malorie and two children, each four years old, as she takes them on a blind boat ride down a river. As they travel into the unknown, to some place that may possibly be their salvation, we get flashbacks of the previous years of her life. We see her grow from a woman who needs help to survive into someone who must face her fears and take charge for the sake of the children.
One of the things that bothered me the most about the book is that the secondary characters were not as fleshed out as they should’ve been. Aside from a few bits and pieces about Tom, the de facto leader of a group Malorie joins, we never learn much about what drives these people outside of survival. And, when you stay with a group for any length of time, you’d think you’d learn more about their backgrounds. Perhaps this is a good thing in some ways because the book was focused on maintaining a mood surrounding the unknown throughout.
The second issue I had was the wrap-up. Without getting into spoilers, I just wanted to add that I wanted a bit more. I liked how the story played out otherwise.
As a thriller, the writing is as solid as it gets. Malerman kept me on edge throughout the entire read. It won’t change your life or have you questioning the nature of man. But, it’s a nice respite from longer works. Most important, it gave me the jitters for a bit.