What if the most dangerous thing you could do was to look outside? This question is the premise of Bird Box, a horror novel by Josh Malerman. I’ve been on a real horror kick lately and am loving getting back in to the genre. This book in particular was such a new and unique example of the genre for me, and it reminded me just how much is out there that I haven’t read yet. Bird Box blends elements of horror, thriller, post-apocalyptic survival, and sci-fi/fantasy. It takes the fear of the unseen to a whole new level: the fear of seeing!
Malorie lives in a world that has become a nightmare. It began slowly, shortly after she first moved in with her sister. Strange stories show up on the news of people going mad and killing themselves and others after “seeing something” outside. Malorie brushes it off, but the occurrences begin to spread with alarming frequency. Soon everyone is afraid to look outside. They go about blindfolded, or caged up in dark houses with covered windows. Even just a peek outside can be deadly.
Around the time that the strange murders and suicides first begin, Malorie also discovers that she is pregnant. As the horrors unfold, Malorie’s one goal is to keep her child alive.
The story alternates between the current timeline when Malorie’s children are four years old and flashbacks to when it all first began. As bits of the past and the present begin to fit together like puzzle pieces, the story slowly emerges. The pacing is agonizingly slow, but that’s part of the horror. You’ll spend most of this story tensed up in suspense and dread.
I found listening to this story on audiobook to be particularly fitting. Much of the focus of the story is on the concept of listening—Malorie trains her children from birth to hone their ability to understand the world through sound, as the sense of sight has become dangerous to rely on. In the sections of the book that take place in the present, the characters spend almost the entire time blindfolded. Experiencing this story through sound rather than sight makes it just that much more immersive. Read it in the dark with your eyes closed, and you’ll be afraid to open them again!