Bird Box by Josh Malerman (Ecco, May 13th, 2014)-When Malorie discovers that she’s pregnant, it’s also the start of something else, something big, something terrible. Online people are calling it “the Problem”, and it starts when people see something, but no one knows what it is. No one lives to tell. People are going mad and committing suicide in horrible ways, even attacking others. Malorie and her sister, Shannon, think for sure that whatever it is will be contained, but soon they start doing what everyone else does, tacking blankets and wood over their windows to shut themselves of from outside, where something is causing such chaos. When Shannon finally succumbs to the unknown threat, Malorie is suddenly, terrifyingly alone. When she sees classified ad of survivors welcoming strangers into their home, Malorie decides to try to make it there, and she does. When she arrives she meets the enigmatic Tom and the rest of his small group, who do their very best to make her feel welcome, and as she gets closer and closer to the birth of her child, she begins to care for this little group who she now calls her friends. However, the status quo eventually changes, and what’s outside may not be the thing that they should fear the most.
Good grief, this book. Ok, so, there’s something outside that is causing people to go mad and commit suicide. Because of this, our intrepid little group has to develop ways to do just about everything that requires going outside blindfolded. This means getting back and forth to and from the well, food runs (they’ve got enough food for a while, but it won’t last forever), you get the picture. I’ll tell you, never has a short trip to and from a damn well been so terrifying. The narrative goes back and forth from Malorie’s time with Tim and the group, until her child’s birth, and to four years later, when she attempts to make a long trip down a nearby river for a chance at sanctuary. BLINDFOLDED. I mentioned that, right?
What Josh Malerman does here can’t be easy. He manages to take this idea of a thing, and make it the scariest thing going. Seriously, this is one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of the scaries. The author relies on your imagination to fill in the blanks, and it’s very, very effective. It’s like the thing you think you see, or think you see, out of the corner of your eye, but it darts back into the shadows as soon as you try to face it head on. There is a pervasive sense of pure dread that pretty much spans the whole of this book, and Malorie’s determination to survive, and not only survive, but teach her kids to survive, is nothing short of miraculous. As dark as things get, though, and they do get pretty dark, there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel, if Malorie can only survive long enough to get there. I read this in one sitting, and can’t recommend it highly enough. What a wonderful, horrifying debut. I can’t wait to see what this author gives us next.