My Thoughts on Bird Box
It is time for my review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman. To start things off, I need to let you all know that Bird Box took me a couple tries to get through. On my first attempt, I gave up only a few chapters in. It may have been my mood, but terseness of the chapters and the writing style wasn’t doing it for me. Then I signed up for a writing class, and Bird Box is on the reading list. This meant I had no choice but to give it another try.
On my second read the frenetic pacing didn’t bother me. I thought it felt more like a best selling thriller than something I usually find in the horror genre. This is part of what makes the work stand out in the genre. But, for me, the fast pace worked against it. My favorite horror reads are the slow burns, like The Fisherman by John Langan or We Have Always Live in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
But there is something about Bird Box. Something about this story elevates it to level of ‘cultural phenomenon’. But what is it?
Even before the movie, Bird Box was buzzing within the horror community. It’d definitely hit my radar before I’d even heard a film was in the works.
So, what is the secret sauce?
Well, I think it has a lot to do with the ‘thriller-ness’ of Bird Box. The fast pacing and cliff hangers at the end of most chapters work to keep the attention of more than just the average reader. But there is also the monsters: something so horrible to look at, that when you do you become murderously insane. I imagine many readers are sucked into the story thirsting to know what these monsters look like. (spoiler: and those readers leave the book a little disappointed. This is another thing that makes this book stand out. Mr. Malerman never shows us the monster. And I’m glad he doesn’t, because whatever I have dreamed up in my own demented mind will be deflated by whatever the author decides to show me.)
There is also something that Bird Box has that most thrillers do not: good characterization. Malery, the main character, is a complex individual who we feel sympathy for throughout. It really is amazing watching her grow as a person (and as a parent) as the horrors of the world come at her.
No discussion of Bird Box is complete without mentioning the movie. The movie helped skyrocket Bird Box to wide public consumption. The movie was good, but, just like most novel based movies, the book was better. Unfortunately, I think I would’ve enjoyed the movie more if I’d not read the book first. For the movie they added new characters, shuffled things around a bit character-wise and plot-wise, and changed a climatic scene involving Malorie and the kids. (Though the change to the climatic scene was very effective, I dare say, that it was even stronger than the same scene in the book. The stakes were so much higher here in the movie than in the book.)
The most egregious change was the damned sex scene. It was not in the book. It felt like something the producers just added for a bit of sex appeal. ‘It’s the end of the world, so we should have sex’ seems ridiculously cliche.
In conclusion! Just read the book. It’s a fun read with emotional ups and downs, thrills, chills, and interesting characters (some of whom may be more horrid than the monsters outside.) I highly recommend picking up a copy. You won’t be disappointed.
I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars.