Something horrifying – beyond horrifying. A glimpse and your mind unhinges. You attack, rabidly, indiscriminately, destroying everything, even those you once loved. And in your uncontrollable frenzy, you will finish the job on yourself. That is the horror in Josh Malerman’s Bird Box.
But first, there is the woman, gaunt standing in the kitchen, thinking. She peers through her window at the heavy fog outside. Will it give her and her two young children the cover they need to escape the abandoned house they have lived in, alone, for 4 years? Will the fog last? They need the cover to go 20 miles downriver in a rowboat to find safety. And even in the fog, they must go blindfolded to escape the thing that is following them, the thing they should not – must not – see.
Bird Box deftly snaps between present and past to tell this tale of survival against psychological and physical terror. It flashes back to when Malorie, pregnant with her first child, and Malorie’s sister hear the initial reports of these occurrences, originally termed as The Russia Report due to sightings there, begin being reported. Cut to a man, driving. The passenger, his friend, asks him to pull over, and when the car has stopped he rips the driver’s lips off with his fingernails. Cut to a woman dispassionately burying her children – alive – before slitting her wrist with shards of broken dishes. Two elderly sisters out on a leisurely walk start biting people. They mutilate a friend who tries to stop them.
Before every terrifying turn, the attackers had seen something that seems to have set them off. But what?
A national curfew is ordered. People are instructed to blacken their windows, lock their doors, stay inside. But a siege is a siege, and there are cracks in the barricades. Malorie’s sister is found dead in the bathtub, eyes wide open, a scissors sticking out of her chest.
Pregnant Malorie runs and comes across a house, already occupied by Tom, a kindly former teacher, Jules, seemingly second-in-charge, Felix, a shivering remnant of a man, Cheryl, a hard as nails survivor, and Don, an ambivalent presence. They agree to let her live with them. Supplies of food and water are stored in the basement but these are finite, and blindfolds must be worn when they go out to forage.
They are joined by two more people looking for safety, sweet Olympia, who is also pregnant, and Gary. Gary tells the story of having fled the safe house he was in after one of his housemates, a man named Frank, decided that all the killings were simply psychosomatic reactions and tore down the curtains.
Malorie is safe with this band. But is there evidence that not everyone is who they seem to be?
Josh Malerman is a singer/songwriter for the Detroit band High Strung. His Bird Box was recently made into a film starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich that is available on Netflix. Paintings by artist Lily Morris, who was recently interviewed by The Literary Chick, will be featured in the film. The Literary Chick’s Holy Trinity of Books, Music, and Art are all here for this one, how can you go wrong?