Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

our minds have ceilings, Malorie...
these things...
they are beyond it…
higher than it…
out of reach…
out of--


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Whatever you do DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES!!

Malorie has just confirmed she is pregnant the very day that people begin killing themselves. News travels so fast now. Something can happen in Cairo. Someone can film it, load it to the internet, and within minutes of the event occurring someone in Des Moines is watching what happened. News, mostly tragic news, from around the world now impacts us instantaneously. The world, consequently, feels like a much more dangerous place than it did 50 years ago. So when this new phenomenon starts happening everyone knows about it very quickly. Terror escalates exponentially, and has reached a highly sustained level long before this catastrophe has contaminated the whole world.

”What kind of a man cowers when the end of the world comes? When his brothers are killing themselves, when the streets of suburban America are infested with murder...what kind of man hides behind blankets and blindfolds? The answer is MOST men. They were told they would go mad. So they go mad.”

It turns out everyone was right to be afraid.

There is something out there. If you see it... you go insane.

It goes through the world population like a pestilent storm. We have windows in our dwellings, in our work buildings,and in our schools because we WATCH the world. It only takes a moment, a need that can’t be ignored, one parting of a curtain, for us to see one of these creatures, and become deranged.

We do violent things to ourselves.The lizard inside us meant to fight when flight is not an option turns inward.

To live, we must reside in darkness, shrouded by blindfolds, tucked in dwellings behind blanketed windows. It is maddening to have our world reduced to so little.

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So what are these creatures and do they know what they do to us?

After Malorie’s sister Shannon kills herself with a pair of scissors, Malorie is all alone. Some kook has been offering sanctuary at his house in newspaper ads when this manifestation first started to appear. Suddenly, with her changed circumstances, the kook becomes her best option.

The kook is dead, but the people he sheltered are still alive.

Tom and Jules are the alpha males who take chances, range the farthest away, blindfolded and with sticks to guide them, to find necessary supplies. Don is the weakest, the one that has found it hardest to adjust. He is also the most cynical.

”They’ll eventually get us, Don said. There’s no reason to think otherwise. It’s end times, people. And if it’s a matter of a creature our brains are incapable of comprehending, then we deserve it. I always assumed the end would come because of our own stupidity.”

For a few blissful months Malorie can feel reasonably safe nestled in the routine of this small group of survivors. Meanwhile her tummy is getting rounder.

Then Gary arrives. He whispers things to Don. Like any good charlatan he can pick the most vulnerable out of a crowd. He can sense their doubts before he ever hears them express them..

Gary thinks he is immune.

Which begs the question, if the bindings that keep our minds anchored in sanity have long been shorn away can the creatures do anymore damage?

There are two time lines at play in this book. One is during the few months when Malorie is with the sanctuary group. The other is four years later when she is raising two children that have never seen...well...anything beyond the cramped world of one house.

”The same colors. The same colors. The same colors for years. YEARS. Are you prepared? And what scares you more? The creatures or yourself, as the memories of a million sights and colors come flooding toward you? What scares you more?

Josh Malerman does a fantastic job building the suspense, allowing the tension to stretch nerves to the breaking point. Information is opaque. He doesn’t cheat and give the reader information before the characters figure something out. I kept thinking of the movie Monsters from 2010. There are monsters; and yet, we are not allowed to see them. We hear them. We see the reactions of the characters, and somehow the terror is more acute when our brain does not have a shape, an entity to project our fear onto. Our mounting terror is allowed to gallop unrestrained, and each of us conjures our own version of a terrifying specter.

”You add the details, she thinks. It’s your idea of what they look like, and details are added to a body and a shape that you have no concept of. To a face that might have no face at all.”

Malerman has created a dystopia that will play on all your fears and will stir up all your insecurities. You will question whether you can live in a world where one glimpse of a sun dappled street might cost you your life. Highly recommended for those that like books that will cost them some sleep.

As a companion volume read Blindness by Jose Saramago

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