Back in the summer when I finished Bird Box, the debut novel by Josh Malerman, I knew I had encountered a special book; not only one of the best I have read this year, but one of the best I have read in awhile.
You could feel it as you were reading. I rarely encounter a story as well crafted, with suspense, interesting characters, and an amazingly creative premise.
And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the library was inhaling and loving this taut and tense novel. From Youth to Adult Services, Circ staff to pages, employees all over the library were talking about how great this novel was.
So what was all the fuss about? Are you sure you can handle it?
Bird Box is a terrifying story set in a world where an unknown threat has killed off almost every person on earth. We don’t know what the threat is though because everyone who sees it kills themselves. So, the only way to protect yourself is to never open your eyes. EVER. Not even a peek people.
What this also means is that everyone who can narrate the novel also has never seen the threat, or else they wouldn’t be alive. They all just know that they cannot, under any circumstances, ever open their eyes.
The story opens by introducing us to a mother and her two young children who live alone in a house near the river. They are preparing to set out into this world of unknown horrors and pilot a boat down the river to a possible (but not guaranteed) place of salvation, with-- you guessed it-- their eyes firmly shut.
Then, in alternating sections, the reader is taken back to see this young woman on the day it all began, four years before, when the world as we know it ceased to exist. We see the same house full of people and know that in the story’s present they are all gone. We read compulsively both to find out what happened before and also, to see what will happen now. And the best part of the novel is, we know things are going to end badly, but we cannot stop turning the pages.
Oh, and the ending is just about perfect--resolved by no means settled.
The claustrophobia of this story is oppressive, intense and terrifying from the first page, and it only builds from there. There is also no gore here, but that makes the fear you will feel even more intense.
I dare you not to read this book.
Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive, dread, anxiety
Readalikes: This is absolutely my favorite type of book, horror or not, one that is oppressive, terrifying, anxiety driven, and with a constant and intensifying dread hanging over everything. Here are some other books I have read and enjoyed that also fit this profile with links to my reviews for detail. It is important to note that they are not all horror books.
- The Darkling by R B Chesterton
- The Keep by Jennifer Egan (I read it before I blogged)
- Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson [coincidentally, this is the last time a book captured our entire staff]
- Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
- The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
- The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman