I picked up Bird Box by Josh Malerman because it was described as a “psychological thriller”. I have to say, I was not disappointed. I have a strong background in psychology and recently received my Bachelor’s degree in it. I’m not pretending that I can read your mind or diagnose you, but I do have a good understanding of the human psyche. A lot of that is thanks to Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational which is explains why humans are so dang weird in our decision making.
Bird Box is your typical dystopian novel. The world’s ending, people are dying, but there’s no known cure because the malady itself is unknown, but if you see it…you’re dead. To be honest, I would have gotten bored with this plot line without Malerman’s impeccable ability to tell a compelling story. The story follows Malorie, and the chapters jump between three different time periods. He builds suspense as we follow Malorie attempting to escape to a sanctuary in present-day, but in the past she was trying to protect her housemates from the outside. The rest is guesswork. Why did she finally decide to go outside? What happened to her housemates? Who gave her directions to this sanctuary…and judging by the breadth of this plague, is there even a safe place left?
Malerman really plays up to man’s fear of the unknown in this story. Every day tasks that would seem mundane such as walking through the backyard are terrifyingly suspenseful because if one of the housemates catches a glimpse of whatever is out there, they may be driven to deadly violence. This means, everyone stays blindfolded. No matter what. Even the children are trained to wake up with their eyes closed. With your eyes closed, what feels like a threat approaching could really be a deer grazing in the yard.
The book keeps you in suspense until the very end, and the last chapter feels kind of underwhelming. You spend 30+ chapters wondering what’s outside, why are people reacting this way, etc. but it’s never really explained. I appreciate a novel that leaves you guessing and wanting more (i.e. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood), and I think that’s what Malerman was going for, but it feels unfinished…especially after the gruesome scene involving Malorie and Olympia.
I would recommend this book as a decent thriller, but I don’t think this is one that will leave a lasting impression on me. Maybe a movie would be more exciting?