Monday, September 21, 2015

How far can a person hear?

Following up it's less-than-successful selection of Still Life with Bread Crumbs comes Bird Box. Never let it be said that Just The Right Book gets stuck in a rut picking the same type of book over and over.

Bird Box is a strange story, but it's a horror-apocalypse so yeah, I guess strange is par for the course. There's...something out there. There are rumors of murder-suicides occurring in distant countries. Slowly rumors give way to news reports and the threat is getting closer. Yet no one knows what it is. It's difficult to provide much information if everyone who sees the thing is dead. Society quickly devolves into chaos* with people covering all windows, only going out blindfolded, and btw, that includes driving.

The story flips back and forth between the present day when our protagonist and two small children travel down a river, seeking safe haven, and flashbacks that explain how we got to this stage.

The present day scenes are tense. We know something is out there. Or at least, we know that they think something is out there. It's hard to really say if there's anything there or if this is mass hysteria on a global scale. What we know for sure is that most people absolutely will not look outside, will not venture outside without blindfolds on, no matter what. That includes Malorie, who has been living in a house for years with two small children and diminishing supplies. The kids are barely old enough now (only four) but they can't keep waiting. And besides, the children have been trained since birth to rely on senses other than sight, so they can help when it comes to navigation. Of course, it seems that there is something following them. Was it really a good idea to leave the house?

The flashbacks are fairly typical of what you can expect to find with an apocalypse story, with a bunch of strangers who find themselves banded together, trying to do what they can to survive when the world they've always known is gone. Malorie finds herself at the home after her own world collapses. She finds out she's pregnant the day the new stories start to pickup and her own life shatters.

The flashback scenes are mostly concerned with people trying to figure out how to get by, day-by-day, as well as some minor attempts to understand exactly what is going on. And of course, the characters have to decide who can they really trust.

The book is no doubt creepy and there are a lot of tense moments, but it doesn't really build to much. It has good moments and a very interesting premise, but I think it would have been better as a short story.

GIF rating:

*WWZ has sort of ruined this for me. I get that you sort of need everything to have gone to hell in order to tell the story but getting from "fully functioning society" to "living hell" always feels a bit like the underpants gnomes. I need phase 2 explained better.

Title quote from page 16

Malerman, Josh. Bird Box. Ecco, 2014.