First edition book cover
|Genre||Horror, thriller, post-apocalyptic|
March 27, 2014 (UK)|
May 31, 2014 (US)
|Publisher||Harper Voyager (UK), Ecco (US)|
|Media type||Print, e-book, audiobook|
Bird Box is a 2014 post-apocalyptic novel and the debut work of Josh Malerman, the lead singer of The High Strung. The book was first published in United Kingdom on March 27, 2014 through Harper Voyager and in the United States on May 13, 2014 through Ecco Press. The book follows a woman who must find a way to guide herself and her children to safety despite the potential threat from an unseen adversary. The story is partially told via flashbacks and takes place during three different time periods.
Malerman wrote the rough draft of Bird Box prior to the release of the 2008 M. Night Shyamalan film The Happening and the 2009 film The Road, which caused him to worry that the book "might get lost in the shuffle."
The plot of Bird Box follows the character of Malorie and is set during three different time periods: the beginning of The Problem (about five years prior to the events at the start of the book), shortly before the birth of the two children, and the present day. The following synopsis is laid out in chronological order.
Malorie is a young college student who lives in southeast Michigan with her sister Shannon. She's dismayed when she discovers that she has become pregnant after having a one night stand, especially as the man will not return her calls. Her sister Shannon has expressed concerns to her about some odd reports of people abruptly going mad and brutally attacking the people around them and then killing themselves shortly after they see an unknown something. Malorie initially is skeptical of the veracity of these incidents, especially since the first accounts come from Russia, but is forced to admit that this is a legitimate problem when incidents start occurring in Canada and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. By this point the visions are referred to as "creatures" and the situation as a whole is commonly referred to as "The Problem". Malorie and Shannon live barricaded inside their house, all windows covered and doors locked. They do not venture outside. Malorie and Shannon discuss going to a nearby refuge that they have read an advertisement about, but decide to remain at home for the time being as travel is too risky. It's not until Malorie finds Shannon's dead body (it is implied that she saw one of the creatures and killed herself) that she travels to this refuge.
Once there she meets Tom and four other survivors—Don, Jules, Felix, and Cheryl. Soon they are joined by Olympia, who, like Malorie, is about 4 months pregnant. The mood in the house can be tense at times, with mysterious sounds and ephemeral feelings being alarming. This is augmented because no one is quite sure what to be on the lookout for, and they all spend time blindfolded and with eyes closed if they venture outside or even open a door. Eventually Tom decides to launch some expeditions to find more food and resources, and they return bearing supplies as well as disturbing findings about what has become of the world.
Soon, a new person knocks on their door to be let in—Gary. They admit him but some are wary of his demeanor and alleged history. Gary claims to have come from another refuge, having left due to the machinations of a fellow denizen, Frank. Gary describes Frank as a man who the others residents thought was mad. He kept a notebook in which he explained that the creatures were not there to harm them and that people only went insane because they were weak-minded and easily suggestible, and believed that that was what was supposed to happen. Gary explains that one day Frank left with his notebook, leaving the doors open and tearing down the window drapes first, exposing all of his housemates to the creatures. Malorie surreptitiously goes through Gary's belongings and finds what is clearly Frank's notebook of crazy rantings, from which Malorie infers that Gary is probably Frank. Malorie confronts him and the housemates evict Gary, much to the dismay of housemate Don, over whom Gary exercises an almost svengali-like sway. Eventually Olympia and Malorie go into labor at the same time, and in the midst of this, Gary (who had never left but rather been kept hidden in the cellar by Don) takes advantage of the situation to open the doors and rip down the window covers, letting creatures into the house, (it is actually Don, influenced by Gary, who opens the doors and rips down the blankets cover the windows) which drives everybody homicidally and suicidally mad except Malorie and the two newborns (she keeps her eyes closed and covers their eyes with blindfolds). Malorie has given birth to a boy and Olympia to a girl.
Moments later, Malorie hears the phone ring and manages to answer it, which connects her with a survivor named Rick. He says that he's one of 108 people living in a self-contained refuge without any windows and invites her to travel there with the infants. He gives her instructions to the refuge via the river, cautioning her that at one juncture she will have to remove her blindfold to progress, by steering onto one particular fork in the river. She's hesitant, but Rick tells her to come when she can. Later Malorie goes through the house and finds that everyone else is dead and that Gary has vanished.
After the pregnancy
After the prior events, Malorie begins harshly training the children to automatically keep their eyes closed upon waking and to sharpen their hearing so they can hear if anyone or anything approaches and pinpoint its location. She calls them only "Boy" and "Girl", because she feels that names are an unnecessary luxury. Malorie is now forced to forage for supplies on her own. She takes Victor (the dog belonging to Jules) with her but on one trip, he sees a creature and goes mad, proving that animals are not immune to The Problem. Meanwhile, she begins to plan their escape. She discovers a rowboat she can use to get to Rick's haven, and begins awaiting an opportunity and courage.
One foggy morning Malorie decides to risk the journey, hoping that the fog will hide them from any potential threats, which include the creatures and Gary, who she believes may try to attack her out of revenge. Things progress well until they run into several hazards, including what she judges to be a pack of wolves, a man who has seen the creatures and menaces them, and strange sounds that she and the children cannot quite identify. As they approach a point in the river where Malorie must remove her blindfold, the surrounding birds go mad and begin screaming, clearly having seen the creatures. Malorie and the children are pelted with the bodies of the birds as they attack each other and drop from the sky. Malorie manages to remove the blindfold and guide the three of them to the refuge, where they are met by Rick. Once there Malorie is horrified to find that almost everyone in the sanctuary had deliberately blinded themselves as a form of protection, but Rick assures them that they do not do this anymore and Malorie refers to the children by name, relaxing in the knowledge that the three of them are finally safe.
Critical reception for Bird Box has been positive and Malerman has received comparisons to Stephen King and Jonathan Carroll. The A.V. Club gave the book a B rating, writing "Malerman overreaches a bit in his debut, which could use as much attention to the cast as to the mood, but the mood is chillingly effective. Reading it feels like accepting a dare to walk into a strange place, eyes closed, with no idea who, or what, might be reaching out to make contact."
Awards and nominations
- Michigan Notable Book Award (2015, won)
- James Herbert Award (2015, nominated)
- Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel (2015, nominated)
Film rights to Bird Box were optioned by Universal Studios in 2013, prior to the book's release. Scott Stuber and Chris Morgan are set to produce the film, which will be directed by Mama director Andy Muschietti. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer is in negotiations to pen Bird Box's script. Netflix acquired the rights of the book and will develop the movie starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich. Susanne Bier was announced as the director.
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- Kroll, Justin. "John Malkovich Joins Sandra Bullock in 'Bird Box'; Eyes Peter Berg's 'Mile 22' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- Tatiana Siegel (July 19, 2017). "Sandra Bullock to Star in Post-Apocalyptic Thriller 'Bird Box' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.