Bird Box (novel)
First edition book cover
|Published||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 novel by American writer and singer Josh Malerman. The book was first published in the 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 time periods.
A sequel to the book, titled Malorie, will be released on July 21, 2020.
The book takes place in the present day, and two previous periods are revealed in flashback sequences. The story is told from the perspective of the main character, Malorie. This synopsis is in chronological order.
Upon discovering her pregnancy, Malorie is unable to contact her one night stand. She initially dismisses international news reports of people going mad shortly after seeing "something" outside. These people are considered to have been infected by what they saw and will brutally attack others before killing themselves. As the occurrences spread, they're believed to be caused by "creatures" and the situation referred to as "The Problem."
Malorie is forced to strike out on her own after her sister Shannon becomes infected and kills herself. Malorie eventually meets and shelters with other survivors: Jules (and his border collie, Victor), Felix, Tom, Don, Cheryl, and later Olympia, who, like Malorie, is about four months pregnant. They spend their days sequestered inside of their shelter, only going outside blindfolded to seek out food and supplies. Tom tells Malorie the original owner, George, attempted to find out if the creatures would not affect you if seen another way, so he filmed a window but still brutally killed himself while watching the tape.
Eventually Tom and Jules search the neighboring houses for supplies, but also for dogs they can train to guide them while they're blindfolded as Jules doesn't want to risk Victor. They find two huskies and some birds kept in a box that coo when people approach. They hang the bird box by their front door as an alarm system. They also discovered someone set up a tent in the middle of the street in front of their house.
After months of isolation they reluctantly take in a new survivor, Gary. He claims he left the previous house he was at because a man named Frank, who had been a recluse obsessed with writing in journals and believed The Problem was caused by mass hysteria, had uncovered all the windows and opened the doors to prove this "insanity fuss" was all an illusion. Gary and Don become friends, but Gary only talks about Frank's ideology. It's soon revealed that Gary has "Frank"'s journal which he had said "Frank" kept, so he is evicted, only for Don to secretly keep him in the shelter's basement. He remains hidden until Olympia and Malorie go into labor, at which point Don and Gary expose everyone to the creatures. Gary sneaks into the room Malorie and Olympia are to taunt them, explaining the tent in the street was his because he liked to watch the creatures, while they listen to the others kill each other downstairs. Only Malorie, the two infants, a boy and girl, and Gary of course, survive as Malorie managed to block infants their sight. Prior to hanging herself with an umbilical cord while Gary was laughing, Olympia comments that the creatures are "beautiful" and "not bad at all". Shortly after that, creature descended the stairs followed by Gary, who was never to be seen again.
Once again alone, Malorie becomes resigned to the reality that she will have to raise the children alone. Her only possible beacon of hope is a phone call from a survivor named Rick, who tells her about a self-contained refuge without any windows. He invites them to travel to the refuge via boat, but warns her that the journey will require her to remove her blindfold once.
After the birth
As she raises them Malorie subjects the children to harsh training in order to ensure their survival, heightening their senses and training them to automatically keep their eyes closed. The children are only referred to as "Girl" and "Boy", as she feels that names are an unnecessary luxury. During this time Malorie keeps Jules' pet dog, Victor, who survived Gary's attack while locked in the basement. She follows Tom's belief that animals are immune to the Problem, only for this to be proven false when Victor goes mad and kills himself after seeing a creature. Malorie also discovers a rowboat and begins planning for the inevitable trek to Rick's haven.
Eventually the day comes for the trio to make the journey when the children are four years old. Malorie chooses this day because there is a heavy fog she thinks will hide their escape in case Gary still watches the house. Malorie inwardly expresses regret over all of the experiences and sights that the children have missed, but knows that it was necessary for their survival. Instructing them to follow her orders and to never remove their blindfolds regardless of what happens, Malorie and the children travel down the river. As they are rowing they come across a person who tries to convince them to remove their blindfolds in order to see the "beautiful" creature, however they ignore him and continue along their journey. When she hears the signal to temporarily remove her blindfold, the Boy says something is walking through the river toward them. The creature pulls at her blindfold, but then releases it and leaves them. Malorie is terrified to remove the blindfold, but knows that it's necessary to see which split of the river to take. Briefly marveling at sights previously denied due to the Problem, Malorie navigates down the correct path and replaces the blindfold. Eventually they make it to the refuge, originally a school for the blind, where they are met by blind Rick, a sighted Constance, and dozens of other people who have blinded themselves to remain unaffected. Now certain in their safety, Malorie finally allows herself to name the children.
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."
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 (although the novel The Road was written in 2006), which caused him to worry that the book "might get lost in the shuffle."
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 were initially set to produce the film, with Andy Muschietti (It, Mama) as director and Eric Heisserer in negotiations to pen the script. Netflix then acquired the rights of the book with Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich in starring roles, Morgan co-producing, Heisserer writing, and Susanne Bier as the director.
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- Newland, Martin. "Josh Malerman's Bird Box presents a new take on unseen terror". The National. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Robinson, Tasha. "Josh Malerman overreaches in chilling debut Bird Box". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Spiegelman, Ian. "Author Josh Malerman is more Stoker than Lovecraft". USA Today. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- "Introducing the 2015 Michigan Notable Books!". Michigan.gov. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "THE JAMES HERBERT AWARD 2015". PanMacmillan. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "2014 Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot Announced". Horror.org. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
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- Kit, Borys. "'Mama' Director to Helm Adaptation of 'Bird Box' (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- "Eric Heisserer In Talks To Adapt 'Bird Box' For Universal". Deadline. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- 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.