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January 28, 2014 / schulerbooks

Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

9780062259653

Three years ago, the world died a horrible, violent death.

The murder started quietly, with jumbled and uncertain reports on the news and internet. People just started going crazy — killing others and then themselves in desperately gruesome ways after being exposed to… something.

But by the time the authorities realized they had a real problem, whatever was causing it had spread too fast, and gone too far. And then there was nothing anyone could do but shutter their windows, bar their doors, and avoid seeing whatever was driving the others insane.

So it is that a woman has survived.

Her name is Malorie, and she has two small children that were born in the house by the river. She has trained them since their birth to be silent, to wake up with their eyes closed, and to be able to listen so intently that they can identify just about anything by the sound it makes, or does not make.

It’s not a great life, there in the house by the river. There is no time for sentiment or kindness. There is only the cold calculus of their survival — a survival risked every time Malorie goes outside to get water from the well, or throw out waste.

And when she does, the only defenses she has against murderous madness are the children, their ears, and a blindfold.

It’s not a great life, no, but it’s better than the alternative. At least there is shelter within the house. At least they have some measure of security, there.

At least they have each other.

But one day — knowing that this existence cannot continue — Malorie decides that they must leave that house. The children are old enough to make the journey, now. And the longer she waits, the less likely the years-old promise of a complete stranger may still be valid.

The promise of a better, safer place, and a different life for her children, and herself.

And so Malorie gathers up the children and leaves the house that has protected them. They have a boat, waiting in the river. They have an understanding of the journey, and they have each other.

All they have to do is make the trip completely blind, with nothing to protect them but their wits, their ears, and a blindfold.

A blindfold that can never be taken off, no matter what may happen…

Merely saying that Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a stunning debut is seriously selling it short. Indeed, a number of other horror novelists could take lessons from his ability to jump back and forth between past and present without sacrificing the fear of either narrative stream. Malerman’s characters are believable portraits of humanity during a serious crisis against unknown enemies, and he seems to effortlessly evoke a sense of crushing, lurking doom, and a survivor’s logical response to it.

Bird Box is claustrophobic dread at its finest, and a much-needed shot in the arm for the post-apocalyptic genre, which has been over-saturated by zombies for the last few years. It will be out in hardcover in May, 2014, but it’s currently available for pre-order at Schuler Books & Music’s website!

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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