Review: Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

Bird Box Josh Malerman

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genres: Horror

Goodreads / Amazon

Bird Box tells the story of an apocalyptic world where people need blindfolds to leave their houses because there is something out there that drives people into viciously attacking one another and themselves. This horror book is less than 300 pages long and quite perfect for an afternoon of reading horror and sipping tea.

This is a book that is constantly added to people’s lists on what to read in October, every year. So I had to keep my expectations in check, since hyping a book up is the surest way to get disappointed.

When I read this book, I initially gave it 4 stars! The story is definitely chilling and done in such a way that I was holding my breath during several parts. The execution of this novel is pretty great and it was so immersive I actually was surprised to find myself surrounded by perfectly regular surroundings every time I looked up from the pages. I also had the urge to close my blinds (I was reading this next to a big window, and oh my god, the agony). I loved how the main character was strong and assertive, and it was easy to connect to her.

This is a book you have to be willing to have suspension of belief for the few hours of reading it, otherwise you’ll be focusing so much on how exactly things would work out a certain way (how does looking at something drive someone mad?, for example) rather than enjoying the story itself. So – let go a bit of your cynicism, sit back and be creeped out!

I have since then reduced it to three because, upon reflection, there were a few things that did bother me. I have to say that men talking about pregnant women in books is one of the strangest things, because they constantly do it in such a different way than a woman does. And when it comes to horror, pregnancy is always used as a raw, painful, visceral experience that must add to the horror of the story itself. Which I think is strange coming from someone who has never been, and never will be, pregnant. It feels almost cheap – like male authors using rape/murder of a female character as a way to progress a male protagonist’s emotional development. I thought while reading the book that I guess I was okay with that, but it did really bother me more than thought.

A second thing that made me review my rating was the vague but definitely irking way in which mental illness was discussed – see more of that on my spoiler paragraph below if you’ve read the book already!

 

——- SPOILERS AHEAD ——-

Gary is a person who is implied to have already had mental illness previous to the beginning of the apocalyptic situation. This is not explicitly pointed out but heavily hinted to as the reason why he hasn’t committed ghastly murders and killed himself like most other people did. While I can assume he is a psychopath, it’s not clear either, and I deeply disliked how it made the whole discourse of mental illness invalid. So, as a person with social anxiety and depression, would I also not be affected? Or only mental illnesses that are more prone to violence in the public’s imagination? Because psychopathy does NOT equal murderous tendencies… and if we assume that individuals who suffer from psychopathy are the ones not affected, then surely this thing must affect people’s ability to empathize? How does that translate into gouging people’s eyes out and hanging yourself via your baby’s umbilical cord? I am confused. Mental illness is SUCH a cheap way to do horror.

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