Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows. They are out there. She might let them in. The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them. Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything.
Bird Box is a mix of post-apocalyptic with horror. The culprit this time is unknown – some thing that if seen drive a person to murderous, suicidal madness. The story is told in two timeframes – the past a few years ago, where the ‘apocalypse’ started, told from the POV of Malorie, a pregnant 20 something woman, and the present, where Malorie and two children are leaving house to go some undisclosed place.
Reading this, it was clear to me that the story is supposed to be deriving its tension and horror from the constant terror of whatever lurks outside. We never see it, nor do we get any explanation for this apocalypse, and so we are left to imagine stuff that will terrify us. But this didn’t work for me, because of two reasons.
Firstly, there is absolutely zero knowledge about these so called ‘creatures’, but the fate that the characters will suffer is known quite well. The fear of the unknown doesn’t work here, I knew if they see the creatures, the characters will just go insane. And this knowing took away most of the tension for me, because…
The story is narrated in two frames, split between the past and the present. And so we already know most of how the events of the past will end pretty much from the start. So, all the unexplained noises and dangerous excursions into the outside were less terrifying and more boring, because I had zero worries about the character’s safety – we already know Malorie and her kids will survive, everyone else will die – because the very first chapter of the book informs us of this.
Put together, this meant there was no tension or fear in the book as I read. And once you take that out, it’s just a bunch of people living in their house, and that’s it. The most exciting things are stuff like fetching a bucket of water from the backyard, or taking a walk around the street. Meh.
Which is such a waste – I really liked the premise of the story.