Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Well, here’s my personal answer to the question anyone reading a Bird Box book review right now will be seeking: Yes, it’s a great book. Yes, you should read it before watching the Netflix original. And after you do read it, maybe consider not even bothering with the flick at all. I finished the book, then immediately (and I mean immediately) turned on Netflix and watched the movie, so I feel in a unique position to compare the two. Essentially, the movie is a piss-poor adaption of the book–the sort of nondescript two hours that makes you wonder if Netflix got so excited about throwing money at Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich that they forgot to hire a decent screenwriter.

But back to the book. Harrowing is a word that comes to mind, especially in a few of the later chapters. I’m not going to give anything away, but there were a few moments when I was a bit worried about having to watch those scenes in visual form. (Worries that proved unfounded, as it turns out. Again, the movie kind of sucks.)

As can be expected from your standard stuck-in-a-house-with-baddies-outside plot, it is all about character interactions, à la The Mist, à la ninety percent of zombie movies, à la et cetera et cetera et cetera. You’ve seen this before, but there are nice inclusions that set it apart from the rest: chiefly the MC’s pregnancy and the Lovecraftian elements. For a book that relies so much on character relationships, I do wish we had gotten to know the other characters in the book better. Cheryl, Felix, and a few of the others blend together; even by the end of the book, I felt like I knew hardly anything about them.

Yet those later chapters make up for all of that. The scene in the attic, especially, is pretty unforgettable–the sort of scene that makes you wince and speed-read at the same time. I won’t say that this book is groundbreaking, but it accomplishes what it set out to do–to thrill, to shock, and, at a very basic level, to make us appreciate the wonder that is sight.

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