Saturday, November 29, 2014

A sublime and unseen terror

Bird Box

By Josh Malerman

Publisher: Ecco

Pub. Date: May 13, 2014

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Of all the terrors that you read about in the horror genre, I believe that nothing is scarier and more suspenseful than the horror of nothing. By that I mean the horror that engulfs you in spite of having no knowledge of what it is that is actually destroying you. Lovecraft was good at this. His monsters didn't usually kill you by force but played with your mind in the most terrifying ways. That is why Lovecraft seem to love the phrase "unspeakable horrors" which implied terrors too awful to describe or to speak of. It's a mental thing. In a very different way, Josh Malerman embodies that same fear in Bird Box and takes it a step further. In this very unique and relentless dystopian horror novel, we never see the monsters and, at first, we are not even sure they exist. Anyone who sees these creatures become instantly insane and it is not long before only a few people still survive by staying locked inside with all the windows boarded and covered. When anyone goes out they go out blindfolded, which only increase the feeling of apprehension and uncertainty in the protagonist...and the reader.

At the beginning of Bird Box, Malorie and her two children, both four years old, are about to leave their house and row up a river to a yet undisclosed destination. They will do it blindfolded. As they depart, we learn through flashbacks how Malorie came to this situation and how this apocalyptic nightmare began. Malerman does an excellent job transmitting terror through emotions and dread, the horrible "things" are never really known or shown but we do find out the consequences of seeing them. This is an apocalyptic horror novel about psychological fears, whether intentional or otherwise. It is a major feat to write a novel that successfully depict a major apocalypse where the characters are either blindfolded or trapped indoors. The novel's sense of horror can be described as an exquisite form of claustrophobia where, even in the open, you are enclosed by your own voluntary darkness. The author's sleek and direct style keeps the reader involved with a effortless switching back and forth from present to past. Bird Box is an exceptional surprise in this years crop of horror novel and has flown to the top at number one horror novel published this year.

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