Got to bed at 11 pm yesterday so later start today.
And I wanted to walk you through the latest book that I’ve finished reading called Malorie by Josh Malerman.
It’s a sequel to his hyper-successful Bird Box – of which I’ve seen the movie and read the book.
The timing is apt as it was released in 2020 amidst the pandemic and is (for those who’ve seen Bird Box or read the book) a post-apocalyptic horror in which creatures roam the world and cause people to go mad and commit suicide when they look at them.
This forces what’s left of the human population to wander the world blindfolded.
We join Malorie and her two young children Tom and Olympia, two years after arriving at the Jane Tucker school for the blind – only to need to escape as a creature has broken in and leads to the school descending into madness.
The seemingly blind Annette went mad so Malorie surmises that the creatures must now be able to infect by touch. They manage to escape together and Malorie with the support of her all-seeing children (through the excellence of their hearing) manages to lead them to Camp Yadin.
This is an abandoned summer camp that’s isolated from the wider world where the three spend the next decade living in isolation and ‘by-the-fold’.
As we meet them as 16-year old’s, Tom and Malorie have distinct personalities. Tom is similar in character to his namesake which Malorie makes reference to multiple times throughout the novel.
He’s forever in search of innovation, and to find new ways to do ‘old things’ better. Living in a world with creatures is all they have known. Unsurprisingly, Camp Yadin is littered with the inventions of Tom’s which signify his desire for adventure and his desire to learn more.
Olympia who is the better navigator between the two is able to understand all about the outside or forgotten world through reading ALL of the books that Camp Yadin has to offer. Having read over 1,000 books, Olympia represents a young woman whose maturing quickly.
Their nearest neighbour is over a mile away, and the three live together with a continued sense of low-level anxiety as they are never in complete safety.
This is how the novel opens and Tom and Olmpyia suffer under the restrictions that Malorie places them under for their own sense of protection. She still remembers Gary and the horrors that he inflicted upon them back at the house, let alone the creatures themselves.
Nothing in this world is to be trusted, and all they must do is survive – and that would be enough.
But Tom and Olympia, especially Tom – want to live. They are 16-year old children and we sense the rebellion in them will lead all three to new adventures.
So then, when a man knocks at the door from the census – much to Malorie’s suspicion – he leaves information on notes there – which change everything about their future direction; with the inclusion of two names on there that Malorie never expected to see.
This is where the 2nd half of the novel starts as Malorie discovers the names of her parents on the census. She then sets off with her children to find them – and does this by way of a train for the blind.
On this journey to the train, and then on the train, we learn much more about Malorie and her relationship with her children. Tom’s desire for adventure is quenched and Olympia travels alongside them.
On the train, she meets the steward of the locomotive and discovers that she can actually be attracted to someone again and goes through a kind of rebirth of feelings.
Of course, other challenges await on the train as we later discover that there’s meant to be a ‘creature’ being carried in one of the coffins. This results in Malorie’s locking down in one of the cabins with her children but ultimately slapping Tom across the face for the first time.
The ensuing chaos sees their separation, sees Tom ‘looking’ for the first time and the reemergence of Gary from the first novel into the book.
Whilst Malorie is thrown off the train into a safer room (a massive hole in the ground) – from which Olympia rescues her (and from the creature inside it) – Tom is whisked to Indian River.
It turns out that Gary or ‘Henry’ as the people on the train know him as – has been stalking Malorie ever since Bird Box. He watched the kids grow up, visited them in Camp Yadin and has been taking the train backwards and forwards for years.
The finale of the novel comes at the progressive Indian River where we discover that contrary to rumour – Athena cannot see the creatures. The surrounding area leading into townhouses the valley of the dead that have gone mad after trying to look at the creatures.
Many of those who come are seeking a way to live with the creatures and this experimental approach results in many death’s.
I don’t want to give too much of the novel away now that’ll mean you might not read it. Like the first novel, however, the conclusion is rushed massively and is a little unsatisfying.
With that being said, we witness Tom’s doubled two-way mirrors are a means of looking at the creatures. Rather than the creatures looking at Tom, they are forced to look at themselves and contemplate themselves.
Thus affording us the ability to look at them – and not go mad (as we discover).
The creatures really move away from dangerous beings to annoying pests, and this dodgy logic that looking at them rests upon – underline Josh’s lack of outside research or any consideration to making this seem plausible.
This was the worst part of the book for me that made it fall apart.
Many discoveries with wafer-thin explanations are rolled out at the end of the book which I wasn’t really a fan of. Tom’s invention works, Olympia it turns out can see as well naturally (she has some kind of immunity), and Sam (Malorie’s father) Walsh has been waiting for Malorie for YEARS at Indian River alone seemingly (when his wife passed).
The silliest idea is that a child (Olmpyia) can do something as world-shattering as ‘see’ the creatures – has been able to do this all her life, has KNOWN about it for 10 years – but has NEVER told her family.
That just doesn’t seem plausible.
It’s interesting writing up this review because I did give the book 5-stars when I listened to it on audible…and I did really like it!
But as I think about it I have more and more issues with it that probably turn it into a 4-star book (so still very good then lol)
I also found out that there’s going to be a movie adaptation of this which I’m excited about to see what they do with it.
So – all in all – a pretty good novel with some pretty implausible explanations that I still really enjoyed – read it!