Reading Time: 9 minutes
I’ve had something of a fiction renaissance as it looks like I got through several hours of reading this weekend.
More than five specifically.
And I’ve just finished reading ‘Bird Box’ by Josh Malerman having watched the movie a couple of weeks back.
So this time I wanted to take the opportunity and write the review quickly whilst it’s still fresh in my mind.
Table of Contents
The Characters In Bird Box
The book in terms of characters has only several that you need to be aware of – which makes it much simpler than ‘The Way Of Kings’ – a fantasy book I’ve purchased that I have no idea if I’m ever going to get through.
I’m beginning to discern my favoured style of Audible ‘horror’ book – and it’s straightforward apocalyptic horror – as ‘Bird Box’ is.
Malorie – much like the movie, is the stories central character – and there are two plots to follow effectively.
There is the plot of Malorie on the river trying to row the 20 odd miles to ‘freedom’, and then you have Malorie in the house – doing her best to survive in these strange times.
It’s interesting to watch the movie first and then read the book to discern the differences between the two.
In the movie, Malorie is portrayed as a bold and strong woman who’s trying to navigate the river – much like she is in the movie. However, the ‘Malorie’ we see in the house that holds several people during the saga is NOT like the bitter and strong-willed Sandra Bullock that plays Malorie in the Nextflix smash hit.
Alongside Malorie, we have Tom, who is the blonde-haired former school teacher always in search of progress.
Alongside him, we have Jules who resides there with his border-collie Victor. He goes in search of more dogs with Tom that could serve as guide dogs. Then there is Dom, Dawn, Olympia, and later Gary – the madman we also see portrayed in the movies.
These are the people that make up the house with whom we get to spend time with.
And of course, in the parallel plot on the river – as per the movie, we have boy and girl – Malorie’s son and Olympia’s daughter.
The Plot Of Bird Box
The book opens with Malorie just discovering she’s pregnant and being unable to get in contact with the one night stand she slept with. In the movie, this is someone she was in a relationship with whereas in the book it’s simply a one-night stand.
Shannon, her sister, is troubled by ‘The Problem’ that’s what the mass suicide situation is being referred to as. And then ‘the creatures’ who are apparently causing all of these deaths.
Malorie doesn’t take the problem seriously – but this soon changes as the first death in the United States occurs in Alaska.
From there on in we see the first several weeks of this situation play out with Malorie and Shannon remaining in Malorie’s house with the windows all covered up with newspaper so they can’t see anything.
They have some food supplies and watch the madness play out on the television as ‘The Problem’ is seemingly global.
Shannon is too soon to commit suicide as Malorie discovers in the bathroom upstairs, and it’s at this point she determines to leave the house.
She doesn’t feel she can survive alone, and remembering the advert in the newspaper for a safe haven in Riverdale – she determines to drive there.
This is where the next stage of the journey begins – as she manages to safely get over there.
In the house, we discover that the owner of the house, the very forward-thinking George has already passed away when trying to look at ‘The Creatures’ through a videocamera – and upon watching the playback – whilst tied down – goes crazy and kills himself.
However, the house has stockpiled food that will last the inhabits months, and the home is situated 30 yards from a well and the river – so they have access to clean running water.
They continue in this house for several months and Malorie’s pregnancy progresses – as does her journey on the river.
The slow-moving developments on the river and juxtapositioned against the intensity on the river – as we are catapulted into the future when all the inhabits of the house – including the wonderful Tom have died, and there is just Malorie, boy and girl.
It leaves an ominous feeling knowing that everyone within the house minus Malorie will ultimately die.
And this comes in the shape of Gary, the mysterious Gary who comes in flustered saying that he has had to escape a house he was in fear for his life and is seeking shelter.
He tells of the paranoid Frank who was outside of an in-group of militia that locked himself away in a room constantly scribbling notes in his pad about how misguided everyone in the house was about ‘The Creatures’ and that he needed to show them.
This led to Frank uncovering the curtains and the drapes.
It’s not made clear how Gary really escaped, and this seems to be something of a hole in the narrative. Nonetheless, it soon transpires upon Malorie reading Gary’s notepad that he has Franks notes…or there is no Frank – and that Gary is really Frank.
In parallel with all of this, we see Tom and Victor leave and return to the house on two occasions and triumphantly – the first time going to the houses adjacent to them (this first time is before Gary arrives), and they come back with two huskies. The second time is a longer trip where they are away (him and Jules) for a week – headed over to Tom’s place – and coming back with further supplies.
They all subsist upon the supplies kept in the cellar – where Dawn retreats to once Malorie ‘outs’ Gary as to him being in possession of this notepad and Gary is forced to leave the house.
As Malorie and Olympia – the other pregnant woman in the house give birth in the Attic – we hear chaos ensue downstairs.
This is where the plots join up – and Dawn’s withdrawal into the cellar and his becoming divided from the group is explained.
Whilst Tom and Jules were away for a week prior to Gary’s departure – it was Gary and Dawn that spent hours huddled in a room discussing this ‘apocalypse’ from the perspective of ‘Frank’. And ‘Frank’s theory’ is that people were going mad because they chose to act mad over what they say.
Malorie’s ultimately sees Dawn defect over the course of the week that Tom and Jules are away. This is what drives her to peek into Gary’s notebook and his ultimate removal from the group follows.
However, during childbirth in the attic, there is terrible commotion downstairs and we discover that Dawn has been hiding Gary in the cellar for the last 5-weeks. Whilst Malorie and Olympia, who are both due at roughly the same time go into labour at the same time, Dawn releases Gary and together they uncover the drapes and curtains and all covers.
By the time Olympia and Malorie give birth, all the occupants of the house are dead apart from Gary, who seems to be ‘immune’ from seeing, although considers it as beautiful and wants the whole world to see.
There’s a gruesome vision of death as we hear everyone either commit suicide or be killed, dogs, humans and all – and see Olympia jump out of the attic window and suffocate after hanging via the umbilical cord of which Malorie cuts with her teeth just in time.
And as a creature is in the room with Malorie and Gary and the newborns whom Malorie keeps hidden from seeing – the phone rings.
As the creature and Gary depart, never to be seen again – we read of Malorie managing to make it to the phone and answering to hear from Rick.
During the time of Tom’s life in the house – they managed to find a phonebook and dialled all 5,000 phone numbers in the book and left voicemails wherever they could – having not been able to speak to anyone.
This is then a message that Rick is returning – and he quickly tells them off the journey they can make down the River – some 20 miles to a safe-haven for the survivors.
Hope, for the first time, is promenaded in the book – a way out.
However, Rick warns, he cannot come and pick them up, they will need to navigate the river all alone…and most importantly – to know where to make an appropriate turn in the river – one of them will need to look.
This is the turning point in the novel, and Rick says if they can’t come now he will try calling back next week. However, he tells Malorie that if the phones stop working – nonetheless they should come as it’s definitely a safe haven but he will keep calling as often as he can.
These calls come in for the next 6-months as Malorie cleans up the house and ultimately raises the children in their most vulnerable years.
We see her determination to bring them up strictly in this new world, replying upon their hearing – and seeing how impressive their hearing becomes. Soon they are able to surpass Malorie’s own hearing as she was born relying upon sight.
We learn of Malorie being moment’s away from blinding the children – something that Dom suggested during pregnancy that seemed horrific but ‘logical’ as it was the only way to ‘be sure’.
And with paint thinner laid out next to her two children – she stops herself from pouring it upon their eyes at the last minute.
Bird Box Movie Vs Bird Box Book Differences
The most significant difference is probably Tom’s death. He dies before the children are born, and Malorie raises them alone rather than with Tom. The scenes of the drive to the supermarket in a blacked-out car never happen with Tom, but rather are journey’s Malorie makes alone.
On her 9th attempt with the car (whilst leaving the kids at home), she manages to find a bar that contains microphones and amplifiers which Tom always mentioned before his death as being a powerful early warning system.
It’s there in the bar we see Victor the dog go mad – and realise that ‘The Creatures’ affect dogs too. Later, we discover on the river that this also applies to birds as we hear hundreds of birds falling to their deaths from the sky above Malorie and the children.
The journey along the river continues to hold some differences from the movie as compared to the book. We do see a man who tries to convince them to take off the blindfold, this is the same in both.
In the book they are attacked by wolves – this isn’t in the movie. In the movie the boat topples, they are submerged and ultimately walk their way to freedom. In the book, the boat does no such thing – and notably – Malorie does look – and sees an amazing kaleidoscope of colours.
Understanding The Conclusion Of Bird Box
The ending is wrapped up quickly as Malorie and her children are picked up from the area where the boat gets caught in wires and sets off their early warning notification system at St Ignacio’s school for the blind.
Here, as in the movie – we see the sanctuary for the blind and witness Malorie giving ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ names for the first time. Olympia, like her mother – and Tom, like the man who was the saviour in the house.
The notable change from the movie is that we see some who have visibly blinded themselves, in a bid to stay safe.
This is a practice – Rick reassures them – they carried out in the early days before they had as many amenities as they do now.
And this is how the book ends – with Malorie having found her safe haven for her and the children.
Well, I’m really enjoying reading novels again. I lost this art probably around 15-18 years ago maybe even 20. It’s been amazing to rediscover my love for reading.
Getting through 6+ hours of listening to audiobooks over the weekend is very good going.
I’m actually already 2 hours 11 minutes into ‘Malorie’ – the sequel to this book that was released last year – and thoroughly enjoying that as well.
I hope to keep writing book reviews as I read books I enjoy. 🙂
Let’s see what the future brings!