A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the… Box?

SPOILER WARNING!

Bird Box is a popular thriller movie on Netflix starring Sandra Bullock. My first instinct when hearing about a popular movie is to wonder if it was based on a book, then if it was, read the book. I won’t watch the movie unless it’s something I really think I’d like.

Yes, Bird Box was indeed based on a book by Josh Malerman. I wrote briefly about another book of his in one of my Thursday Three posts, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to read Bird Box: I liked that other book quite a bit.

In brief, the book takes its readers through a horrifying end-of-the-world scenario about a mysterious creature that, when seen by humans, makes said humans go insane and commit suicide. Sounds happy and sunshiny, right? Of course not. But as you can imagine, Bird Box was a difficult read for such a short, fast-paced book. I almost put it down because the creepiness of the situation made me so uncomfortable… and the only reason I ever put a book down is because it is hopelessly boring and I can’t force myself through it.

However, I pressed on with Bird Box, mostly to find out exactly what the creatures were that were causing all the madness. Alas, I found nothing. We never do find out. This is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, where the creature is awful beyond comprehension—so awful that the author can’t even describe it. That technique always seemed like a cop-out to me. You’re the author, right? You’re supposed to describe the thing and allow the reader to see it!

The characters didn’t impress me. The heroine, Malorie, was brave beyond anything that could have been considered realistic. She raised two babies from their birth until age 4 without them ever opening their eyes (lest they see the awful, terrible, very bad creatures), without having any contact with any other human beings, and surviving on only the most minimal provisions. It was outrageously unrealistic, almost to the point of being offensive, as was the giving birth scene. The postpartum depression must have been almost as bad as being attacked by one of the creatures. (Hmm… maybe the entire book was an allegory about the terrors of pregnancy and the postpartum period? That would be an interesting analysis…)

Also, because Bird Box is a horror story, online reviewers made the inevitable comparison to Stephen King. I don’t see how anyone who has read anything by Stephen King can make that comparison. Perhaps the only way the two books were similar is that terrible things kept happening. I would say that Bird Box is more of a thriller, and most of Stephen King’s books are way too long and slow burning to be thrillers. King is also much, much better at character development and keeping plots realistic (but still horrifying).

I can’t recommend this book, unless you’re a huge fan of the horror or thriller genres. It just didn’t work for me. Even so, I will try another book by Malerman, because the other book I read from him was just that good.

Thursday Three #45

  1. If you want to read something extremely creepy, I would recommend Josh Malerman’s novel Inspection. It’s like a mix of The Giver and Never Let Me Go, but darker than both of those combined. I would go so far as to say that it reminds me of something Dean Koontz or Stephen King would write… and that’s a compliment. The premise: What happens when two crazy scientists decide to conduct an experiment to determine whether genius really is distracted by the opposite sex?
  2. Having a child has given me incentive to write, which doesn’t make sense. I thought that once I had the baby, I would be tired 24/7 and never feel like doing anything. The opposite is true. It’s almost like I finally realized my own mortality and that I had better accomplish what I want to before I’m dead. What a strange feeling.
  3. Notre Dame. It is a shame that the cathedral burned, and is probably symbolic of the decline of Western civilization, but as with most news events, there is nothing that most people, as individuals, can do about it. We can pray, and that’s basically it. Freaking out is not going to solve anything. If you want to slow the decline of Western civilization, work on your own life and your own mentality first.

Redeemed by Its Ending

SPOILER ALERT! I’m about to describe the entire ending, so if you want to read All the Wrong Places by Joy Fielding, stop reading this blog post now.

For some reason, I’ve been reading books about serial killers lately. Must be all those postpartum hormones. Anyway, this one turned out to be really, really good, even though as I was reading it, I kept rolling my eyes because the characters were so vapid, but it was done in a way that was so ridiculous as to be almost humorous.

The story follows four characters whose lives have been affected by online dating in various ways. Our main character, 33-year-old Paige, has been using online dating sites for a long time and was recently dumped by her live-in boyfriend, causing her to live with her 70-year-old mother, Joan, who was widowed a while back and wants to get into the online dating scene. Heather, Paige’s cousin, has been her rival since she was born and serves only to be the most annoying, reprehensible character in all the books I’ve read so far this year. Finally, we have Chloe, Paige’s best friend, who has two young children and an awful, abusive husband, who has been illicitly meeting women on online dating sites.

All four of our main characters are connected by the villain, whose real name is never revealed, but who goes by “Mr. Right Now” on the many dating sites he frequents. Mr. Right Now’s idea of a fun night out is to take his date to his apartment, where he prepares her a gourmet steak dinner, then ties her up and butchers her, all the while lamenting that she did not enjoy the steak. (Gee, I wonder why??)

What made this book different from other thrillers I’ve read is that there is no mystery surrounding the villain. The reader immediately knows who he is, what he does, and why he does it. As you read, you’re supposed to be hoping that the villain doesn’t get with Paige, who is presumably the most intelligent out of all the women he’s dated (and killed). I did not find her to be particularly intelligent, but I guess all his other victims were pretty stupid… I mean, who the hell goes back to a guy’s apartment to be alone with him after the first date?* Nobody in the universe is that good looking or that persuasive, even though the author portrayed the villain to be incredibly handsome. But still… it’s a pretty dumb decision.

I thought Chloe should have been the heroine of the book instead of Paige because she managed to get herself and her children out of a terrible situation by divorcing her husband. She was the only character who had her priorities straight and didn’t sleep around, but because she had little to do with online dating (other than being on a site very briefly to snoop on her idiot husband), she would not have served the book’s purpose.

Paige annoyed me. She was supposed to be so intelligent, but she was fixated on finding another guy right after her boyfriend broke up with her. She met another guy, Sam, on the dating site, but she ended up being too immature to fully appreciate what a good guy he was. Of course, they ended up together at the end of the book because she had supposedly matured, but I would have told Sam to head for the hills… and keep running.

Joan annoyed me because she was so willing to jump on the online dating bandwagon at 70 years old because she is a “child of the 60s” and therefore very liberal about sex and love and birth control (although at 70 years old, that doesn’t matter) and what have you. I could not sympathize with her at all.

And Heather. Don’t even get me started on Heather. She was probably the true villain of the story, even more of a pain in the rear than Mr. Right Now himself. She was the true reason for the demise of Paige’s relationship with her live-in boyfriend, as she seduced said boyfriend into sleeping with her, then repeatedly rubbed it in Paige’s face. She is the stereotypical female that I personally can’t stand: obsessed with hair, shoes, makeup, and fashion, a slacker at her job, two faced, and completely narcissistic. I wonder if the author knows that if you rearrange the letters in “Heather,” you get “hate her.”

What made this book so great was the ending. Most books I’ve read recently have had disappointing endings, but All the Wrong Places wrapped up so satisfactorily that I was literally laughing out loud. To make a long story short, Paige is about to go out on a date with Mr. Right Now, which would inevitably end in her demise. At the last minute, Joan has some kind of health problem and Paige drops everything to tend to her mother. Heather somehow gets ahold of Paige’s phone, and being the annoying nitwit she is, decides to masquerade as Paige in order to go on the date with Mr. Right Now. She’s seen pictures of how handsome he is and naturally wants to steal him for herself.

The author doesn’t explicitly state it, but the book has Heather going on the date with Mr. Right Now and presumably being murdered by him. Mr. Right Now is on the verge of being caught in the middle of his serial killing activities because he’s getting sloppy out of sheer arrogance. So we can safely assume that both of our villains have been or will be eliminated shortly. Now that’s a satisfying ending, and that, along with the outrageous soap opera elements, made the book five out of five stars. Fast-paced, quality entertainment and another cautionary tale about online dating. The author knocked it out of the park. Seriously.

*Rhetorical question. Apparently many people do this, although it totally goes against common sense.