MALORIE (BIRD BOX, BOOK TWO)
By Josh Malerman
Published by Del Rey
When I passed through the library three days ago to return The Deep, I had not expected to see Malorie up on the New Release shelf. I had assumed it would have a long waiting list I would need to first add my name to – instead, I was reminded that my area of Tennessee doesn’t care a lick about the genre of horror. Luckily for me, that meant I didn’t have to wait to read Malorie; it was available now!
I think I read Bird Box in 2016 or 2017, shortly before the movie was to premier on Netflix (but at a time the hype was starting to build for its release). Though I was not blown away by the book – I think I rated Bird Box a 4/5 – I did enjoy it enough to want more from the world Malerman had created. Though my reaction wasn’t as adamantly appraising as many other readers have been, I will say the book struck me as a simple idea turned brilliant in possibility. There are a lot of great moments throughout the book, even if it gets haggard at times. As such, the chance that Malerman might do more stories from its world was thoroughly exciting – there are many, many avenues here to explore!
Humorously enough, when I first heard about Malorie a year ago, I had forgotten that was the main character’s name in Bird Box. This meant I thought the sequel followed someone else entirely! I was definitely interested in that. But then the book was released and I was brought up to speed – this is the same family as last time. I will admit, I was a little disappointed. Nevertheless, I wanted to read the story, which I had heard people were enjoying more than they had the first entry.
I have to say, I think Bird Box was better. Despite a great opening, Malorie kind of annoyed me for the next hundred or so pages that followed. Why did we jump ten years without any explanation as to how they found the camp, made it a home, and survived there for so long without supplies nearby? There were a lot of questions left unanswered right off the bat.
I also found a lot of Malorie’s thoughts repetitive. For a while there, she was repeatedly saying basically the same thing for pages on end. It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect with her strong desire to seek out her parents, considering how they turned their backs on her seventeen years earlier. I know people connect to others stronger than I do – I tend to expect everyone to leave me eventually, so I don’t mourn their loss very easily (family or friend) – but I had trouble understanding why Malorie would risk her kids to look for people that pushed her out of their lives long ago. I needed either a different reason for the journey or to have had her relationship with them be a good one that just got lost in the craze of the creatures’ arrival. Then I could understand her wanting to find them.
The plot of this sequel (at a glance) is too similar to Bird Box – Malorie must journey with her kids someplace using uncomfortable and dangerous methods. And yet, oddly enough, very little time is spent describing their walk (which spans some 30+ miles on foot). The way Malerman tells it, that distance wasn’t a big deal to cross blindfolded. Granted, there turns out to be a reason supporting that ease you discover at the end – but prior to that reveal, I was left just thinking, why did that feel like no big deal?
Once the trio reaches the blind train they seek, things do pick up a bit; but, honestly, I felt like the conclusion was too easy and anticlimactic. Even the resolution with the (human) enemy was boring and glossed over. I was expecting some sort of fight, at least. More often than not, the build up of suspense in Malorie went nowhere exciting.
The thing with Malerman’s Bird Box world is that it should have been explored further and by others. A lot of potential goes wasted or ignored. I really hope Malerman does at least some short stories over time that return to this world (but not to Malorie) – there are just too many experiences out there to be told, stories that are more thrilling and dangerous than this.
Review by Aiden Merchant (Author of Dead as Soon as Born, Kill for Them, and Horrific Holidays)