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Malorie: A Bird Box Novel


Malorie: A Bird Box Novel

Josh Malerman burst onto the scene in 2014 with BIRD BOX, a novel unlike anything we have ever seen before. Not only did it thrill and chill readers, it also was the impetus for an original film on Netflix that set records for opening night streaming. We got to enjoy Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock portray the story's protagonist, Malorie.

Now, in 2020, comes the aptly named MALORIE, a sequel to BIRD BOX and one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. What makes this release even more chilling is that Malerman is dropping a novel about the human race a decade into an extinction-level event that gives post-apocalyptic fiction a new name. It makes readers, who are currently amidst their own personal horror with the COVID-19 pandemic, relate that much better to the story and message that he lays out here.

We last left Malorie and her two children, Tom and Olympia, at the ideal place to deal with the “new normal”: the Jane Tucker School for the Blind. For those not familiar with the first novel, the world was suddenly attacked by a myriad of supernatural creatures, the sight of which will cause people to kill themselves in some horrific fashion or commit other acts of unspeakable violence. BIRD BOX concluded with Malorie and her children blindfolded and finishing one of the most harrowing boat journeys ever depicted in a work of fiction. They end up at a school for the blind, which should be the perfect place to acclimate themselves to a world without sight.

"MALORIE may not depict as much horror as BIRD BOX, but it delivers just as much, if not more, suspense.... I can only hope that this is not the last we see of Malorie and her family. In our own uncertain times, we need stories like this more than ever."

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Rather abruptly, and only one chapter into MALORIE, someone at the school sees something she shouldn't and goes mad, causing an epidemic of instant insanity for anyone she touches. Olympia reveals to her mother that she was in the bathroom with this crazy woman and saw her looking at herself in the mirror, obviously having sight. Malorie grabs the kids and is off to the next river adventure.

Two years later, Tom and Olympia are teenagers, and the three are living at Camp Yadin, an abandoned Jewish summer camp. Malorie believes that she and the children have existed as long as they have due to the extremely strict rules that she has put in place. Growing up in this new world and not knowing anything else has given Tom and Olympia instincts and senses that are sharper than Malorie's ever could be.

However, their somewhat peaceful existence is interrupted when a stranger, an unnamed man, knocks on their door. Even though he sounds harmless, Malorie knows better --- anyone who read BIRD BOX will understand her trepidation --- and refuses to let him in. He indicates that he is working on a book of personal accounts of survivors of their new world and hopes to add their story to the collection. He leaves a copy at their front stoop for their perusal.

As Olympia looks through the book, she finds something amazing --- one of the personal accounts is from Malorie's parents, living north of them in Michigan. Obviously, you write what you know, and many will recognize that Malerman has set these books in his home state of Michigan. There is an operating railroad train that they could take to get to where Malorie's parents were last recorded as living. Thus starts the next adventure, a blindfolded walk from Camp Yadin to the train. It reads like an early episode of “The Walking Dead,” where they have to pick strange places to sleep and learn to fear other people almost as much as they do the creatures that are out there seeking to kill them.

They eventually make their way to the station and climb up on the train that stops there. Malerman labels this section “The Blind Train,” and Malorie herself recognizes that this new experience most likely will end in madness as the old constructs of good and evil have long been replaced by safe and unsafe. As a result, when they meet up with Dean, who is the creator of this unique form of transportation in a crazy new world, Malorie refuses to give him their real names. After they get a tour of the train, Dean shows them to their own personal car. She relents from her initial fears and meets him in the bar car to get more information about this amazing train.

Malorie grows to trust Dean much more after he shares his own backstory, which includes a graphic depiction of how his two young children perished. During this portion of the novel, we also get to see the fully realized personalities of Tom and Olympia.  They clearly are no longer children, and Tom seems to be constantly at odds with his mother.

I will leave you there, still on the train with Malorie, Tom and Olympia; to go any further would spoil the fun for readers. MALORIE may not depict as much horror as BIRD BOX, but it delivers just as much, if not more, suspense. In this horrific world in which they must exist, Malorie and her children sometimes forget that in order to survive it is imperative for them to rely on each other. Whether or not they reach Malorie's parents is for readers to experience on their own.

As a big fan of Malerman’s work, I can only hope that this is not the last we see of Malorie and her family. In our own uncertain times, we need stories like this more than ever.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 24, 2020

Malorie: A Bird Box Novel
by Josh Malerman