On “Bird Box” and the Pandemic

I recently finished Josh Malerman’s Bird Box. What a great read – and much better than the movie. I also wonder if the book is more horrifying now than prior to 2020 because the whole world now understands how the characters felt.

I sought out Bird Box as part of my quest to understand how experienced horror authors write. I struggled putting myself in an analytical mindset to learn from Josh’s writing (as I did previously with Hell House, The Ruins, and Pet Sematary) because I’d already seen the movie and knew the context of the story. The horror began for me in chapter four when one of the characters says: “Do they think it’s unsafe to go outside? To look anywhere?” (Pg 20).

Like many others, I still recall feeling unsure about walking out my front door; unsure if it was safe to breathe. There were many times during this read where I remembered driving to the grocery store in March 2020. The empty shelves. The mystery of what was in the air.

In the story, the character’s blindfolds were like our masks. Isolated in our homes, wondering what was happening outside, horrified by what we couldn’t see. From the book: if we look outside, will we die? From the pandemic: if I go down the same sidewalk as someone who may have COVID, will I die?

Both the incidents in book and the pandemic, one could argue, we still don’t understand – and perhaps never will.