If there is a movie adaptation of a book on Netflix that I haven’t read, I will put off watching it till I’ve gotten around to reading the book. It’s a crime to watch the movie before you’ve read the book, right? I think it should be. However, I must confess, I watched ‘Bird Box’ before reading Josh Malerman’s debut novel by the same name. I had heard so much about it that I just couldn’t stop myself from hitting play. Also, Sandra Bullock, who portrays the protagonist Malorie, is one of my favorite actors.
Bird Box is a dystopian novel where unseen creatures, whose mere sight drives people crazy enough to kill themselves, are taking over the planet. At the beginning of the story, Malorie is seen leaving the house with two children she calls ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ to go on a boat ride up the river in search of the safe place that is presumably somewhere out there. The catch is that they are blindfolded and Malorie and the children have to listen carefully to navigate their way despite not being able to see the danger that lurks around them. The narrative alternates between their journey up the river and Malorie’s flashbacks to events that led them to that point.
This is the first time I watched a movie and then read the related book. It’s also perhaps the only time I have liked the movie adaptation better than the book. Is it because I watched the movie first and Malorie was Sandra Bullock instead of a character in my head? Is it because the tension is palpable in the movie and not so much in the book where things appear rather laid back at times? Or is it because I already knew what was going to happen and waiting for it to unfold page by page was a bit taxing?
The book feels a bit stretched out. Malerman builds up tension, a sense of danger, only to have it fizzle out. And there are quite a few such incidents. Then, you know there are some dangerous creatures out there but you don’t know what they are and you never find out. That curiosity is never quelled. It’s frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the book. I had a good time. I was a nervous wreck every time I got a sense that something was about to happen. I was rooting for the other survivors—namely Tom, Olympia, Jules, Cheryl, and Felix—even when I knew they were doomed. It’s just that I think I would have loved the book a whole lot more had I read it before watching the movie. Note to self: Never again.