Malerman balances the novel’s various elements — family drama, road novel, supernatural thriller — with skill and genuine compassion for his characters and their blighted lives. And if the final chapters, which are filled with reunions, reconciliations and sudden revelations, seem slightly rushed, that is a small flaw in an otherwise remarkable journey through an utterly compelling fictional world.
One of the original novel’s greatest strengths was its exploration of the fear of the unknown, so there may be skepticism about a sequel in which this world and its creatures are familiar. But Malerman’s narrative matches the twists and tension of the first novel, and readers are likely to leave this book sufficiently shaken. The popularity of Bird Box and the ubiquity of the 2018 Netflix adaptation all but guarantee high demand for this outstanding second foray into monsters and madness.
Having read Bird Box will help, but essential worldbuilding is seamlessly interwoven in a narrative paired with enlightening flashbacks into Malorie’s childhood, making this a solid stand-alone. Malerman will no doubt add to his legions of fans with this title ripe for readers of any genre seeking an intensely thrilling ride.
Malorie’s depiction of a world where disruptive safety protocols have fundamentally altered old ways of life is all too timely ... Structurally, Malorie operates much like its predecessor, oscillating between its makeshift communities and the blind, perilous journeys that bridge them. Having now established the world’s new rules, though, Malerman is able to broaden the narrative and take us beyond the realm of mere survival ... That Malorie doesn’t want these answers is both consistent with her arc and a total drag—resisting a story’s natural momentum inevitably results in redundancy, especially for a story’s ostensible protagonist ... for all its compelling questions and rich perspectives, Malorie still suffers some from Malerman’s leaden prose, which only really springs to life when a creature lurks just beyond the cloth ... The world of Malorie is more interesting than the characters that inhabit it, which bodes well should Malerman embrace the franchise potential of Bird Box.
A stranger shows up and provides the necessary information—Malorie’s parents are survivors and there is now a train operating that can take her and the kids to them—for there to be a plot. Suspending your disbelief at times was necessary for Bird Box, but it was an effective enough thriller to keep you turning the pages. Malorie, however, doesn’t pick up enough speed till its final chapters to maintain interest.
Malorie doesn’t have the same tonal conflict — it’s virtually all fast-moving, stripped-down story. It spends most of its time in Malorie’s head, or Tom’s, but the literary conceits have been replaced with a kind of grim monotony, as Malorie endlessly shouts orders at her children, and endlessly circles around the new information she’s gotten, and the compulsions it’s creating. It’s a harrowing and truthful portrait of PTSD and obsession, but it’s so repetitive that it doesn’t always make for satisfying or compelling reading ... Malorie will likely make a thrilling, engaging movie. But as a novel, it sometimes seems far too curt. The late arrival of a familiar threatening force comes out of nowhere, is never explained, and is casually dismissed in the finale in a bafflingly impersonal and distanced way that never seems real ... There’s a lot missing from this book’s headlong action that would make it a more rich and satisfying standalone experience.
Malerman’s prose is sparse and urgent, fitting for Malorie’s world and it makes for a compulsive and speedy read ... Teenagers resentful of their grumpy mum are only so interesting, for so long, and their initial isolation could have dragged in less able hands, so Malorie is strongest when other characters come into play in the second half ... the finishing stretch never less than completely thrilling, however a conclusion that feels incredibly rushed and very unsatisfying might leave you feeling cheated – plot wise.
The creatures are just as nebulous and deadly as ever, and though we do learn a new thing or two about them, the author never fully reveals what they are, thus preserving their mystique. Much like its predecessor, the novel functions as both a taut adventure chock full of suspense and terror and a psychological character study about survival in a world quite literally gone berserk ... Malorie is, however, a solid next chapter in the Bird Box universe, one that stands on its own legs despite the massive shoes it must fill.
... another taut, breathless supernatural thriller ... Malerman masterfully evokes apocalyptic horrors via understatement and suggestion while facilitating suspension of disbelief through nuanced characterization and thoughtful worldbuilding. This is a bang-up sequel.
Coming from an author as wildly imaginative as Malerman, whose original Bird Box was way more eerie and chilling than the lousy Netflix adaptation with Sandra Bullock, this follow-up is surprisingly humdrum. A one-note character, Malorie becomes as much a drag for the reader as for her son. It's a measure of the book's pinched storytelling that no attempt is made to describe what the creatures look like, what form they take, or even what the heck they want ... A disappointing creature feature.