I went into Bird Box blind, if you will excuse the poor joke. I was aware of it from Netflix, but didn’t know much about it other than something about a monster you couldn’t see.
I was in for a treat.
To me, Bird Box seems like the kind of book that you just can’t make a film out of. They obviously did, but I just can’t imagine how it translates without losing too much of what makes it so good.
Bird Box is a brilliant example of using your medium to tell stories others can’t.
Almost the whole book is told without visual cues. It is told from the first person perspective of Malorie, a woman looking after two children, as they get into a boat heading to who knows where, afraid of some kind of monster that they can’t look at, but may or may not be able to hear. Sounds, smells and touch guides the characters, and it is used to make things as simple as fetching water from a well into something extremely tense.
Within the first chapter, so many questions are set up, I couldn’t wait to find the answers.
Each chapter alternates between the present (on the boat), and the past (set over a number of years). This setup is used very cleverly, to both fill out back story and give clues to the questions that the book asks almost constantly. The flashback chapters are almost like short stories, containing snapshots of Malorie’s life leading up to the point when her and the two children get into the boat. However, they are not told in chronological order, but dramatic order, tying them into our leads thoughts and the events that occur on their adventure along the river.
The end result is one that is not only extremely compelling and complex, without ever being frustrating or hard to follow, but one that I feel uses the prose to tell a story that couldn’t be told any other way. This is the lesson that I took away from Bird Box. Find stories that you can tell in your medium, that no others can.
Not that it will stop them.