Review of Malorie by Josh Malerman

Have you ever finished a book and felt that it concluded in such a fulfilling manner that it didn’t deem a sequel? That’s how I felt Josh Malerman’s debut novel Bird Box ended. However, six years after Bird Box was published, Malerman comes out with Malorie.

Since this is a review of the second book, there will be spoilers for Bird Box. There will be minor spoilers for Malorie.

For those that have never read Bird Boxor watched the film adaptation on Netflix, it’s story where creatures suddenly appear and if you look at those creatures you go mad. Bird Box has the protagonist, Malorie, trying to survive the world pregnant and inside a house of fellow survivors. She eventually has the baby, along with another woman. However, the house is betrayed by a crazy person, named Gary, and everyone is killed. Except for Malorie and the two babies. Years go by and Malorie raises the children in a secluded home but has to escape that home as well. They end up going to a safe haven called The Jane Tucker School for the Blind.

Honestly, I didn’t think that Bird Boxneeded a sequel. When I saw that Malerman was publishing Malorie, I wondered what the story would look like. Obviously, I would want to see how a school for the blind could survive in this new world and maybe there would be some inner politics or something of that nature. With creatures that were never described in the first book, maybe Malerman would take this opportunity to give readers some insight to what they looked like. Obviously, this is a thriller/horror book so the creatures would somehow break into the school and chaos would ensue.

Boy was I wrong.

Instead, Malorie and her two children leave the school after two years because of a person driven insane by the creatures. After escaping the school, there is a ten year leap and Malorie and the two teenagers are living in an abandoned campground in Michigan. After an encounter with a mysterious census taker, the three decide to travel north to find someone that Malorie thought was dead.

Three reasons why I liked Malorie:

1.  The theme of progress. One of the major themes of the novel is the conflict of progress verse safety. Throughout the novel, Malorie is a strict teacher of safety which clashes against the curiosity of Tom, her teenage son. When they re-enter society Tom seeks a more progressive lifestyle. The waves of progress also erode at Malorie until she has to choose between the unwavering methods that kept them alive for ten years or adapt to a new, yet dangerous, lifestyle.

2. The creatures change tactics. Just looking at a creature automatically drives a person insane. In Malorie,Malerman changes tactics a bit by also adding touch as one of the ways a person can be driven mad. This theory adds a bit of tension throughout the story and also gives a little more depth into the creature’s lore.

3. The other people. I was bored with Malorie as a character. I didn’t enjoy her story arc in this novel, nor did I enjoy her interaction with other people. However, I enjoyed the other people. There are minor characters in the story that are interesting and that should have been fleshed out and explored more. It’s my opinion that Malerman should’ve written the sequel about some of these characters. For instance, the creator of the Blind Train.

Three reasons I did not like Malorie:

1. The beginning was rushed. Like I said in the beginning of this review, I would have liked to see what life inside the school for the blind would be like. I would have liked to see Malorie and her children grow up a little and integrate with the society before things eventually crumbled. It was so important for them to reach the school at the end of the first book, but we never got to see the prize for reaching the goal. If Malerman spent more than eleven pages in the school, maybe readers would have felt that Malorie and the kids suffered some great loss. It was just a bump along the way it seems.

2. Too many: …what? There were so many times that I stopped reading and couldn’t believe what I was reading. There are a plethora of moments that just didn’t make sense. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just leave it at that.

3. The ending was rushed. To me, it was obvious where the climax of the story take place. It was obvious which teenager would great that conflict. What I didn’t see happening was how Malerman decided to transition into that last act. It was a surprising antagonist that made no sense whatsoever and the resolution between Malorie and that antagonist was the most disappointing thing in this novel.

If you’re wanting to leave Malorie and her two children in peace, I suggest simply leaving them at the end of the first novel. If Malerman had asked me, I would have told him the same advice.

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James Master

A natural born reader, James tackled the works of Stephen King and Michael Crichton when he was in the sixth grade. His influential young mind, now twisted by the science fiction and horror genre, James did what any respectable young man would. He began crafting stories. Instead of playing in recess, James would write stories about dinosaurs and serial killers. He hasn’t stopped writing or reading which is where his path crossed with Burning Willow Press, LLC. Ironically enough, you can find James’s first published work, “The Dark Forest,” in the anthology “Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends” published by Burning Willow Press. His first book, “The Book of Roland” published Feb. 25, 2017, is a 2017 Summer Indie Book Award nominee. It is the first of seven in the Soul Eater Chronicles and it is centered around a katana wielding, gunslinging, pop culture referencing monk named Timothy as he fights the incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins. His next book, “The Book of Mark”, is scheduled to come out early 2018. James graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Minor in Film Studies in 2015. By day, James works as a mild-mannered reporter for The Pilot News as well as an editor for the weekly paper The News-Mirror. By night, he works for BWP reading submissions or writing his own works.
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