Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman

Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman

©Del Rey

The genre: Horror

The gist: Sequel to Bird Box. A woman and her two children survive in a world with mysterious creatures that make people go insane upon sight.

The background: Like a lot of people with Netflix access, I watched the movie Bird Box when it came out in December 2018. After reading some articles on it and discovering it was based on a book, I added my name to the very long waitlist at the library—turns out I was not the only one who had this idea—and months later, I finally got to read it. It was suspenseful, creepy, and just as fast-paced as the film.

Speaking of the film, Malerman said in the Acknowledgements of Malorie that he never planned to write a sequel, but people in his life saw the movie and started asking him, “What happens next?” And he decided he wanted to find out too.

The tea: I really liked this book. Like its predecessor, it was well-paced, kept me interested, and had some chillingly creepy moments. Malerman writes with an elegant focus that lets you truly step into those creepy moments, not to mention the head, mind, and fears of protagonist Malorie and her two kids.

We get a liiiiiiitle more insight into the creatures themselves, though not much. And I think it’s better that way. They’re scarier mysterious.

Getting two new POVs thrown into the mix with Malorie’s kids, Tom and Olympia, was a refreshing take on the Bird Box world, especially from characters who were literally born and raised in it. They don’t fear the creatures the same way Malorie and other adults who knew the “old world” do, and it was cool to see their curiosity about the creatures butting heads with Malorie’s relentless and single-minded philosophy of “living by the [blind]fold.”

Malorie wants to survive. Her kids want to live. This causes some beautiful tension, because neither are wrong.

My only grievance is that the ending got resolved too quickly, it would’ve been nice to have seen the last thirty or so pages fleshed out more.

There was also a blind train, which was dope. A train is always a fitting setting for a suspense/horror/mystery novel. (Thank you, Agatha Christie.)

The wrap-up: Despite my initial worry that this book might fall into some common sequel pitfalls, I was pleasantly surprised with its originality. If you like horror, Malorie is a satisfying read.

The rating: 4/5

She remembers yelling, so much yelling, so much saying, “No no no, Tom, NO!”

But if you tell someone “no” enough times, they start thinking “yes” just to hear something else, just to hear a different word, they start thinking YES.

—Josh Malerman, Malorie
Review: Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Review: Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

©St. Martin’s Press

The genre: Sci-fi

The gist: First contact novel set in an alternate 2007. An American girl serves as an alien species’ sole interpreter for planet Earth.

The background: I wanted to read this book because I’ve been a fan of author Lindsay Ellis’ insightful and funny Youtube video essays for years (I’ve even featured some of her work for PBS on this blog). With a graduate degree in film, and as an observer of media and pop culture, she has a keen understanding of storytelling tropes and techniques, and I was excited when she announced she was putting out her first novel—a series, in fact, with book #2 coming out in fall 2021.

Axiom’s End was officially released July 21, 2020, but with the pandemic going on, I guess bookstores said “fuck it” and I wound up getting my hands on a copy the day before.

The tea: There were things I really liked about this book, and there were things that I wanted it to do better.

The dynamic between the protagonist Cora and the main alien Ampersand as well as the descriptions of aliens and the worldbuilding around their civilizations were well-thought-out. I really enjoyed the philosophical discussions the characters (human and alien) had about culture, life, and language. The dialogue read as realistic to me (one of Ellis’ MFA focuses was screenwriting) and the pace of the story was good; it kept me wanting to find out what happened next.

Also, the cover art is sick.

As for what I wanted more of, I wish the writing had made me feel a stronger connection to the characters or concerned about what happened to them. I didn’t really feel the tension of what was at stake for Cora and her family, only between Cora and Ampersand. There were also some minor inconsistencies that threw me, which I’ll chalk up to editorial oversight.

Finally, it’s mentioned early on in the novel that Cora studied linguistics, and I was a little let down this didn’t come into play in a significant way when she became an alien interpreter; maybe it will in the books to come.

The wrap-up: I went into this knowing that long-form sci-fi without dystopia isn’t totally my thing, and I still found it an enjoyable read. The subject matter is interesting, and Ellis’ exploration of the theme of embracing “the other” is a fresh take and kind of heartwarming.

The rating: 3/5

There it was. Not everything could be explained, at least not with the limits of spoken language. But there was something comforting to it. Their mutual inability to understand each other leading to a place of understanding.

—Lindsay Ellis, Axiom’s End