Bird Box

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $28.88
Paperback $10.83
Hardback $25.99
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780062259653
9780062259660
9780062259677
9780062326928 — Paperback

 

Readers Annotation

Don’t open your eyes.

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 4P

This book is superbly written. Its detailed in the right places and vague in the right places. It really makes you feel the situation.

I want so bad to give this book all the high marks, but its a 4P because not everyone enjoys a horror novel (even one as great as this one).

Summary

All of the Spoilers ahead (in chronological order)!

In the beginning, it started with one incident in Russia. Malorie is living with her sister Shannon. Malorie finds out that she’s pregnant. There are more incidents, and they’re spreading. Shannon gets more paranoid as they cross the ocean and occur in Alaska. People start blocking their eyes and covering their windows. Malorie doesn’t believe yet. 

An incident occurs in Michigan by Malorie and Shannon’s parents home. The sisters call their parents. Soon the incidents are widespread. Malorie and Shannon have holed up in their apartment and covered all the windows. They don’t hear from their parents anymore. Malorie hears something upstairs one day and goes up to check on Shannon. Part of a window has been uncovered. Malorie finds Shannon dead in the bathroom.

Malorie remembers seeing an ad in the newspaper that said there was a house offering shelter. No longer able to stay where her sister has died, she somehow drives to the town and home. At the home they let her in and pat her down. 

The roommates tell Malorie about the creatures and of their situation. The cellar is packed with canned food. There’s a well in the backyard. Everyone takes turns doing chores (like emptying the wastebuckets). Tom is the outgoing guy. Don is the paranoid guy. Jules has the dog (Victor). There’s Cheryl and the other guy. Tom has ideas. He wants to explore other houses for stuff, he wants to do things. The group calls random numbers hoping to contact anyone.

There’s another knock on the door and Olympia joins the group. She too is pregnant. She had been living next door. She heard them one night and made her way over to them blind.

Tom wants to find dogs (and use them as seeing eye dogs). He and Jules explore the block blind. They find a tent in the road and note that that is weird. They come back 2 days later with two huskies.

Then Gary shows up. Gary tells the group about his former group. They were not military but became militant, except for Frank. Frank wrote in journals and thought there was no harm to the creatures. He escaped one day after taking down all of the window coverings. Gary left after that.

Malorie is suspicious of Gary. She nicks his suitcase one night and rifles through it, finding “Franks’s” journal. She wants to tell the group. Don has grown close to Gary and she doesn’t trust him.

When Tom eventually comes back, she blurts out what she’s found out about Gary. The roommates kick Gary out.

Don holes up in the basement. Eventually the roommates get Don out of the basement and both Malorie and Olympia go into labor. There’s a storm raging, and they take the two women to the attic to give birth. There’s a fight on downstairs which sounds like it turns violent. Then Gary appears in the attic. Don has uncovered all the windows, and Gary is crazy. 

Malorie gives birth first as a creature comes up to the attic. Olympia gives birth and sees the creature. Malorie pulls Olympia’s baby towards her and covers both of their eyes. Olympia jumps out the window and hangs herself with her umbilical cord. Gary and the creature leave.

The phone rings. Malorie traverses the house with her eyes closed, stepping unknowingly around the bodies of the roommates as she goes in order to answer the phone. Its a man and he says there’s a safe place down the river and tells her how to get there.

4 YEARS LATER

Malorie has decided that she and the children are leaving. She recalls that they have not had much of a childhood and that she may have been cruel to them.

She has trained them to awaken with their eyes closed. She has trained them to hear everything. 

She knows that it is foggy outside and decides that today they will take the river. She grabs the children and some food and they head to the little rowboat in the river. 

Malorie puts the boy in front and the girl in back and sits in the middle to row, blindfolded down the river.

They get stuck on a bank, run into a crazy man on a boat, and get attacked by some wolves (who injury Malorie). Malorie wishes she had Victor, but he went mad after seeing a creature when she went to get microphones and amplifiers.

A creature stands in front of them and tries to take off Malorie’s blinfold as they approach the split in the river, but she tells it not to take it off her and it listens and walks away. Malorie needs to take the middle right arm of the river, which means she needs to open her eyes. She does and marvels at the brightness of the world before putting on her blindfold again. They take the split and are hauled ashore at the compound and welcomed warmly. They see that some people have been blinded and are afraid, but the man in charge explains that they don’t do that anymore.

Evaluation

Straight up: This was a great book.

Its creepy. There’s a real emphasis on different feelings and senses. It evokes different feelings from other horror novels. Its atmospheric.

This book is not going to jump scare you, this book isn’t a slasher flick. This is a creeping horror that sets right into your bones and seeps. This sits with you. It leaves you feeling creeped out and gross.

Its amazing.

I went in with zero expectations (though high hopes). And it was amazing. At one point I picked it up, knew I couldn’t finish it in one sitting and knew that I had to do it in one go and so put it back down.

The setting is creepy. Its not super described, but you get the feeling of it. And really, that’s what the book is all about.

Our characters are well thought out and shown (and boy did it drive me up a wall not to know why Boy and Girl didn’t have names). Malorie is an interesting character, and the choices she makes are hard. The roommates are different archetypes that work well for the story, without being one dimensional or stereotypical. Gary freaked me right out, and he wasn’t even that big of a role! …..Gary…..

I loved that we got NOTHING about the creatures (and really that’s the crux of the story: to know is to go mad), except that there are creatures and you will go crazy if you see them.

The plot unfolded beautifully. Jumping between two periods of time really kept the reader in the dark about certain parts of the book and led to a dramatic climax.

This isn’t my new obsession, but it is a stupendous book.

A great creepy read.

Genre

Apocalyptic

Horror

Readalikes

The Silence by Tim Lebbon

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

Significance

Creepy and sensory, with minimal other-worldly aspects

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Why do you suppose Malorie didn’t name the children?

Would you have trained the children like Malorie did?

How would you have reacted to the news in the beginning of the story?

Author’s website

Josh Malerman

Awards

LibraryReads Favorites: 2014

YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Horror: Better Dead than Unread (2017)

Reviews

Kirkus

PW

Why I Chose It

I heard about Malerman’s newest book on a podcast and they also talked about how great this one was, so I decided to try this one first.

Other Information

I’m very excited to say that this is my first book that I’ll actually be leading a discussion on! Can’t wait!

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Ready Player One

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $22.74
Paperback $16
Hardback $19.07
Kindle $9.99
Associated ISBNs 9780307887436
9780307887443 — Paperback
9781524755614 — Paperback
9780307887450
9781451752335 — Glued Binding
9780606264129 — Glued Binding
9788466421140

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 5P

Readers Annotation

Whoever wins the game will change the world

Summary

Welcome to the Dystopian Future (again)! This time its because people used up the fossil fuels (and are idiots) and corporations suck. The internet/web/Oasis is where people escape/work/go to school. There’s corporate slavery (indentured), and tons of espionage.

At the beginning of our story, the Oasis is free for everyone to access. When the creator (Haliday) dies, he sets up an “egg hunt” in order to find the successor to his empire. The game is simple: find the three keys, open the three gates, pass the tests and get the egg. There are individuals trying for the egg (“gunters”), groups of gunters (clans) and IOI (an evil corporation trying to win and charge people for access).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Highlight to read.

Our main character is on Wade Watts is a teenager living in the stacks, a ghetto where trailers are literally stacked on top of each other. He lives with his aunt and her boyfriend and several other tenants. Wade is a “gunter,” and spends all of his free time looking for the egg. Wade goes to school online. Wade sneaks out of his trailer and climbs down the stacks daily to hide away in a broken down car in a junkyard to go to school. He heats his space with a bike powered heater. Wade has one friend: Aech. Aech is a professional gamer and travels, and is a high ranking avatar.

Wade has an epiphany one day in Latin that gives him an idea on where the first key is. He gets a pass from the school to travel to the area on the school planet where he’s sure the key will be. It’s a skull shaped grove and he goes through the cave of traps (insert all the 80s things here that I can’t remember) until he reaches the end. It turns out that the game he needs to play is the game Joust (80s game). He wins eventually and gets the copper key. The copper key has the hint for the copper door. 

Just after he finishes, Art3mis shows up. Wade has a crush on her (she’s a geeky gunter blogger). She asks if he’s failed the Joust. He says he has. They chat for a while, Wade hiding the fact that he’s beaten the gate until Art3mis checks the scoreboard to find his avatar name (Parzival). She gets pissed and keeps him in the cave until all the traps have reset. Once free of the cave, Wade gives a hint to his friend Aech on where to find the Copper Key.

Wade continues on to where he knows the copper key to be: on a planet full of recreations of Haliday’s hometown. He goes to Haliday’s childhood home and knows he needs to play Dungeons of Daggerath. Once he completes it, he finds that a poster of War Games has turned into the Copper Gate. In order to pass the Gate, he needs to recite the words to the movie and do the actions correctly. He does everything and passes the first test.

Wade checks the scoreboard and finds that Art3mis has also made it through the Copper Gate and so has Aech, and two Japanese characters: Daito and Shoto. IOI has taken over the cave where the Copper Key is, and has sealed it off so that no one else can get a key and is churning out keys for their own players. Eventually the gunter clans come together and take out the IOI barracade.

Wade agrees to do corporate sponsorships in order to make money. He also gets an email from IOI. IOI wants to recruit Wade to work for them. Wade goes to the meeting with the head IOI seeker Sorrento. IOI offers him everything he could ask for, but Wade shuts them down. Then IOI reveals that they know who he is and where he lives. They threaten to blow him up. Wade believes they’re bluffing and still tells them no. He leaves the Oasis and then sees his trailer blow up.

Wade goes on the run. He assumes a different identity, and moves to Columbus, Ohio. He gets all the latest gear and devotes himself to finding the next key. He steadily gets more involved with Art3mis, and falls out with Aech. He’s never really officially dating Art3mis, and it all comes to a head at Og’s (Haliday’s best friend) birthday party. Wade tells Art3mis he loves her, she says he doesn’t really know her so he can’t love her and IOI attacks. 

After, Wade falls into a bit of a funk. He eventually gets out of it by forcing himself to become physically active. He re-focuses on finding the keys. Art3mis finds the Jade key and Wade plays a perfect game of Pac-Man. He earns a coin he cannot get rid of. Aech gets the Jade key and then sends Wade a hint in order to pay him back. Wade goes to Frobozz and plays Zork to get the Jade key. Then IOI takes over and starts farming Jade keys. They find the Jade Gate, and start getting Crystal Keys. 

Shoto finds Wade and tells him that IOI found Daito in real-life and threw him off a building.

Wade unlocks the Jade Gate (via Blade Runner) and plays Black Tiger to complete it. He then plays a riff from Rush on a guitar which gives him a clue that Sorrento overlooked. IOI makes public the knowledge of where the Crystal Gate is, and locks the place down with a special item.

Wade sends a message to Art3mis, Shoto and Aech and goes offline. He sets up a fake scenario to get captured by IOI in order to become an indentured employee in order to infiltrate IOI. He is captured and destroys his rig. He’s taken to IOI headquarters and placed in customer service. He backdoors his way into the surveillance system and then hacks into the servers. He plants a program to disrupt IOI’s force field. He learns that IOI knows who Art3mis and Shoto really are and are planning on kidnapping them. Wade makes a hasty escape and goes to a public Oasis station in order to contact his friends.

Wade lets them know that IOI is watching them and that they need to run. This is when Og appears. He offers them sanctuary at his home on the coast in order for them to safely attempt to complete the Crystal Gate. Og sends a plane for Shoto and Art3mis and tells Aech to pick Wade up and that they can catch a plane together. 

When Aech comes to pick Wade up he discovers that his best friend isn’t the dude he thought he was but a black lesbian. Aech tells Wade that she learned from her mother that it was better to have a male avatar because people would take a man seriously but not a woman. She also says that she left when her mother wouldn’t accept that she was a lesbian, so she drives around the country in an RV. Wade accepts her and the two reconnect on the way to Og’s house.

Wade sends a message to all the users of the Oasis telling them that everyone should team up to take down IOI and to meet them the next day in order to do so. When the four friends log in and travel to Anarak’s castle, they are surprised to find hundreds of thousands of avatars ready to take on IOI. Wade’s backdoor is a reprogrammed bot that self-destructs next to the item keeping the force-field around the castle. Once the barrier is down, its an all out brawl.

The friends turn into mechs, as does Sorrento (who turns into Mecha Godzilla) and some IOI cronies who have Crystal Keys. Shoto’s avatar gets killed by Sorrento, and Wade uses a special item to transform and take out Sorrento. The friends open the Crystal Gate and IOI sets off a bomb. Every avatar by the castle is destroyed. Wade only survives thanks to a second life (the coin from the perfect game of Pac-Man). Wade enters the gate. With his friends cheering him on, he completes Tempest and goes through Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 

Wade gets through the movie and encounters Haliday himself who explains the situation. Wade brings back his friends avatars with his new powers and they all log out.

Wade and Og talk about Haliday and then Wade goes out to talk with Art3mis. 

Evaluation

This is, frankly, one of the highlights of my reading adventure this year (so far). This had everything: likable characters with realistic problems, great plot, interesting mystery, engaging world (both of them), and a great take on dystopia. What a world Ernest Cline created.

This book was full of things that I knew, or could relate to (despite being born in the late ’80s). I got the references, and I loved the little jabs. The fact that the audio book was narrated by Will Wheaton was the cherry on top of this cake.

Really though, Wade was a likable lead. He had real problems, and he had to address them. His character was relatable. Art3mis was great as well. Aech was top notch. I loved Wade and Aech’s bro-ship.  Sorrento was a hate-able villain, and IOI was the perfect evil corporation.

Wade’s real world was disturbingly real, and seemed like it could fall in the realm of possibility. His online world was a lot like modern MMOs. Both worlds were well drawn and completely believable.

I completely loved this book. I don’t want to live in it (what a horrible future!), but I want to re-read it and have the feeling I will many times.

Genre

Science Fiction

Dystopia

Readalikes

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Significance

An award winning SciFi, that isn’t too far away from our reality. Realistic future, and future tech.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about the big reveal?

Do you think IOI was a accurate portrayal of a corporation?

Talk about living in reality vs. virtual reality and the consequences of both.

Author’s website

Ernest Cline

Awards

Alex Award: 2012

Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2011

Nutmeg Children’s Book Award (Connecticut): High School

School Library Journal’s Adult Books 4 Teens: 2011

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Booklist

Why I Chose It

This sounded like a really interesting take on society, culture and dystopia. Plus, a friend said it was a really good read.

Other Information

The Running Man

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $60.99
Paperback $12
Hardback $18.40
Kindle $8.99
Associated ISBNs 9780451115089
9780451197962 — Paperback
9780451230621 — Paperback
9781101212141
9780340952283 — Paperback

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This Bachman book is pretty great (especially in audio where the countdown becomes just that more visceral) but its not perfect.

This should be bouncing back in popularity due to the popularity of dystopias in general and the political climate.

Readers Annotation

He’s on the run for money… he’s on the run for his life.

Summary

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

Welcome to the Dystopian future USA. This particular future has television ruling the world (practically). Ben Richards has no job, his wife is hooking to make money, and his daughter is sick with pneumonia. They cannot afford to get her medicine. Richards decides to try to get on a game show to get money. He’s hoping to get something like the show where people with heart conditions run and get asked questions until they have a heart attack, or the one where you swim with alligators.

Richards heads to the studio and stands in line to be interviewed. He takes an aptitude test, gets psych evaluated, and examined. All the while he is thinking unkind thoughts about the whole process, the interviewers, and the system at large. In the end, he and two other men are selected for a show that no one will tell them. They go up an elevator and one of them says that he thinks they’ve been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. When they reach the top, they’re called one by one into the executive Killian’s office. When Richards comes in Killian (a big black man) tells Richards he’s been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. Richards signs the contract, tells Killian he doesn’t want the hookers, and Killian gives him an advance on his winnings (with strings that if he doesn’t earn enough the studio will got after his wife and daughter). He is given a day before he will be set loose. Killian gives him one piece of advice: stay with his people.

Richards spends his day reading books, and sending his advance to his wife. He is told that his wife and daughter are being guarded so that no one will come after them.

The next day, Richards is taken to the studio. He’s given the rundown: twice a day he must video tape himself for 10 minutes and send the tapes to the studio. If he fails to send in the tapes, they will kill his wife and child. He is given some money. They do his intro: Ben Richards: non-conformist, jobless, and societal fighter. His wife: whore. They doctor his wife’s photo and Richards gets pissed. Security guards Killian as he laughs at Richards impotent rage. And then he’s set loose.

— important note on the game: in THE RUNNING MAN, the runner is set loose in the general population. His job is to survive as long as he can. He earns money for getting away and for every “hunter” and person he kills. Regular people can phone in tips for cash rewards. “Hunters” are basically law enforcement, though the studio has its own special “hunter” who coordinates the law enforcement. —

Richards takes a taxi, and the driver says he’s going to send in a tip to get the $100 reward. Richards doesn’t care. He sneaks to a shop where a “friend” can doctor up some fake ID. Then he travels to New York.

In New York he rents a hotel room. He tapes himself with a pillowcase over his head and any identifying marks covered. Every day he wanders out in his disguise. He starts to feel antsy and thinks that someone has figured out where he is. He pays for a few extra nights, leaves as usual and travels to a different part of the city.

He rents a room in the Y(MCA). He’s only there for a few hours when he realizes they know where he is. He flees to the basement, and ends up setting the place on fire as he leaves through the tunnel. He comes up in a different part of town and runs into a black kid.

The kid brings his brother to Richards. They go back to the kid’s home. There Richards learns about the air and how polluted it is as he listens to the kid’s sister dying from lung cancer in another room. They brother knows how to send the tapes without them being traceable. The brother takes Richards to a different part of the state. He tells him of a contact that can help him.

When Richards finds the contact’s home, he discovers he’s not home. So Richards waits with the kid’s mother. She slowly realizes who he is and threatens to call the police. The kid comes home and tries to reassure his mother that Richards is ok and that she shouldn’t call the police. The kid goes to hide Richard’s car.

When the kid comes back he discovers his mother has called the police. Richards and the kids flee. The get to the car and then are chased by the police. They get shot to hell, but temporarily lose the police when the kid takes Richards to an abandoned mall. The kid (mortally wounded) goes off to lead the police on a chase and his inevitable death.

Richards stays the night in the abandoned mall. In the morning he treks through the overgrowth and finds a gas station. He needs to mail his tapes. But he knows if he goes to the gas station he’ll be spotted and then caught. Luckily, a kid and his dog come by. Richards convinces the kid to mail his tapes.

Richards hijacks a car on the road that a woman is driving. He forces her to drive him to the nearest airfield. 

The “hunters” beat them there. Richards threatens the woman’s life and bluffs his way to obtaining a plane and crew. He takes along the big bad “hunter” (whose name I forgot). On the plane Killian contacts them. He tells Richards his wife is dead and that the studio wants to hire him as lead “hunter.” Richards kills the “hunter,” the pilots, and shoves the woman in a parachute out the door. He drives the plane into the studio’s building.

Evaluation

I’ll be honest. I read this because I love the movie. I know what you’re thinking: “What a horrible movie that movie was!” Yes. Yes it was pretty bad, even for an ’80s movie, but it was pretty epic. I love the camp of it all. And while its not great, it did have a message that I appreciated.

Anyway. On to the book.

Let’s start with the obvious: the book is better, and the book is different.

Of course it is! No book is exactly like it’s movie (unless its a book based on a movie… maybe). I remember watching Interview With the Vampire after I had read the books… and even though Anne Rice had helped with the screenplay, it was still different. Point being: DIFFERENT!

The obvious difference is the setting. Book!Ben Richards has full run of the world (though he really probably won’t be taking a plane ride). Movie!Ben Richards has the game arena. Book!Ben’s world is much more scary than Movie!Ben’s. Book!Ben has to be wary of every person he meets. Anyone could turn in information about him for cold, hard cash. Book!Ben hangs out in New York, goes to the sticks and then hops a plane. Movie!Ben hangs on in the arena, which has several themed areas.

The circumstances are different: Book!Ben is trying to get money for medicine for his sick kid and the only way left for him is to be part of the games. Movie!Ben said “no” to a direct order and was captured and forcibly put into the game. These circumstances have huge impacts on the characters and their actions and motivations. Book!Ben volunteered. He needs to stay alive as long as he can to help his wife and baby. He hates the system (and because he does he ends up on The Running Man) and along the way he learns that the air is poisoning the people. Book!Ben has a set of complicated morals and circumstances. Movie!Ben is aggressive and while he’s “fighting the man” it doesn’t really seem like a cause he believes in.

Movie has crazy costumed hunters. Book has regular people and law enforcement hunting the runners.

Movie has constant surveillance. Book has mailed in tapes and news coverage.

Movie has cheesy good guys win ending. Book has much more complicated ending with no clear winner.

I love this book.

This book is a believable dystopia (given antiquated technology), with a set of compelling characters and a disturbing setting.

Ben Richards is a layered character. He’s not necessarily good, he’s not bad. He’s a man put in a difficult situation trying to fight an oppressive system which put him in the situation he finds himself in. He feels bad killing people. He cares about other people even when he shouldn’t. He’s not entirely smart. He’s thrown in a situation that he doesn’t know what to do in.

Yes, Killian is evil, but he’s not a cartoon-y bad guy. He knows what will get ratings, he knows what buttons to press, and he knows how to manipulate a situation.

Every place Ben Richards goes to is detailed. We know the situation, we know where we are, and we know what to expect.

The chapters get shorter and more intense as the clock counts down (which is pretty darn brilliant).

Look, I could break it down for you, but I won’t.

This book is a must read for me. Its a great piece (sure its not perfect) that makes you think. Its a heart-pounding thrill ride. It’s…

THE RUNNING MAN

Genre

Science Fiction

Dystopia

Readalikes

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Significance

A dystopia where the government is your enemy, the media is your enemy, and your neighbors are your enemy.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Do you think this is a possible Dystopian future?

Talk about the prevalence of media in life.

What would you have done?

Author’s website

Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

Awards

none

Reviews

Amazon

The Guardian

Why I Chose It

I wanted to read this because I love the awesomely cheesy (and incredibly bad) 1980’s movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Other Information