I am a huge fan of Josh Malerman’s work. I’ve read everything of his that I can get my hands on including Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel, Unbury Carol, and A House at the Bottom of the Lake and can’t wait to see what he has in store for us with the Bird Box sequel, coming out this fall (last I heard). He’s one of those authors that when I hear he has a book coming out, I make reading it a priority. Bird Box is still my favorite, but Inspection is his best since.
J is an Alphabet Boy. Raised in a turret with 25 other boys (one for each letter of the alphabet), he only knows his small world comprised of only men. The boys, their instructors, and their father figure, D.A.D., live together in a tower. D.A.D. is convinced that the opposite sex causes boys to neglect their studies, which in turn, makes them less productive members of society. So, he creates an experiment to eliminate that distraction. Women don’t exist in the boys’ world. They are told they were born from trees, are educated in traditional subjects, and show tremendous abilities.
However, not everyone is on board with this idea. D.A.D hired a man to write propaganda for the boys in the form of children’s novels, but this man knows what D.A.D. is doing is wrong and creates his own book, hands it out to the boys, and some read it, learning of women for the first time. Once that happens, they are deemed “spoiled rotten” and sent to THE CORNER, which is the scariest place for them. Every day these boys go through an “inspection” to check their bodies and minds for outside influence. They play an honesty game called Boats complete with nodes they place on themselves.
Halfway through the book, there is a giant reveal. I’m sad to say this reveal was in the book jacket summary, which was a bummer because I wish I hadn’t known it was coming. This book had a very 1984 feel to it. J begins to realize there’s more to life than this tower, but he’s unsure what that means. The boys are blind followers of D.A.D., never questioning his authority, THE CORNER is so much like Room 101 that the parallels are downright obvious. All of these examples made me love the book even more. Once I got to the ending, there was no putting his book down. I was rooting for J to figure everything out and then quite crushed as his world kept collapsing under him, little by little, the curtain pulled back more and more. D.A.D. is an excellent villain, leaping off the page, and watching his transformation from bad to worse is simply horrifying. Another excellent novel from Malerman. Hopefully, it tides me over until the Bird Box sequel.