Cover Image: Inspection


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Member Reviews

I loved Bird Box.  One of my favorite book in the last few years, so I was wholly disappointed with this book.  Children being purchase from their parents and raised in groups separated from the other sex.  I never felt like there was a point to the  "experiment' and I didn't feel attached to any of the children. Just a complete miss for me.
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Two strange schools. K (girl) and J (boy) neither has ever seen someone of the other sex. J is one of the 26 alphabet boys at this school run by D.A,D. K is one of 26 girls at her school, run by M.O.M. Confused? Yeah, I was also! This is a good book, but more confusing than Bird Box.
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Fantastic book, fantastic world building. Malerman shows his range and creativity, and he's become an 'auto-buy' author, for each book he writes is stamped with his unique glances at humanity
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I really loved both Bird Box and Unbury Carol, so I assumed this would be wonderful. 

Sadly, this is a departure from the quality and originality that I’ve come to expect from Malerman. 

The pseudo-dystopian theme of a group of people cut off by force from the rest of the world is never my favorite, but I was convinced Malerman would put a unique spin on it, as his other work has been exceptionally fresh. Unfortunately this felt like a book I’ve read 20 times before even though, um, I’ve never actually read it before.

In addition to the lack of originality, there’s an ickiness to this that’s hard to shake. The characters fail to engage to the reader, and mostly fail to evoke much more than vague pity. For all the “these kids are special geniuses!” chatter, most of them seem dull and even those we get to know best like J and K don’t have much of the magneticism that makes for a good literary character. 

There’s some decent action at the end of the book, but it too is predictable and the narrative is far too slow leading up to it. 

From Malerman’s past work, I expected something better, or at least something more unique.
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This story is about an experiment that from first glance could turn spoiled rotten at any minute. The purpose is to raise children without any influence from the opposite sex. The idea is that this will make them more successful in life because the opposite sex is a distraction. But once J an "Alphabet Boy" learns about girls from K a "Letter Girl" everything J knew is flipped upside down and he starts to question more than just the existence of girls.
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I absolutely love The Birdbox, so I was extremely excited to read Inspection. Unfortunately I was somewhat disappointed. The pace of the book was slow and even slightly boring at some times. I did not feel a connection with any of the characters, including J, the main Alphabet Boy. The premise of the book is really interesting, but I just could not get into the story.
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Thank you for the advanced copy.  While I loved the idea of the story, I just did not like the way it was written.  Not a genre I typically read, I hoped to like it but it just wasn''t the book for me.
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This was an intriguing premise, but it was way too ridiculous. I don't want to give anything away, because I found the most appealing thing about Inspection to be the slow reveal of the horrific details. It's clear from the beginning that things are not kosher with the Alphabet Boys, but exactly WHAT is strange about this school/orphanage is not immediately apparent.

[SPOILERS! The conclusion of the story was just way too much for me. Suddenly all the children become murderous? There are only like 2 or 3 who feel loyal to the adults who raised them? Really?? Then there's The Corner: that's the big secret? It was so obvious, I really thought Malerman would come up with something a little more interesting than that. Also, as soon as J and K - who, btw, are 13 and 11 respectively - meet each other and realize they're seeing someone of the opposite gender for the first time, they immediately start making out and hooking up? Gross. Stop sexualizing children, please and thank you.]
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After reading Bird Box and seeing the film adaptation, I was intrigued to read the author's next work. While the central conceit requires a big stretch of the imagination, I was willing to go along with it. However, the plot jumps right out the window about halfway through and left me behind. The wild premise could have been salvaged by a thoughtful and subtle handling of the characters, which is what kept me reading to the end. I can't say much more without spoilers, but I will not be as quick to pick up the next offering by this writer.
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I was really looking forward to this book based on the synopsis and I hadn’t read any of Josh Malerman’s previous books. It was going to be a whole new experience and well, it really was. It wasn’t entirely great either.

The premise of the book is that there are these two giant, Barad-dûr like towers in the middle of the Michigan woods. I think it was Michigan anyways – does it really matter? One is composed entire of males and one of females, with twenty-six children in each, raised to believe the opposite sex didn’t exist. They’re down a few kids in each because some unfortunate child will catch a glimpse of someone they shouldn’t, but no big deal right? It’s not totally murder or anything.

Yes, actually it is murder and it’s kinda messed up because all the other kids fear being sent to the Corner, where their brothers or sisters were sent and never returned from. And they’re basically being raised by ex-cons because they needed the large sums of money offered by the orchestrators of this whole twisted experiment. D.A.D and M.O.M each ruling their own separate little domains, trying to create the ultimate genius, undistracted by the appeals of the opposite sex.

SPOILER – IT DIDN’T REALLY WORK OUT. That’s all that’s to be said really. I felt sorry for the kids and it was fun to watch the experiment unravel around M.O.M and D.A.D’s ears.

I was glad when I finished this book and it wasn’t an entirely unexpected ending. I almost DNF’d this until I got to the girl’s chapters and the story kind of picked up pace, making things more bearable. I probably won’t pick up any Malerman books in the future unless I see some truly excellent reviews pop up from trusted sources.
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I honestly have no idea where Josh Malerman comes up with this stuff. The guy is a creative genius and Inspection is pure literary gold. I LOVE Malerman's work. He can spin a tale like no other and his imagination is just pure wild. He is a literary treasure. Read him NOW.
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This was definitely an interesting story. The first part there were times I felt a bit meh-ish, but I was totally all in by the second half.
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When an author comes up with such an original concept as Josh Malerman's Inspection, it's just plain refreshing to read. There are only so many times I can read about secrets in marriages and the like before I start to get bored with the same old topic again and again. It's nice when you can say as a reader that you've read NOTHING like a particular book. That's not to say I loved Inspection, but it definitely had its positives.

If you want characters with actual names, you better turn elsewhere. The story revolves around the "Alphabet Boys," who are students in a school deep within a forest. They know nothing about reality. All they know is what D.A.D. and the Parenthood have told them, namely that they came from trees and need to be careful not to get fake diseases. Oh yeah, they also do not have a clue that a species called "girls" exists either.

We are told their story through the eyes of "J." J begins to have some suspicions, and these suspicious are increased a hundredfold when he meets "K," a girl. Where did K come from? What secrets about the world are being kept from all of them, and how will they react when they find out they have been deceived?

Other readers have commented that they found the plot slow and the ending great. I, however, am completely the opposite, which is why I couldn't rate this a 4. Unfortunately, I can't reveal much about the ending lest I give it away, except to say that I just found it way too much. But major props go out to Malerman for creating something here that we really haven't seen before.

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Another Malerman title full of potential. Enjoyed the idea of the story and the characters, but unfortunately,  the style of writing just lost me for large chunks of the tale. 

The author just isn't my cup of tea, but if you've enjoyed his past works, you will probably enjoy this one.
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What is it that keeps people from ever reaching their full potential?  If you were to buy in to the experiment presented in Bird Box author Josh Malerman’s new novel Inspection, it would be the opposite sex. That is why 26 boys and 26 girls are being raised since birth isolated from the world ... and each other.  They have no knowledge of the opposite sex.  The thought is that without these “distractions,” they will reach genius potential.  But even the best planned experiments can’t take into account all the variables, which is just where this project starts to go wrong ...

I had high hopes for Inspection after reading and loving Malerman’s Bird Box long before it took the Netflix world by storm.  However, despite its quite interesting premise, this book was poorly executed.  It reads as if you are on the outside, looking in on this weird little experiment.  Everything feels murky, foggy, which doesn’t help with comprehension because this novel is hard enough to follow as is.  If Malerman had been more direct in explaining to his readers just what was going on in these Towers, my opinion might have been more favorable. Instead, I had to expend all of my energy just trying to understand the story instead of enjoying it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved the concept of Malerman's newest book, separating males from females in their formative ages, however, it fell a little short of my expectations. I was hoping for more thrilling and/or psychological consequences to this experiment.  The author does develop the main characters nicely and makes the reader really care for them, which is also something I always look for in a good book.  While the book took quite some page turnings to get into, it does become exciting and makes the reader want to finish quickly.
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While I enjoyed every minute of Kate Hope Day's debut, Inspection is a novel I almost quit reading on more than one occasion. The premise is decent, and you connect with the characters almost immediately. The problem is that nothing happens for a good two-thirds of the novel. Josh Malerman spends that much time showing the reader his school, what it is like for the students there, and why some staff members may have a problem with it. In other words, the first two-thirds are boring.

Once Mr. Malerman introduces readers to the girls' school, the story takes off like a rocket. Suddenly, we are able to see the entire picture and get an idea of where the story is going. We understand the true horror behind the schools' establishment, and we recognize the manipulative greediness of the headmaster and mistress. The story also gets dark - so very, very dark. While Mr. Malerman avoided showing the monsters in his previous novel, Bird Box, in Inspection we don't just see them, we get into their minds and see the world from their eyes. We also see the steps the kids are willing to take in order to gain control of their lives, and it is not pretty. Or tidy.

Inspection is the type of novel I am glad I finished but did not necessarily enjoy. The ending is nothing like I thought it would be. The story went to places I was not expecting, and I am glad it did if only because it improved a subpar novel. I did not enjoy the slog to get to that point though, and the shock and awe of the ending only moderately overcome the tedium of the story's beginning. That ending certainly allows the story to earn its place in the horror genre, but the true horror is getting through the monotonous first two-thirds of Inspection first.
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This was not quite what I expected, but it was a thrilling read with some really dark turns. What happens when a group of boys and a group of girls, both raised without knowledge of the other gender find out their life is a lie? Also, D.A.D. and The Corner were chillingly sinister...
*note: this is my first Josh Malerman book, and I haven't read or seen Bird Box yet.
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he release of the Netflix original adaptation of Bird Box sealed Josh Malerman's status as a major horror author. And that much he is, a writer with a seemingly innate knack for playing into humankind's universal fear of the unknown, including the dark mysteries residing within our own hearts and minds. This talent is on full display in Malerman's latest novel, Inspection, out now via Del Rey Books. 

The premise of this book is this: a pompous married couple, Richard and Marilyn, set up a human experiment deep within the woods of Michigan. They believe that preoccupation with procreation and sexual pursuits are humanity's biggest distractions, and that, if boys and girls grew up without any knowledge of one another, they would undoubtedly become the greatest thinkers and inventors the world has ever seen. Thus, they set up camp in two old towers, hidden away from society and mere miles apart from each other. Calling these buildings the Turrets, Richard and Marilyn set about raising 26 boys and 26 girls, respectively, naming them only after letters of the alphabet—known, collectively, as the Alphabet Boys and the Letter Girls. A team of ex-cons and desperate teachers help keep the Turrets running, while Richard and Marilyn, known as D.A.D. and M.O.M. or, broadly, the Parenthood to their "children," preside over their buildings with increasing megalomania. 

For years, the plan seems to go off without much of a hitch, though two Alphabet Boys and one Letter Girl have been sent to "the Corner," a mysterious punishment area the children dread more than anything in their lives. The novel's action proper begins at the onset of the "delicate years" (puberty), a time the onsite psychologist Dr. Burt (of whom the children are not aware) insists will lead to significant changes within the Turrets. And she's absolutely right, though not so much because the boys and girls transition into young adulthood, but rather because of oversights on the part of the Parenthood. For the Alphabet Boys, the catalyst for the experiment's compromise comes in the form of a novel called Needs, written by jaded author Warren Bratt, employed by the Parenthood to pen propaganda leisure novels for the boys. In this opus, Bratt reveals the existence of women. For the Letter Girls, it all starts when K, who possesses a photographic memory and an unbreakable thirst for knowledge, accidentally spies the top of the boys' Turret from high atop her own tower. The lies and deception eventually come to light, and it's pretty horrifying, both psychologically and on a gut level.

There's much to love about Inspection. Malerman's sparse yet evocative prose helps move the narrative along, which is good since, in other hands, the same idea could have ended up being quite bloated. Characters both good and evil are completely fleshed out, with the latter especially believing themselves to be the heroes of the story, convinced their deplorable deeds are just. Malerman handles the point-of-views of his adolescent characters adeptly, capturing the heartache, confusion, longing, and ever-shifting quality of self-esteem that comes with the onset of puberty, especially as it applies to these extraordinary pre-teens, who live strange and extremely sheltered lives. Much of the novel relies on atmosphere and mystery, for "quiet" horror fans, but for those who appreciate some Grand Guignol levels of violence, Malerman has you covered there too. 

And yet, there's a pretty big oversight that mars Inspection, not detrimentally, but enough that it's well worth discussing. It seems logical that Richard and Marilyn wouldn't consider the sexuality of their children, given they have other conservative and outdated views on human interaction. They may very well believe queerness to be a choice, rather than something genetic. The inevitability that at least a few of the Alphabet Boys and Letter Girls would be gay and thus "distracted" from their studies, given their attraction to members of the same sex, should have been the catalyst that destroyed the Parenthood's experiment, but it isn't. The two main kids in the narrative, the boy J and the girl K, are straight, and if any of the other children are queer, the matter isn't discussed. 

One may argue that, because the children are only at the cusp of puberty, they're not yet thinking about anything remotely sexual, and thus the question of sexuality remains a non-issue, but the truth is, kids as young as three years-old begin to "explore" their bodies and become curious about the bodies of others their own age, long before they really understand the concept of procreation or even of sexual experiences. And if sexuality is indeed a spectrum, even those boys and girls who aren't primarily gay or lesbian might still find themselves experimenting with members of the same sex, simply because those biological "needs" that Warren Bratt writes about need to be met. Even without understanding the concept of human procreation (the boys and girls believe children grow on trees), the even more basic desire for pleasure and gratification would have certainly come into play within the walls of the Turrets long before the "delicate years" and the beginning of the novel's narrative, and would have thus crumbled Richard and Marilyn's ill-conceived plan before Warren Bratt's tell-all and K's enduring curiosity.

And yes, there's a good amount of disbelief-suspending that goes along with reading any horror/fantasy/sci-fi novel. That's certainly the case with Inspection, given the relative improbability of its main scenario coming to fruition in the first place. But as is often the case with speculative literature, the overall story is meant to be a parable, and whether or not its premise is entirely plausible isn't that important when compared to the overall message the author wishes to convey. This is also the case with Inspection, as Malerman seems to be skewering the dusty ideas plaguing society (or that have long-plagued society), namely the typical, predetermined roles the sexes must play, the idea that boys naturally only see girls as objects of sexual conquest, and that separating the sexes is ultimately better for all parties involved (something we do in reality via boys-only and girls-only schools, though these students are at least aware of the others' existence). But even in this microcosm of society, ignoring the reality of queerness entirely just feels like a grossly missed opportunity to take the themes already present in the novel even further. It's a missing piece of the puzzle, an overlooked aspect that would have enriched, rather than weighted, an already intriguing idea.

But Inspection is still a worthy read, one that, despite its flaws, upholds Malerman's premiere horror author status. All that is good about it, stated above, remains intact, even if it's not entirely a knockout.
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It is a wonderful thing, digging into a new Malerman novel, no idea what to expect, no clue where his twisted mind is going to take you.

In his newest novel, Inspection, we have two identical towers in a remote area of Michigan, separated by miles of forest.  One populated by twenty-five twelve-year-old boys and the other by a similar number of girls.  Known simply as the Alphabet Boys and the Letter Girls.  The children have no real names.  They are identified by the letters A through Z.  The Parenthood is known as D.A.D. for the boys and M.O.M. for the girls.  Neither group of children is aware of the other.  They are totally unaware of the opposite sex.

"...the Alphabet Boys are being raised to become the world’s greatest engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. ARTICLE ONE of the CONSTITUTION OF THE PARENTHOOD: GENIUS IS DISTRACTED BY THE OPPOSITE SEX."

What if the truth got out?  What if the boys learned of the girls?  What if the girls discover the second tower?  Inspection is without a doubt the most original story I have read in years.  It is totally movie ready.

It took some getting used to, identifying characters by letters alone, but it did become more comfortable as the story progressed.  Inspection is my fourth Malerman book and I've enjoyed them all.  At this point, each new release is a must read for me.

Published by Random House, Inspection is available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Josh Malerman is an internationally bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-nominated American author and one of two singer/ songwriters for the rock band The High Strung.  His debut novel Bird Box was published in 2014 to much critical acclaim.  Unbury Carol was published in April 2018.  He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, with his best friend/ soulmate Allison Laakko and their pets Frankie, Valo, Dewey, Marty, and the fish.
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