Published by BERKLEY on August 21, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Christina Dalcher’s Vox is a dystopian novel set in America in the not-so-distant future. Instead of being the land of the free and the home of the brave, however, Dalcher’s America is one where radical religious fundamentalists have taken the reins of power and have implemented what they call the “Pure Movement.” What the Pure Movement entails is basically stripping women of all of their basic rights, including the right to speak. One day women are just removed from the workforce and fitted with bracelets that count the number of words they speak. If they go over the their daily allotment of 100 words, or if they try to skirt the 100 word limit by using any form of non-verbal communication, there are severe consequences.
Girls are also placed into different schools from boys and no longer receive the same caliber of education. They are taught how to do basic arithmetic and how to do household chores like sewing and cooking, the idea being that they are meant to take care of household responsibilities while the men in their lives go out and earn a living. Cameras have been mounted everywhere to make sure women and girls are falling into line as expected and punishments are readily doled out if they are not complying.
Needless to say, life is pure hell for women like Dr. Jean McClennan, the protagonist in Vox. Jean is a renowned linguist who was engaged in groundbreaking research that would benefit stroke victims when she is forced out of work and fitted with a bracelet. Jean is in denial that this is actually happening and she’s absolutely furious at herself for not seeing the signs and not trying to do something to stop this movement from taking hold. She’s also angry at the men in her life for going along with it and she’s furious at women like her neighbor, Mrs. King, who seem perfectly content with this new way of life. Most of all, Jean is livid because of how quickly she sees her young daughter fall into line and embrace the idea of speaking as few words in a day as possible.
So what happens when Jean is offered a temporary reprieve from her new way of life because the President needs her expertise? Can she figure out a way to put a stop to this horrid movement before she, her daughter, and all American women are stripped of their voices?
Gosh, where to start with this book?! I’m always a big fan of books that really make me think and that get to me on an emotional level, and wow, does this book ever fit the bill in both of those categories! I think The Handmaid’s Tale and maybe The Hunger Games are the last two books I’ve read that got to me the same way Vox did. I was so angry the whole time I was reading and lost track of how many times I just wanted to fling it across the room. Why? I think because even though the book falls into the dystopian category, it just felt so darn plausible. Way too plausible, honestly, especially given the current administration in charge in the U.S. How many times have we heard this President make sexist and derogatory comments about women? I get the feeling that he and his cronies would be all too happy to shut women up if they could and so this book resonated with me immensely for that reason. If I wasn’t already an activist prior to reading Vox, it would definitely motivate me to become one.
In addition to how much it resonated with me and made me think about our government and how easily things could go horribly wrong if a radical movement were to take hold, I also loved how the author really thought of every little detail as she was building this dystopian version of America. My very first question while reading was why wouldn’t all women just flee the country as soon as they got wind of what the founders of this movement had in mind? The author took care of that right away by having their passports confiscated. And it was like that all along the way…every time I thought of something that made a world like this seem highly unlikely, Dalcher immediately came up with something that made it suddenly seem all too likely. She really thought of every little detail and made the idea of this kind of society frighteningly realistic, especially when she illustrates how this group pushes their agenda using the schools so as to indoctrinate them at a young age.
Another huge selling point of the book for me was, of course, the protagonist, Dr. Jean McClennan. Can you imagine being at the top of your field in such an important line of work and suddenly being told to go home and shut up? I felt tremendous sympathy for her, not just for her own loss of voice but also because she has to watch her daughter grow up accepting such a horrible way of life. I thought the author did an incredible job of portraying the array of emotions that Jean was feeling – the initial denial, the anger, the frustration, the growing hostility toward the men around her, including her own eldest son who seems to have immediately embraced the Pure Movement, all of it is palpable and as a mother, I found it all so easy to relate to.
Overall, I thought Vox was an incredibly well written and gripping read. The only real issue I had with it was that it felt like the ending wrapped up a little too quickly. It just felt a little rushed and like maybe a few things fell into place a little too conveniently.
Vox is an utterly terrifying book in part because even though it’s supposed to be a dystopian read, it seems like something that could easily happen if the wrong people were ever in power. It serves as a warning to us all to never take for granted what we consider to be our rights and to pay attention to what is going on at all levels of government. The world on display in Vox is reminiscent of what we see in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale so I’d definitely recommend to fans of that book and TV series.
Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.
On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial–this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning.
Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.
But this is not the end.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.