by Christina Dalcher
Length: 326 Pages
Release date: August 21, 2018
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
I wonder what the other women do. How they cope. Do they still find something to enjoy? Do they love their husbands in the same way? Do they hate them, just a little bit?
Vox is a dystopian novel in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale which blends the personal and the political. Set in an America which has been taken over by hyper-conservative extremists, women are no longer allowed to work, and they are forced to wear word counters which administer painful electric shocks if they go over their allotted 100 daily words.
I originally reviewed this book not long after starting my blog, and my reading habits have changed a lot since then; I think a lot of that has to do with twice monthly book club meetings and getting into the habit of engaging with the media I consume on a deeper level in order to discuss it. I don’t normally revisit books I’ve already reviewed, but when Vox was chosen as this month’s book, I knew before picking it up that my feelings would be a lot different this time, and I thought it may be interesting to talk about.
The biggest issue I have upon rereading Vox is simply that so many aspects of it seem to be under-developed, most glaringly some of the world building aspects. When you write a dystopia set in the near future, you’re asking a lot from your readers in terms of suspension of disbelief, and it needs to be backed up with a solid sense in the text of how we got there.
Comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale are inevitable with a novel like this, and I think this is one thing that separates them. THT got us to a dystopia really rapidly, but it took a terrorist attack that took out much of the United States’ leadership in one fell swoop to do it. In the face of that level of chaos, it’s easy to see how things could go very wrong, very quickly. Having read Vox twice now, I still don’t feel I have a good grasp of how things descended to the point of half the population receiving electric shocks for the “crime” of using more than 100 words per day.
A lot of the characters feel similarly underdeveloped. While we’re very limited in terms of development for female characters aside from the protagonist due to the 100 words per day limit, there seems to be little excuse for how one-dimensional the male characters feel. This makes it very difficult to feel emotionally invested in any of the story.
I’ve laid out a lot of criticism here, but there truly were aspects of this novel that I enjoyed. The story was paced well, and it was easy to tear through the whole thing because I needed to see what happened next. On a certain level, I think the novel would have worked better if it were more geared towards the mystery/suspense genre, vs. the piece of feminist dystopian literature that it tries and fails to be.
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