On International Women’s Day, I received an email about The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation, giving me a quick synopsis of Vox by Christina Dalcher. I was intrigued, so I requested it immediately, and my request was granted a few days later, which was great!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. It’s not published until August of this year, but I suspect there’ll be a serious amount of buzz around it!
Vox – Christina Dalcher
Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t miss the thrilling debut that everyone will be talking about this summer!
Silence can be deafening.
Jean McClellan spends her days in almost complete silence, limited to a daily quota of just one hundred words.
Now that the new government is in power, no woman is able to speak over this limit without punishment by electric shock.
But when the President’s brother suffers a stroke, Jean is temporarily given back her voice in order to work on the cure.
And she soon soon discovers that she is part of a much larger plan: to eliminate the voices of women entirely.
The cover art I’ve included in this post is for the American edition of Vox. The UK edition doesn’t have its final cover art yet, but I hope it’ll be something similarly striking – this cover is really stunning.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed Vox. It was a chilling, enthralling read of how quickly things can change and ideologies can take over, to create a horrendous post-dystopian world where women are practically silenced, and forced into domestic drudgery, then blamed for the difficulties that wiping out half of the workforce creates.
There was some really, really great stuff in the book about hypocrisy, indoctrination, how easy it is to get used to something horrendous just because it’s your new normal, and how damaging it is to children to be introduced to ideals, how quickly they’ll latch on to them.
I also appreciated how thoroughly researched the book was, with plenty of information about linguistic development and linguistic delays, and the sound scientific backing behind the book. There’s nothing worse than a book which is clearly poorly researched. Having done some googling about the author, she was in a previous life a linguistic researcher, which explains the rigour of the backing information in Vox.
I read the book with a horrendous sense of anger, and a desire to punch everyone close to me who was of the male persuasion. Thankfully, I read it in my office at work, so I was actually alone, meaning that I wasn’t doing any ill-advised punching.
My only complaints about the book were as follows:
1) I would’ve liked more background. The book seems to be set in the early 2020s, where information and language are a massive part of our lives. To have descended within a single 12 month period to a state where women are no longer permitted to speak more than 100 words, read, open their own post, or even communicate through sign language, seemed, to me, a little too much of a stretch. I know that things can deteriorate incredibly quickly, and we can end up living in an Orwellian nightmare before we even realise it, but I would have liked more background on how this happened so fast in the book.
Tied in with this, I would’ve liked more information about the daily operation of life in this restricted nightmare. Girls and boys are educated separately, but who’s educating the girls? If they’re seen as lesser, needing to know only basic arithmetic and homemaking skills, surely men wouldn’t be willing to teach them? And if it’s a woman teaching them, how is she meant to keep order in the classroom with only 100 words a day?
2) I would’ve also liked more information about how in the hell the US was operating like this as against the rest of the world. The book briefly mentions that the rest of the world has just shaken their heads and let the States get on with it. But I really don’t think that would ever happen? The US is too tied up in treaties and conventions and agreements to be allowed to sequester itself and implement such blatant abuses of human rights, right?
3) The blurb of the book suggests that the ultimate plan is to silence women entirely. There are plenty of examples of this, with women who break the rules, or lesbians or queer women, women who try to escape… but it’s not really explained or depicted in the book that this applies to more than just women. Queer men are also subject to the same restrictions, and as the book continues, it becomes apparent that the overall plan isn’t just about women.
There’s no doubt that this is an enthralling, gripping examination of attitudes towards women, with a thorough background in it, but it really loses focus towards the end of the book. The wide-ranging plans of the government become of much more consequence than the daily subjugation which was depicted in the early chapters of the book, and that loss of focus means that the ending isn’t as powerful as it might have been.
Nonetheless, a gripping and highly entertaining (and rage-inducing) book that I’m looking forward to being published in August.