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Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

‘Neurolinguist Dr Jean McClellan has become a woman of few words. One hundred words per day to be exact; any more and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins. She is not alone. Now that the new government is in power, no woman is able to speak over this limit without punishment.

Books are forbidden, bank accounts transferred to the closest male relative and all female employment suspended, while young girls are no longer taught to read and write. But when the President’s brother suffers a stroke, Jean is temporarily given back her voice in order to work on the cure. But things are not as they seem and Jean soon discovers that she is part of a much larger plan, to silence voices around the world for good.

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Power, VOX is book club fiction with huge commercial appeal and a sharp political edge. Poignant and subversive, this is a thrilling feminist dystopia that resonates with the exploding conversations around female equality and the misuse of power.’

Review

Vox is a terrifying look into a future that seems dangerously possible. It was my intention to read only a few chapters to start with, but I found myself unable to put it down and read it cover to cover in an evening. It’s a well-paced novel and somewhat relentless in the horrors unearthed along the way, perhaps mirroring the constant intrusion and monitoring by the story’s authorities.

For me, the moments with the most impact are those concerning the children in the novel, particularly Sonia and how she adapts and is increasingly manipulated into compliance by the education system. To see the educational establishments of Vox’s America being the primary tool by which children of all ages are brainwashed into behaving and believing as the new leaders of society would have them is one of the most troubling elements of the story, especially as this is by no means unheard of today, the swiftness of the fictional system’s success with Jean’s children and the impact it has on them almost painful to read in parts. Steven’s contribution to this facet of the narrative is no less chilling than the more innocent uptake of his little sister, his behaviour a frightening reminder of just how quickly people can absorb what they’re told, even when they believe that they have thoroughly interrogated it.

There are a lot of similarities to The Handmaid’s Tale as regards elements and structure of the narrative, issues addressed and characters created, but I find that the two are uncomfortable reads (and meant to be) for different reasons. For example, the lack of information about the journey that leads to the America of The Handmaid’s Tale, paired with its post-script, creates a distance that makes it feel like another world and a warning, while the quite obvious references to modern politics and society in Vox take away that distance and force the reader to acknowledge unhappy truths about the present day. The reality in the world of Vox stands to be one of no women with a voice, power or respect, taking it a step further than the work it’s compared to.

A haunting read and one that I suggest getting a copy of as soon as possible. Thank you to Harper Collins for the excellent read!

‘VOX highlights the urgency of movements like #MeToo, but also of the basic importance of language.’
VANITY FAIR

‘Any woman who has ever been shamed into silence will recognise the terrifying vista so vividly portrayed in VOX.’
THE IRISH TIMES WOMEN’S PODCAST

‘I can’t remember the last time I read a book quite this thrilling. VOX is, like all the best dystopian novels, razor sharp and terrifyingly plausible. It is extraordinary.’
LOUISE O’NEILL

‘A disturbingly prescient cautionary tale. It will also get under your skin and make you
extremely angry, regardless of your gender’
STARBURST MAGAZINE

About the Author

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.

Over one hundred of her short stories and flash fiction appear in journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. VOX is her first novel, and has been longlisted for the 2018 Not The Booker Prize.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pub date: 21st August 2018

I received a copy of Vox from NetGalley and the publisher.