There are lots of things in life that we shouldn’t love anywhere near as much as we do. From trashy reality TV to too many takeaways, we know that they’re doing us no good, but still we dive in on an all too regular basis. Me? I’m no different, although I steer fairly clear of reality TV and takeaways. You can keep your Love Island and your MacDonald’s your curries and your egg fried rice. Give me a good dose of dystopia any time! Thrill me with a society that’s falling apart and appall me with the crimes of those in power and I’m as happy as a toddler in a sandpit. And thus, I couldn’t wait to read ‘Vox’, the gripping dystopian thriller by Christina Dalcher.
Vox tells the tale of Jean McClellan, once a well respected scientist, but now reduced to the role of frustrated housewife and mother; and a largely silent one at that. This is because Jean lives in Dalcher’s fictional version of a modern day America where, thanks to the madness of their fudamentalist Christian leadership, womens’ words are rationed. In this extreme patriachal society, every member of the female population is fitted with a band around their wrist that ensures terrible pain via an electric shock should they speak more then their allocated 100 words in twenty four hours.
Female liberties have been taken away with millions losing jobs and all of their money, while young girls have their right to an education denied. Rather than being taught to read and write, they are now restricted learning whatever skills the patriachy feels will be of use in later life.
And while it seems that many women, including the first lady, have accepted their fate, Jean refuses to do so. She is determined to break free and is encouraged by some of the signs she spots in everyday life. So when a twist of fate sees her thrust back into the scientific limelight, she sees her chance. But is it too good to be true?
Jean embarks on her government mission with an ulterior motive, discovering old friends, allies, unexpected opportunities and even the hint of an underground rebellion along the way. But is everything exactly what it seems? Or will Jean’s dreams of freedom be crushed by an all too powerful and all too watchful state?
‘Vox’ presents the reader with a terrifying yet thought provoking view of the future and what at first glance seems extreme, has genuine parallels in today’s world. You don’t have to look too far to find that people are having their rights infringed all over the planet – dig a little deeper and it’s possible to uncover genuine horror stories that one would have imagined belonged firmly in a work of fiction. And this is the beauty of Vox in a way. What seems absurd is actually, frighteningly quite possible somewhere. So while it seems ridiculous that somewhere in the world – particularly in the developed world – womens’ words may be subject to a cap, you just never know.
On reading ‘Vox’ some might say that it’s a world we’ve seen or read of before. Certainly if you were gripped by the dangerous and rebellious adventures of June in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, then ‘Vox’ occupies a similar space. There are also shades of ‘1984’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ here too. But the twists and turns of ‘Vox’ will have you on the edge of whatever it is that you perch yourself on to read. On several occasions it seems that Jean will fail and on others you’ll be suspicious of those that she is around, even her husband. Her eldest son also provides an interesting twist when it appears that he has become seduced by the message of the country’s ruling forces. This constant feeling of being on edge makes ‘Vox’ a real page turner.
Dalcher’s characters are well written too. Jean is someone who we sympathise with and we want to succeed, not only because we believe in her cause, but essentially because we like her, while allies such as Lin and the brooding Lorenzo and Jean’s arch enemy Morgan Lebron hold our interest too. Morgan in particular is the arch villain; brilliantly written so that the reader can’t fail to hate everything about him. We’ve all met a Morgan – smug, arrogant, the kind who takes credit where it really isn’t due and who’s never slow to let people know how important he is; even when he’s not that important. So for the whole time that you’re rooting for Jean, you’ll finding yourself wishing terrible injury and worse upon Morgan.
I absolutely loved ‘Vox’ and was utterly gripped by it from beginning to end. The novel presents us with a horrifying dystopia, but one that seems all too possible in the modern world. And for that reason we’re along for the ride with Jean as she battles to outwit the horrifying restrictions that have been placed upon not only her, but every woman in America. It’s a cause we believe in and care about and Jean is the perfect protagonist, the perfect hero – with a whiff of anti-hero thrown in, just or good measure – the perfect woman for the job.
Without hesitation, I’d give ‘Vox’
An unlike our female protagonist, I’d shout it from he rooftops as many times as I liked!