Opening sentence: “If anyone told me I could bring down the president, and the Pure Movement, and that incompetent little shit Morgan LeBron in a week’s time, I wouldn’t believe them.”
It’s been a while since I’ve had such an initial visceral reaction about a book but I actually felt angry reading this. Angry for the women and what was happening to them. You see, Vox is a dystopian novel that happens in a version of America where it has been decided women need to be put in their place – by taking away their voices. All women and girls are allowed 100 words per day, any more than that and they get an electric shock, administered through a word counter on their wrist. In the guise of religion, the Pure Movement wants women to get back to cooking, cleaning, popping out babies and never having their own opinions. The president backs this regime and women find not only is their speech restricted, but they have no passports, no proper education and are spied on with cameras everywhere.
Dr. Jean McClellan find herself in a unique position when the government needs her professional skills (finding a cure for brain trauma) – they take off her word counter and allow her access to labs. Jean has a daughter and would do anything to change what her society has become. She knows she only has a small window of time to attempt something, so the race is on.
This is Christina Dalcher’s debut novel and the fast-paced contemporary tone was refreshing to read. There’s also a word of warning laced throughout – about the danger of complacency. Jean didn’t vote or protest when rumblings were in the air of terrible change, and now she – and all females – pay a devastating price. Jean’s friend Jackie gives her (what I assume is a) dystopian novel, but Jean dismisses it saying, “This would never happen. Ever. Women wouldn’t put up with it.” Wrong, Jean. Wrong.
Obviously there have been a lot of comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale and that’s fine, but I didn’t feel Vox was trying to rip that off, rather it’s its own story in the same feminist dystopian genre. The reason Vox works on such a chilling level is that something that should just be an unbelievable dystopian story does actually sound vaguely plausible when you consider some of the things the current American administration has said and done. My only criticism would be that the ending felt a little rushed and convenient and moved into pure thriller territory (where I didn’t think this book would go) BUT I still really enjoyed it overall as it ticked the topical, emotive, thrilling and thought-provoking boxes.
Published by HQ 2018 / 326 pages