With the topic of women’s rights front and center in today’s world, Christina Dalcher offers a disturbing look at a future where women literally have their voices taken from them.
Set in the not-too-distant future, America is undergoing some big changes. Mainly, women are being stripped of their rights and freedoms, no longer allowed to have jobs, hold bank accounts, or speak more than 100 words per day — a fraction of the sixteen thousand most people speak on average. All of that’s only the beginning, though, as things quickly worsen and girls are no longer taught how to read and write thanks to what’s being called the “Pure Movement” by the president and his administration.
Founded by Reverend Carl, whose teachings and own voice have led to the movement that stripped women of theirs, America has changed to the point of no longer being recognizable. Every woman is fitted with a bracelet that, much like how a Fitbit tracks steps, counts their words. Anything over 100 words causes an electrical shock to emit from the bracelet, silencing them or, eventually, throwing out enough juice to kill them.
Prior to the radical agenda taking hold, Dr. Jean McClellan was one of the top cognitive linguists in the world. Now she’s been relegated to staying home and caring for her four children rather than contributing to society through science, a reality that she never believed possible and struggles to come to grips with. Things change for her after the president’s brother suffers a nasty fall while skiing, damaging the area of his brain that controls language. Seeking an expert to help restore the man’s speech, Jean is approached by the government and subsequently makes a deal to help. In return, some of the rights that were so wrongly ripped from her are temporarily given back, making her the only woman in the country with a voice. . . literally.
At first glance, Dalcher’s novel seems so laughably far-fetched that it’s almost hard to open up. Regardless of what you think about religion or beliefs on either side of the political spectrum, it’s nearly impossible to ever imagine a day when America could become this radical. Then again, this sort of oppression is already happening in other parts of the world. Like, for example, the way Muslim women are treated or how ISIS made headlines for throwing gay men off of buildings. It doesn’t take long to see that the author wasn’t so much painting a picture of what America might soon look like, but rather using an extreme, far-fetched alternate universe to hit on some more serious and timely matters. Those elements are well laid out and ring true, but the controversial and over-the-top delivery system (the unbelievable portrayal of America) makes that message much harder to find.
Ultimately, Christina Dalcher, who like her story’s protagonist is also a linguist, is a good writer. Her message and the points she raises are incredibly important, but the execution falls a bit short. That’s not to say that there aren’t some really great parts to VOX, because there are. Much of the story is entertaining and thought-provoking. . . readers might even find themselves counting their words, amazed at how fast one can burn through 100. But by not setting the story a few hundred years down the road (where such radical changes could be explained through a number of scenarios), readers will likely mistake what’s in all reality not supposed to be a literal, prophetic look at the future of the country and will struggle to connect with the universe Dr. Jean McClellan lives in.
Christina Dalcher’s VOX raises a number of important issues and scores major points for creativity and boldness, but overall it falls a bit flat, struggling to execute and to entertain at times.
Author: Christina Dalcher
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
Release Date: August 21, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 5.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.