Published by Berkley on August 21, 2018
Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.
On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning.
Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.
But this is not the end.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
Vox seems to be a very divisive book. I am a sucker for an anti-woman dystopia where women systematically dismantle that patriarchy brick by brick, so you bet your ass I was going to read this one eventually! But I noticed based on GoodReads reviews that Vox was deeply polarizing – it seems that readers either fell in love with this not-so-distant future, or they hated every minute of it. Luckily I quite enjoyed my time in this universe, but I also can see why some people take umbrage with it as well.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Dr. Jean McClellan is a brilliant scientist who studies neurolinguistics, raises her family of four, and still manages to find time to make love to her husband, Patrick. At least, she used to. About a year ago, before the government began passing regulation that crippled women nationwide, removing them from their careers in one fell swoop and encircling each woman’s wrist with a bracelet (don’t worry, you get to pick the color) that is equipped to give an increasingly devastating electric shock to the wearer every time she utters over 100 words per 24 hours period.
It’s been a year. We can safely say Jean has barely touched her husband, a passive White House employee and also a scientist, in months. Worse yet, her six year old daughter is so afraid of the potential devastation of her fun new bracelet that she barely speaks at all, never coming even close to 100 words. And to top it all off, Jean’s oldest son seems to be following in the government’s footsteps – a teenager in the throes of the Pure movement, he agrees that women should be seen and not heard, and doesn’t seem to mind at all that women – including his own mother – are being treated like walking uteri.
Jean is afforded an opportunity – to remove the bracelet, to go back to work in the science lab she loves so much – that will benefit the men that run this country with an iron fist, and it makes her question everything. Does she play it safe, play Suzy Homemaker with her bracelet and her yes, dear and feel her soul drift further toward death each and every day … or does she fight?
The Bottom Line
I truly can’t say much in the summary section, because it would give away what made Vox so amazing in my opinion – the minutae of it all. The little things the government did, and is doing, to entrap women and keep them beholden to their husbands. The way they use religion to justify this toxicity, how they herd LGBTQIA individuals into what are basically work camps and what exactly happens to a woman who continues to speak after she’s met her 100 word quota … these are things that I loved learning about without having any idea, and I don’t want you to know more than a taste yourself.
There are some problematic elements to be sure, however – and in my opinion, they lie with the fact that fairly early on we learn that Jean has taken a lover (had taken the lover before the anti-woman movement even began), and nobody really seems to mind. This might be the only book I’ve ever read where there is blatant cheating, and it’s just sort of excused and accepted. Jean’s close work colleague/friend knows, eventually her husband finds out … and nobody really seems to care? It’s like “well I know you have a husband and you are married, but look your husband is hella boring so you should just continue to bone this hot Italian guy behind his back.” Patrick’s biggest sin is simply that he is passive – a sin that doesn’t even really track for the entirety of the book, no less. That rubbed me the wrong way because I super don’t condone cheating, and the way it’s flippantly written off here was a bit mind-boggling.
A lot of reviews also seem to have issues with how it could be argued that Dalcher blames religion for a lot of what happens to women in this novel. And while I agree that there is fault there, it’s with religious extremism, not all Christians. I think that the systematic beating down of women based on Biblical principals led by an overzealous television minister is (sadly) fairly realistic, and I am not mad at her for portraying this as part of America’s downfall. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief here – while Dalcher is a theoretical linguist and knows a whole lot about science, what happens in this book is (likely) not possible in our reality. But if you’re able to let the part of your brain that is overly critical float away for 350-odd pages, you’ll find this to be an enjoyable novel that packs quite an emotional punch.
“Maybe this is how it happened in Germany with the Nazis, in Bosnia with the Serbs, in Rwanda with the Hutus. I’ve often wondered about that, about how kids can turn into monsters, how they learn that killing is right and oppression is just, how in one single generation the world can change on its axis into a place that’s unrecognizable.”
“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.”