- Title: Vox
- Author: Christina Dalcher
- Series: None
- Genre: Dystopian Fiction
- Publishing Date: August 21st, 2018
- Publishing Co.: Berkley
- Length: 336 pages
- Format: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio Book, Audio CD
- Acquired: Given Netgalley copy in exchange for a free review
- Amazon Link: Vox
On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
This is just the beginning…not the end.
First Chapter Challenge: 3%
In this first chapter, we are immediately immersed in this dystopian world. It seems to be very close to our own reality, set in America around the present time, with a similar political climate. But in this dystopia, women are second-class citizens and are only allowed 100 words a day. If they exceed this limit, the counters on their wrists catch it, and something bad happens… We don’t know what just yet, but I can imagine that it is horrible.
It is ironic that our main character, Jean, is a cognitive linguist. A doctor of words. And yet, she is now unable to speak more than 100 a day, unable to teach her own daughter new words or the beauty of language.
I am already jumping headfirst into this novel! The back cover is what hooked me, but this first chapter sunk me. I am ready to see how this story progresses! How did America get to this extreme state? And what are people going to do about it?
Final Judgment: 3 Stars out of 5
In this dystopian novel by Christina Dalcher, America is eerily similar to our own. However, in that world, women are only allowed 100 words a day, or else they are shocked by their wrist counters, the magnitude exponentially increasing with each additional unauthorized word. Jean, a cognitive linguist in another life, is given an opportunity after the president’s brother is gravely wounded. The government needs someone who can help him, someone who can reverse Wernicke’s aphasia. Helping the government will mean that she can go back to work, can get the abominable wrist counter off–for a while. But something doesn’t sit right with Jean. The government seems to be wanting her research for another reason… What price will the world pay after she finishes her research? What price will she and her family pay?
Won prize! she said. Lowest!
I know what her school is up to. I know, because the counter on her thin wrist says the number 3.
My daughter has been silent all day (Loc 1394).
The story itself, of a sexist American society, simply an exaggerated form of our own current circumstances, is compelling. It reveals some of the dangers that we may be heading into if America continues through this downward spiral of judgment and isolationism. However, that is not really what the novel is about. Rather, it seems to be more directed towards attacking the government, which has become inherently evil. There is no humanity left in the system, nothing for us in present America, to relate to. Yes, politics can be “evil” and dehumanizing in our own current world, but not like this. Not how Dalcher is portraying it. The government in the dystopian America is pure evil, focused on impossible goals that would be more suited in an alien sci-fi novel. Rather than leaning on the idealistic concept of the 100 words, Dalcher moves to something completely unrelated and unrealistic. The novel is no longer a hyperbolic piece criticizing America’s current society and political climate, but a simple piece of fiction meant to entertain and nothing more.
Burke’s quote comes back to me, the same one Steven paraphrased when the men came for Julia King: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Loc 4540).
Going along with this, the plot was too easy. At the end, it was rushed with almost no emotional triggers, narrated concisely and blandly. That was the worst of it. However, the plot line was also too easy leading up in the novel as well. The resistance seemed to just fall into Jean’s lap, random characters revealed to be a part of it whenever Jean’s need arose. She didn’t have to work for anything, it all just worked out in her favor. Steven’s whole arc was also super random, with no need for it whatsoever. The entire story seemed to just be filled with miscellaneous divergences that gave no benefit to the story itself, and only served to clutter it. Everything was too convenient, too easy, to random. Even Jean’s mother randomly suffered a stroke to give her Wernicke’s aphasia! Talk about coincidence.
The back window is plastered with stickers: MYERS FOR PRESIDENT! I’M SURE PURE, ARE YOU? and MAKE AMERICAN MORAL AGAIN! He honks, waits for me to turn my head, and rolls down his window…
He spits into my car as the light turns from red to green, then roars off (Loc 2059).
The character-building was interesting in this novel, fully fleshing out the main character Jean, but only partially building up the side characters. Jean’s entire personality is on view for the readers to see, though with little to no dynamics. She is a relatively stagnant character, predictable and easily understood. The side characters, on the other hand, lend the novel a bit of mystery. Patrick is a bit of a conundrum, especially with the mixed views that we receive about him from Jean’s perspective. Lorenzo, Lin, and Jackie are all somewhat granted individual personalities, though all seem to come simply from how Jean perceives them. There is nothing for us readers to decode, but rather everything is laid out for us thanks to Jean’s thoughts and experiences. As for Jean’s children, Sonia and Steven are their own individuals, while the twins are inconsequential. In fact, I do not even know why they were included in this book. It would have been exactly the same without them.
None of this justifies the next words out of his mouth, though, the ones he will never be able to take back, the ones that slice deeper than any shard of broken glass and make me bleed all over.
“You know, babe, sometimes I wonder if it was better when you didn’t talk.” (Loc 979)
The characters all have interesting relationships with each other. Jean has a weird obsession over Jackie, a woman she hadn’t seen or talked to in over a decade. Jackie may be a catalyst, but her character didn’t seem to be enough as is for Jean to constantly obsess over her practically every single day. And then Jean also had strangely mixed love/hate feelings about Patrick that battled each other each day. It made for an interesting read, as it kept me on my toes. I never knew which way she would lean. However, every relationship revolved around Jean. She was the pivot point for this novel, both for its characters as well as the plot. It cast a shadow upon the rest of the characters, making them more shallow to lift Jean up.
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 (Loc 3193).
Overall, the novel had great promise that it just did not quite live up to. It was definitely an entertaining read, and kept me on my toes with each page. However, I would caution taking this book a little too literally; some of it matches up nicely with our current political situation in the United States, but this is not our future. Perhaps some of the ideas can be given merit, but most would hold no water in our real world. Do not take this as an analysis of American society, but rather simply as entertainment fiction. It was a fun read, but that’s all it is.
Kudos to Dalcher for having the guts to publish a book revolving around such a hot topic right now. It even makes me nervous simply posting a review about it! Hopefully we readers won’t take it too seriously. In fact, it scares me to think that this novel could actually incite more hate and division within our own real America in our present time if taken the wrong way…