Are you a fan of dystopian fiction? Have you been avidly watching the television adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaids Tale? If this is the case then Christina Dalcher's VOX might be good choice for your next read.
VOX imagines a world where women have no rights, are totally subservient, and are forced to wear bracelets that count the number of words they speak each day. They must choose what they want to say carefully because the bracelet administers an electric shock if they speak over one hundred words. Their lives are spent raising their children and providing for their families. They are isolated, with no access to conversation, computers, books and information generally. What they can watch on television is highly regulated.
This is the world in which the main character, Jean McClellan lives with her husband, her three sons and her daughter. She watches in desperation as the school curriculum educates her high school aged son to believe that women should have no rights. She sees her young daughter being rewarded at school for managing to get through a day without speaking a single word.
McClellan decides to change things and her opportunity comes when the President's brother suffers a health crisis. In her old life McClellan had been a research scientist, but in this new world women are prohibited from working outside the house. She is now asked to rejoin the team that was previously working on a cure for the very condition from which the President’s brother is suffering.
VOX will inevitably be compared to the Handmaid's Tale which has found new popularity in its often accurate portrayal of present administrations. VOX starts with the present time and looks at a not so distant future where it is possible to imagine the rights of women and girls have been totally eroded. Dalcher has the benefit of looking at the policies of the present US administration and the rise of the Me Too movement and crafting a novel that feeds into our fears of what might happen.
Thought provoking and controversial, I think VOX will start some great conversations about what could happen when citizens become complacent and don’t challenge their governments.