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Chistina Dalcher’s dystopian thriller Vox is set in an eerie America where women are limited to only one hundred words a day. This is particularly difficult for the novel’s narrator Jean, a former linguistic specialist forced to abandon her research on a treatment for aphasia, which is the inability to express or understand speech. The novel opens with Jean interacting with her husband, three sons, and her youngest daughter; she and her daughter, being women, are forced to wear counters that track their words and administer increasingly painful shocks for every word over one hundred. Her oldest son shares that his school is implementing an AP Religion course for certain students, which will soon be part of the school’s regular curriculum for all students, and her daughter reveals that she is participating in a competition at school to see which girl can speak the least. When the government comes to her home to request her help in saving the president’s brother, who is unable to speak after an accident, Jean is forced to decide what means more: the opportunity to dive back into her research or the opportunity to stand up to her oppressor.

Billed as a comparable title to The Handmaid’s Tale, I was excited for a dystopian novel that dealt with sexism and incorporated this element of limited speech. However, the dystopian elements of the books competed with those of cultural criticism, science fiction, and thriller. This mix left for a confusing read; it lacked the proper pacing to be a plot-driven story and the proper character development to be a character-driven story. The more scientific aspects of linguistics were also lost in the exploration of family dynamics in an overtly sexist society; the blatant cultural criticism of our current administration was lost in the attempt to fictionalize it. Overall, I felt that the element of the word counter itself was a touch on the nose. Women are totally silenced in this story, and while I felt the frustration of it, I wanted Dalcher to go even more in-depth about how exactly it got to that point. I was left unsatisfied with the story and wanting more of all of these different aspects to be brought to the surface. I was also unable to relate to the characters, even though I wanted to. The premise of this story is excellent, but it lacks in its execution.

Reviewed By:

Author Christina Dalcher
Star Count 2/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Berkley 
Publish Date 2018-08-21
ISBN 9780440000785
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Mystery, Crime & Thriller


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