Vox

Vox

by Christina Dalcher

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Overview

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER • ONE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S AND SHEREADS' BOOKS TO READ AFTER THE HANDMAID'S TALE

“[An] electrifying debut.”—O, The Oprah Magazine 
“The real-life parallels will make you shiver.”—Cosmopolitan

Set in a United States in which 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 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.

One of Good Morning America's “Best Books to Bring to the Beach This Summer”
One of PopSugar, Refinery29, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Real Simple, i09, and Amazon's Best Books to Read in August 2018

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440000822
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/21/2018
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,376
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at several universities.

Her short stories and flash fiction appear in more than one hundred journals worldwide. Recognition includes first place for the Bath Flash Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and multiple other awards. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2018 Christina Dalcher

CHAPTER ONE

If anyone told me I could bring down the president, and the Pure Movement, and that incompetent little shit Morgan LeBron in a week’s time, I wouldn’t believe them. But I wouldn’t argue. I wouldn’t say a thing.

I’ve become a woman of few words.

Tonight at supper, before I speak my final syllables of the day, Patrick reaches over and taps the silver-toned device around my left wrist. It’s a light touch, as if he were sharing the pain, or perhaps reminding me to stay quiet until the counter resets itself at midnight. This magic will happen while I sleep, and I’ll begin Tuesday with a virgin slate. My daughter, Sonia’s, counter will do the same.

My boys do not wear word counters.

Over dinner, they are all engaged in the usual chatter about school.

Sonia also attends school, although she never wastes words discussing her days. At supper, between bites of a simple stew I made from memory, Patrick questions her about her progress in home economics, physical fitness, and a new course titled Simple Accounting for Households. Is she obeying the teachers? Will she earn high marks this term? He knows exactly the type of questions to ask: closed-ended, requiring only a nod or a shake of the head.

I watch and listen, my nails carving half-moons into the flesh of my palms. Sonia nods when appropriate, wrinkles her nose when my young twins, not understanding the importance of yes/no interrogatives and finite answer sets, ask their sister to tell them what the teachers are like, how the classes are, which subject she likes best. So many open-ended questions. I refuse to think they do understand, that they’re baiting her, teasing out words. But at eleven, they’re old enough to know. And they’ve seen what happens when we overuse words.

Sonia’s lips quiver as she looks from one brother to another, the pink of her tongue trembling on the edge of her teeth or the plump of her lower lip, a body part with a mind of its own, undulating. Steven, my eldest, extends a hand and touches his forefinger to her mouth.

I could tell them what they want to know: All men at the front of the classrooms now. One-way system. Teachers talk. Students listen. It would cost me sixteen words.

I have five left.

“How is her vocabulary?” Patrick asks, knocking his chin my way. He rephrases. “Is she learning?”

I shrug. By six, Sonia should have an army of ten thousand lexemes, individual troops that assemble and come to attention and obey the orders her small, still-plastic brain issues. Should have, if the three R’s weren’t now reduced to one: simple arithmetic. After all, one day my daughter will be expected to shop and run a household, to be a devoted and dutiful wife. You need math for that, but not spelling. Not literature. Not a voice.

“You’re the cognitive linguist,” Patrick says, gathering empty plates, urging Steven to do the same.

“Was.”

“Are.”

In spite of my year of practice, the extra words leak out before I can stop them: “No. I’m. Not.”

Patrick watches the counter tick off another three entries. I feel the pressure of each on my pulse like an ominous drum. “That’s enough, Jean,” he says.

The boys exchange worried looks, the kind of worry that comes from knowing what occurs if the counter surpasses those three digits. One, zero, zero. This is when I say my last Monday word. To my daughter. The whispered “Goodnight” has barely escaped when Patrick’s eyes meet mine, pleading.

I scoop her up and carry her off to bed. She’s heavier now, almost too much girl to be hoisted up, and I need both arms.

Sonia smiles at me when I tuck her under the sheets. As usual, there’s no bedtime story, no exploring Dora, no Pooh and Piglet, no Peter Rabbit and his misadventures in Mr. McGregor’s lettuce patch. It’s frightening what she’s grown to accept as normal.

I hum her to sleep with a song about mockingbirds and billy goats, the verses still and quiet pictures in my mind’s eye.

Patrick watches from the door. His shoulders, once broad and strong, slump in a downward-facing V; his forehead is creased in matching lines. Everything about him seems to be pointing down.


CHAPTER TWO

In my bedroom, as on all other nights, I wrap myself in a quilt of invisible words, pretending to read, allowing my eyes to dance over imagined pages of Shakespeare. If I’m feeling fancy, my preferred text might be Dante in his original, static Italian. So little of Dante’s language has changed through the centuries, but tonight I find myself slogging through a forgotten lexicon. I wonder how the Italian women might fare with the new ways if our domestic efforts ever go international.

Perhaps they’ll talk more with their hands.

But the chances of our sickness moving overseas are slim. Before television became a federalized monopoly, before the counters went on our wrists, I saw newscasts. Al Jazeera, the BBC, Italy’s three RAI networks, and others broadcasted occasional talk shows. Patrick, Steven, and I watched them after the kids were in bed.

“Do we have to?” Steven groaned. He was slouched in his usual chair, one hand in a bowl of popcorn, the other texting on his phone.

I turned up the volume. “No. We don’t have to. But we can.” Who knew how much longer that would be true? Patrick was already talking about the cable privileges, how they were hanging on a frayed thread. “Not everyone gets this, Steven.” What I didn’t say was, Enjoy it while you can.

Except there wasn’t much to enjoy.

Every single show was the same. One after another, they laughed at us. Al Jazeera called us “The New Extremism.” I might have smiled if I hadn’t seen the truth in it. Britain’s political pundits shook their heads as if to say, Oh, those daffy Yanks. What are they doing now? The Italian experts, introduced by underdressed and overly made-up sexpots, shouted and pointed and laughed.

They laughed at us. They told us we needed to relax before we ended up wearing kerchiefs and long, shapeless skirts. On one of the Italian channels, a bawdy skit showed two men dressed as Puritans engaging in sodomy. Was this really how they saw the United States?

I don’t know. I haven’t been back since before Sonia was born, and there’s no chance of going now.

Our passports went before our words did.

I should clarify: some of our passports went.

I found this out through the most mundane of circumstances. In December, I realized Steven’s and the twins’ passports had expired, and I went online to download three renewal applications. Sonia, who’d never had any documentation other than her birth certificate and a booklet of vaccination records, needed a different form.

The boys’ renewals were easy, the same as Patrick’s and mine had always been. When I clicked the new passport application link, it took me to a page I hadn’t seen before, a single-line questionnaire: Is the applicant male or female?

I glanced over at Sonia, playing with a set of colored blocks on the carpet in my makeshift home office, and checked the box marked female.

“Red!” she yelped, looking up at the screen.

“Yes, honey,” I said. “Red. Very good. Or?”

“Scarlet!”

“Even better.”

Without prompting, she went on. “Crimson! Cherry!”

“You got it, baby. Keep up the good work,” I said, patting her and tossing another set of blocks onto the carpet. “Try the blue ones now.”

Back at my computer, I realized Sonia was right the first time. The screen was just red. Red as fucking blood.

Please contact us at the number below. Alternatively, you can send us an e-mail at applications.state.gov. Thank you!

I tried the number a dozen times before resorting to e-mail, and then I waited a dozen days before receiving a response. Or a sort of response. A week and a half later, the message in my inbox instructed me to visit my local passport application center.

“Help you, ma’am?” the clerk said when I showed up with Sonia’s birth certificate.

“You can if you do passport applications.” I shoved the paperwork through the slot in the plexiglass screen.

The clerk, who looked all of nineteen, snatched it up and told me to wait. “Oh,” he said, scurrying back to the window, “I’ll need your passport for a minute. Just to make a copy.”

Sonia’s passport would take a few weeks, I was told. What I was not told was that my passport had been invalidated.

I found that out much later. And Sonia never got her passport.

At the beginning, a few people managed to get out. Some crossed the border into Canada; others left on boats for Cuba, Mexico, the islands. It didn’t take long for the authorities to set up checkpoints, and the wall separating Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from Mexico itself had already been built, so the egress stopped fairly quickly.

“We can’t have our citizens, our families, our mothers and fathers, fleeing,” the president said in one of his early addresses.

I still think we could have made it if it had been only Patrick and me. But with four kids, one who didn’t know enough not to bounce in her car seat and chirp “Canada!” to the border guards—no way.

So I’m not feeling fancy tonight, not after thinking about how easily they kept us prisoners in our own country, not after Patrick took me in his arms and told me to try not to dwell on what used to be.

Used to.

Here’s what used to be: We used to stay up late talking. We used to linger in bed on weekend mornings, putting off chores and reading the Sunday paper. We used to have cocktail parties and dinner parties and summer barbecues when the weather turned. We used to play games—first, spades and bridge; later, when the boys were old enough to tell a six from a five, war and go fish.

As for me, on my own, I used to have girlfriends. “Hen parties,” Patrick called my nights out with the girls, but I know he didn’t mean it unkindly. It was just one of those things guys said. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

We used to have book clubs and coffee chats; we debated politics in wine bars, later in basements—our version of reading Lolita in Tehran. Patrick never seemed to mind my weekly escapes, although he’d joke about us sometimes, before there wasn’t anything left to joke about. We were, in his words, the voices that couldn’t be hushed.

Well. So much for the infallibility of Patrick.

CHAPTER THREE

When it started, before any of us could see what the future held, there was one woman in particular, one of the louder sorts. Her name was Jackie Juarez.

I don’t want to think of Jackie, but all of a sudden, it’s a year and a half ago, not long after the inauguration, and I’m sitting in the den with the kids, hushing their laughter so Sonia doesn’t wake up.

The woman on the television is hysterical, Steven points out when he returns to the den with three bowls of ice cream.

Hysterical. I hate that word. “What?” I say.

“Women are crazy,” he continues. “It’s not like it’s news, Mom. You know that saying about hysterical women and fits of the mother.”

“What?” I say again. “Where’d you hear that?”

“Learned it in school today. Some dude named Cooke or something.” Steven hands out the dessert. “Crap. One bowl’s smaller. Mom, you want the smaller one or the bigger one?”

“Smaller.” I’d been fighting to keep the weight down ever since my last pregnancy.

He rolls his eyes.

“Yeah. Wait till your metabolism hits forty-something. And when did you start reading Crooke? I didn’t think Description of the Body of Man had made it into must-read high school fodder.” I scoop up the first of what looks like three mouse-sized bites of rocky road. “Even for AP Lit.”

“Try AP Religious Studies, Mom,” Steven says. “Anyway, Cooke, Crooke. What’s the diff?”

“An r, kiddo.” I turn back to the irate woman on the TV.

She’s been on before, ranting about pay inequity and impenetrable glass ceilings, always inserting plugs for her latest book. This one bears the uplifting, doomsday-preaching title of They Will Shut Us Up. Subtitle: What You Need to Know About the Patriarchy and Your Voice. On the cover, a series of dolls—everything from Kewpies to Barbies to Raggedy Anns, stares out in full Technicolor, each doll’s mouth photoshopped with a ball gag.

“Creepy,” I say to Patrick.

“Over the top, don’t you think?” He looks, a bit too longingly, at my melting ice cream. “You gonna eat that?”

I hand him the bowl, not turning from the TV. Something about the ball gags bothers me—even more than a Raggedy Ann with a red ball strapped to her face should bother me. It’s the straps, I think. The black X with the bloodred center crossing out each doll’s face. They look like half-assed veils, obliterating every feature but the eyes. Maybe that’s the point.

Jackie Juarez is the author of this and a half dozen other books, all with similarly nails-on-chalkboard titles like Shut Up and Sit Down, Barefoot and Pregnant: What the Religious Right Wants You to Be, and Patrick and Steven’s favorite, The Walking Uterus. The artwork on that one was gruesome.

Now she’s screaming at the interviewer, who probably shouldn’t have said “Feminazi.” “You know what you get if you take the feminist out of Feminazi?” Jackie doesn’t wait for an answer. “Nazi. That’s what you get. You like that better?”

The interviewer is nonplussed.

Jackie ignores him and bores her mascaraed eyes, crazed eyes, into the camera so it seems she’s looking right at me. “You have no idea, ladies. No goddamned idea. We’re on a slippery slide to prehistory, girls. Think about it. Think about where you’ll be—where your daughters will be—when the courts turn back the clock. Think about words like ‘spousal permission’ and ‘paternal consent.’ Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.” She pauses after each of these last few words, her teeth clenched.

Patrick kisses me goodnight. “Gotta be up at the butt crack of dawn, babe. Breakfast meeting with the big guy in you know where. ’Night.”

“’Night, hon.”

“She needs to pop a chill pill,” Steven says, still watching the screen. He’s now got a bag of Doritos on his lap and is crunching his way through them, five at a time, a reminder that adolescence isn’t all bad.

“Rocky road and Doritos, kiddo?” I say. “You’ll ruin your face.”

“Dessert of champions, Mom. Hey, can we watch something else? This chick is a real downer.”

“Sure.” I hand him the remote, and Jackie Juarez goes quiet, only to be replaced by a rerun of Duck Dynasty.

“Really, Steve?” I say, watching one bearded, camo-clad mountain man after another wax philosophical on the state of politics.

“Yeah. They’re a fucking riot.”

“They’re insane. And watch your language.”

“It’s just a joke, Mom. Jeez. There aren’t really people like that.”

“Ever been to Louisiana?” I take the bag of chips from him. “Your dad ate all my ice cream.”

“Mardi Gras two years ago. Mom, I’m starting to worry about your memory.”

“New Orleans isn’t Louisiana.”

Or maybe it is, I think. When you get down to it, what’s the difference between some backwater asshole’s advising men to marry teenage girls and a bunch of costumed drunks flinging beads to anyone who shows her tits on St. Charles Avenue?

Probably not much.

And here’s the country in five-minute sound bites: Jackie Juarez in her city suit and Bobbi Brown makeup preaching fear; the duck people preaching hate. Or maybe it’s the other way around. At least the duck people don’t stare out at me from the screen and make accusations.

Steven, now on his second can of Coke and second bowl of rocky road—an inaccurate picture because he’s forgone the bowl and is spooning the last bits of ice cream directly from the container—announces he’s going to bed. “Test tomorrow in AP Religious Studies.”

When did sophomores start taking AP classes? And why isn’t he doing something useful, like biology or history? I ask him about both.

“The religious studies course is new. They offered it to everyone, even the frosh babies. I think they’re phasing it into the regular curriculum next year. Anyway,” he says from the kitchen, “that means no time for bio or history this year.”

“So what is it? Comparative theology? I guess I can tolerate that—even in a public school.”

He comes back into the den with a brownie. His nightcap. “Nah. More like, I don’t know, philosophy of Christianity. Anyway, ’night, Mom. Love ya.” He plants a kiss on my cheek and disappears down the hall.

I turn Jackie Juarez back on.

She was much prettier in person, and it’s impossible to know whether she’s gained weight since grad school or whether the camera has added its proverbial fifteen pounds. Underneath the professional makeup and hair jobs, Jackie looks tired, as if twenty years of anger have drawn themselves on her face, one line at a time.

I crunch another Dorito and lick the salty chemicals off my fingers before rolling up the bag and setting it out of reach.

Jackie stares at me with those cold eyes that haven’t changed, accusing.

I don’t need her accusations. I didn’t need them twenty years ago, and I don’t need them now, but I still remember the day they started. The day my friendship with Jackie started going south.

“You’re coming to the march, right, Jean?” Jackie stood, braless and makeupless at the door to my room, where I lay sprawled among half the library’s neurolinguistics collection.

“Can’t. Busy.”

“For fuck’s sake, Jean, this is more important than some stupid aphasia study. How about you focus on the people who are still around?”

I looked at her, letting my head drop to the right in a silent question.

“Okay. Okay.” She threw up her hands. “They’re still around. Sorry. I’m just saying what’s going on with the Supreme Court thing is, well, it’s now.” Jackie always called political situations—elections, nominations, confirmations, speeches, whatever—things. That court thing. That speech thing. That election thing. It drove me insane. You’d think a sociolinguist would take the time to work on her vocabulary every once in a while.

“Anyway,” she said, “I’m going out there. You can thank me later when the Senate confirms Grace Murray’s seat on the bench. The only female now, in case you’re interested.” She started in again on “those misogynistic fuckwits on the hearing committee two years ago.”

“Thanks, Jackie.” I couldn’t hide the smile in my voice.

She wasn’t smiling, though.

“Right.” I pushed a notebook aside and shoved my pencil through my ponytail. “Would you quit giving me shit? I mean, this neurosci class is killing me. It’s Professor Wu this term and she’s not taking any prisoners. Joe dropped. Mark dropped. Hannah dropped. Those two chicks from New Delhi, the ones who always go around arm in arm and have their butt imprints on next-door library carrels, dropped. It’s not like we’re sitting around trading anecdotes about angry husbands and sad wives and sharing our vision for how teenage text-talk is the wave of the future every Tuesday.”

Jackie picked up one of the copied journal articles from my bed, glanced at the title. “‘Etiology of Stroke in Patients with Wernicke’s Aphasia.’ Riveting, Jean.” She dropped it onto the comforter, and it landed with a dull thud.

“It is.”

“Fine. You stay here in your little lab bubble while the rest of us go.” Jackie picked up the text, scribbled two lines inside the back cover, and let it fall again. “Just in case you can find a spare minute to call your senators, bubble girl.”

“I like my bubble,” I said. “And that’s a library book.”

Jackie didn’t seem to give a shit whether she’d just tagged the Rosetta stone with a can of spray paint. “Yeah. Sure you do, you and the rest of the white feminists. I hope someone never comes along and pops it.” With that, she was out the door, a mountain of colored signs in her arms.

When our lease was up, Jackie said she didn’t want to renew. She and a few other women had decided on a place up in Adams Morgan.

“I like the vibe better there,” she told me. “Happy birthday, by the way. You’ll be a quarter of a century next year. Like Marilyn Monroe said, it makes a girl think. You stay cool, now. And think about what you need to do to stay free.”

The present she left was an assortment of related trifles, a themed gift pack. Wrapped inside bubble paper was a bag of bubble gum, the kind with the idiotic cartoons inside each individually papered brick; a pink bottle of soap with a plastic wand attached to its cap; bathroom cleaner—you can guess which brand; a split of Californian champagne; and a pack of twenty-five balloons.

That night, I drank the sparkling wine straight from the bottle and popped every bubble in the wrap. All the rest went into the garbage.

I never spoke to Jackie again. On nights like this, I wish I had. Maybe things—the election thing, the nomination thing, the confirmation thing, the executive order thing—wouldn’t have turned out the way they did.

Reading Group Guide

Vox
Christina Dalcher
Questions for Discussion

1. We speak more than sixteen thousand words a day—and the women in this book speak only one hundred words. What would it be like for your right to speak to be taken away? How would you voice your thoughts? How would you use your daily quota of words?

2. Humans differ from other members of the animal kingdom since we have language. If we take away language, what separates us from other animals? Would we be capable of rational thought? Would we survive?

3. Our learned behavior is patterned after what we witness. This is exemplified by the drawing that Sonia makes—her father and her brothers are depicted as much larger than she or her mother is. What other things do we learn to do unconsciously?

4. Do you blame Steven for his actions? Tell us how you felt about him. Did you feel remorse for him after he realized what he had done and went in search of his girlfriend, Julia?

5. Were you surprised by Patrick? Is it true that sometimes we don’t know the person we think we should know best?

6. How did the restructuring of the children’s education make you feel? Do you think home economics is beneficial to both boys and girls?

7. Sharon comments that because of her skin color, she will be “next.” How do you think society would have progressed if the ending of Vox were different? Do you think people of color would have been treated like the LGBTQ community?

8. Did reading this book inspire you as a parent? As a citizen of your country? As your (preferred) gender? How?

9. Were there any ideas of the Pure Movement you agreed with? Why?

10. Up until about six years old, children learn language with few problems. Later, language learning becomes increasingly difficult—think about how hard it is for most adults to learn a foreign language. What would be the risks to Sonia and other young girls if the situation in Vox persisted?

11. Jean gives up her voice long before the Pure Movement comes to power by declining to use it. Are there ways in which we voluntarily silence ourselves?

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Vox 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
CaptainsQuarters More than 1 year ago
Ahoy there me mateys!  So I seem to be in the minority again.  This book irked me.  The premise is that a misogynistic bunch of males has taken over the government and women have become second class citizens.  Restrictions include, but are not limited to- no jobs, no financial control, no access to books, no passports, and no real use of language.  It's the last limitation that made me want to read this book. The statistic in the blurb claims that the is that the average person currently speaks 16,000 words a day.  In this book the woman can only speak 100 words a day.  To enforce this quota, all women are equipped with sensors around their wrists.  Go over the limit and ye get an electric shock.  And it isn't mild.  With every misbehavior, the force and duration of the punishments only increase. The concepts behind limited women's speech were fascinating.  In particular the relationship between the main character, Jean, and her youngest child, a girl, was the most poignant part of the novel.  The consequences for a generation of girls brought up without the skills of reading and the outlet of speaking were harrowing. But unfortunately the expression of the novel's concepts and the impact of its message were completely filtered down by the awkward execution of this novel.  Some of the problems: - unlikable protagonist - Jean is supposed to be smart and intelligent.  She holds a PhD and was about to make a major achievement in treating the problems of language malfunction in stroke patients.  And yet throughout the book she was whiny, unfocused, clueless, and meek.  It made sense for the beginning of the novel but she never really became a strong force. - unrealistic and unneeded plot elements - So much of this book felt unreal.  Subplots about animal testing that were unnecessary.  Brand-new drugs working the first and only time on a human subject.  Multiple characters important to Jean that happen to be conveniently in a cell and rescued at a critical moment.  No cameras or recording devices in any place that seems rational.  Escalation of a bio-terrorist threat that literally makes NO SENSE and would hurt the bad people just as much as the others.    - too tied to current events - This book seemed to bash the reader over the head with it's lack of subtlety.  I am extremely liberal and yet this book seemed to be a political soapbox for hatred of the current regime.  I feel it would have had more force if set in slightly more distant future. - the muddled message - The theme seems to be a call for women to be active in politics.  And yet it lambastes any woman who doesn't follow a certain type of political activism.  It doesn't even seem to want women to have individuality of their own.  This seems to suggest if ye aren't a rabid fanatic about yer politics then ye are useless. lackluster ending – What a crock. For a book to be about women power, a man is needed to bring down the regime. Then the main character runs to another country and doesn’t even stay to help mitigate and direct the consequences of her actions. She is basically a coward through and through. She is always being selfish and really never cared about the greater good. It’s been compared to the Handmaid’s Tale. Skip this one and read that one instead. This book was a muddled mess and therefore must walk the plank! The Handmaid’s Tale is a modern classic for a reason. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for me honest musings. Arrr!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that's just blah for me. The very definition of mediocre, from the storyline to the characters and beyond. There's really nothing that stands out, at least not in a positive way. The author has somehow managed to take a unique plot line with limitless potential and turned it into a Christian and male bashing rant of epic proportions (full disclosure: I am not a Christian nor am I a man.) The plot revolves around a dystopian future where U.S. women are only allowed to speak 100 words per day or face the consequences of the Christian Reich. Dr. Jean McClellan is among these women. Jean is a perpetually indecisive victim of her own circumstances. She hates her husband. She hates her son. There's really nothing relatable or sympathetic about her character. I could go on and on about the lack of character development but more importantly is the utter lack of development of the plot itself. There is no lead up to, and even less explanation for, how women found themselves living this nightmare. Other than a few references to a president that sounds strangely familiar, we're left with virtually no backstory. Overall this book is devoid of the tension and emotion that is mandatory for a dystopian book. 2 Stars because I was able to suffer through until the end I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read. Terrifying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This+was+a+great+read%21+I++enjoyed+it+from+start+to+finish.+I+totally+see+the+comparison+to+the+Handmaid%27s+Tale+with+this+story+%26+I+enjoyed+it+way+more+than+Red+Clocks+which+was+also+compared+to+The+Handmaid%27s+Tale.+%0AIf+dystopian+tales+with+a+bit+of+sci-fi%2C+romance+%26+suspense+wrapped+up+together+this+is+a+great+read+for+you+to+check+out%21
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It really makes you think about your role in shaping everyday life, for you and those around. You
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have conflicting feelings about this book - and so many questions! The premise was awesome. Women silenced by word-counting wristbands is a neat dystopian plot that I really wanted to see fleshed out. But there were too many holes in the book that left it overall dissatisfying. First of all, the setting is current day. We saw what just happened in the midterm elections. We have more women and diversity in Congress than ever before and things are growing more progressive every day. Small but meaningful things happen that shape our children to view sexism and misogyny as wrong. For example, I took my son on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney and as the boat rounded the bend I expected to see the bride auction with pirates selling women as sex slaves. The folks at Disney changed the ride so they're selling off stuff, not women. Just little things like that show adults are paying attention and making changes so kids don't see it and think it's normal. For this plot to be plausible - for enough people to really be on board with shocking little babbling infant girls into silence, the Incel movement would have to be overwhelmingly popular. As it stands, that would take decades even if they had charismatic leader after charismatic leader. That's a hell of a sell for the vast majority of our country. That leads me to my next issue: the portrayal of conservative Christians. They're not evil human beings. Dalcher portrays them as such. This is coming from an ultra-liberal atheist feminist. If conservative Christians had their way, sure, maybe women would be predominantly in the kitchen and serve the husband as a helpmeet or only working as nurses, teachers, and secretaries. But they'd never really want to take a woman's right to vote, read, or talk. I don't know any Christians, male or female, who think women are chattel. But there are plenty of incels who do, so... that should really be the dystopian government. Other issue: okay, let's say you take away a woman's ability to speak, read, and write. Let's say she has a newborn boy. How does she raise that boy to prepare him for preschool without communication? Wouldn't he fare just as poorly as his sisters? If the menfolk are working 12+ hours a day to make up for half the workforce going missing and they come home exhausted at the end of the day just wanting dinner and sleep, are they really going to take time to nurture their sons' development? Lastly: if the girl schools are run/taught by men... where do they find men who know how to expertly cook, sew, and garden? How do women cook decent and varied meals without cookbooks or recipes? How do they know how to read patterns or get instructions for sewing? If they can't talk to each other, how do the older women teach the younger women their wisdom and knowledge? Where do men turn to for companionship? My dad would be lost if my mom was mute. What are they supposed to do, have a steady bromance? And wouldn't there be mass suicides among women if they were basically turned into living, breathing robots designed to make sandwiches and serve as a wet hole? Because I would kill myself and my daughters if that was the new reality. The society Dalcher built not only took away women's freedom and choices but overall took their ability to have any happiness. Her world was far too devoid of hope to be sustainable. Otherwise, it was overall a fast-paced and decent read if you can suspend reality for a while.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would have liked more back story to the actual development of the laws and specific rules the laws force upon the characters in this book. Otherwise it was a fascinating read?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this in five hours. Brilliant! Intense! Ending was supremely satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very very good read. A surprising ending. Highly recommend.
tschnitzler 8 months ago
This book may come off as feminist, but it is more about loss of freedoms for all. From the first page, the reader is drawn into a strange and frightening America. All females are put back 200 years with less freewill even. Imagine only being allowed to speak 100 words every 24 hours when the average person speaks over 16,000 words a day! Violations are more severe with each incidence. I applauded our heroes in this story. Great wake up call for all on how quickly things we take for granted can be taken away. Intense read!
J.B.'s Reviews More than 1 year ago
I want to say, that I know I'm going to catch crap from people for not liking this because of outrage and cancel culture but understand two things: One, I don't care. Two, I'm only being honest with my review. I don't read anything with the intent to dislike it. I want to read to enjoy.  DNF Will contain some spoilers. This is an excellent premise for a story, superb. But right out of the gate it is immediately unbelievable. I understand and support the underlying message here. Entirely and completely. But the setup was what was unbelievable. It was exceptionally unrealistic. The bible belt would never stretch as far as it does in this story. There are a billion atheists in the world, and more added to the figure every year. The bible belt would never expand to an 'Iron Maiden' as its called in the book. I get that it's fiction. But the authors intent was to create a message, to get people talking. The message is fine. But it's how she chose to tell the story which ruined it for me. I'm disappointed 'cause I enjoyed the premise, and believe it's something that could happen, but not in the way it happens in this story. We do have a supreme court, and that's pretty much made to seem vulnerable. Also, I really don't think every man - even some republican men - would be down for making such a thing happen. There would be allies on both sides. A war if you will. The set up is too wild. People too limp and too wiling to roll over. I don't want people to think I disliked it 'cause I'm a man. That's not it at all. I just couldn't be pulled in with how ridiculously it all started. Maybe if it were far-fetched here and there throughout the book, and not a sledgehammer of stupid in the first nineteen pages, I might have been able to fight off my dislike and finish it.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings When I heard the concept of this book, I was ready to read it immediately, although it didn't quite go where I thought it would, I still enjoyed it. The part that I had heard before going in was that women were literally being silenced by wearing a contraption on their wrists and it would shock them if they went above a certain word count. Yes, this is in the book and what a concept, but the book goes somewhere I wasn't expecting. The book focuses on Dr. Jean McClellan who was close to discovering something that would help reverse a brain injury in the Wernicke's area of the brain that had people talking in gibberish, but she was halted by the new regime. First let me say that this book made me do some googling and I was excited and surprised to see that this area is truth and does impact one's ability to compute and understand language. I love that at the heart of this crazy story was truth. The focus of the book was her discovery and how it could impact society in a possibly negative way.
onemused More than 1 year ago
"Vox" is a chilling dystopian that happens in the somewhat present time. We follow Dr. Jean McClellan as she navigates this future. It begins with the rise of a president who appeals to the Christian religious right and who begins to pass legislation to oppress women. They describe themselves as "pure" men and "pure" women- returning to a time when men were men and women were women. This means that women take on a domestic, subservient role, and men the dominant, provider role. The changes happen slowly, and she, as many do, allow them to pass without attending protests and without always voting. First, they seem small, and then they spiral into bigger changes, until women are unable to work and they must wear a devious wrist device. This device allows them 100 precious words a day- and if they exceed it, they get increasing shocks by the number of words over. The protagonist experienced this when a rant gets her a vicious burn. She sees the changes in her children, the three older boys- particularly her oldest who takes a religious studies class and begins to spout the rhetoric. She also sees this in her young daughter, who she tries to keep from pain by preventing her from talking. When they separate the schools, she is shocked that her daughter won't learn reading, writing, science, or any of the usual subjects- but instead, she will learn only homemaking and cooking. Her life is changing when the president's brother develops Wernicke's aphasia, Jean's area of expertise. She is recruited to continue her work on a cure in exchange for having her and her daughter's bracelets removed. The alternatives she is given are even more oppressive, and she is strong-armed into the work. She is working alongside her former partner with whom she had cheated in the past, and her former coworkers. She must face the consequences of the past and consider how to proceed. The book considers many aspects, including the importance of individual voices, the insidious way the rhetoric of a movement can spread and take over the generations, and the importance of considering intersectional feminism (presented and somewhat startling to the main character, echoing current events). There are some horrifying events throughout, which is along the dystopian category, including suicide and betrayal. This book was interesting not only for the content, but also because the main character is so very flawed. She witnesses it all and perhaps played into it as well. She must face choices for herself and how they conflict with selfishness vs. care for her family vs. society at large. Overall, I found it a really intriguing look at an alternate future. I would have liked more in terms of the ending, which felt a bit rushed and not as careful and methodical as the rest of the book. This was an intense and engaging read which is great for fans of "The Handmaid's Tale" and other speculative/dystopian fiction. Please note that I received a copy from a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
apeape More than 1 year ago
The government suddenly decides women can no longer speak more than 100 words a day, and enforces this with wristbands that deliver electric shocks if that number is exceeded. Women can no longer hold jobs, girls aren't taught to speak or read, only to cook, sew, and other domestic duties. The rest of the world carries on as normal, but the United States has become hell for women. The concept of this book was really good; it was frightening, disturbing, and just plausible enough to be believable. The execution of this concept could've been developed better, though. It's made pretty clear that it's taking place now, an alternate now perhaps, but now. A near future would've made the point more believable, I think- we're not in a great spot right now as a nation, but we're not quite in a spot where this situation would happen overnight, more like this could be where we're headed if we don't start fighting it. There's also not much explanation of how things got to this point- some backstory would have been nice. The characters, for the most part, are believable, if not particularly likeable. The tension stayed pretty even till the end, which seemed a bit rushed and kind of anti-climactic. There were a few twists that were very convenient, but still within plausibility enough to keep me from rolling my eyes once I thought about it. A little explanation would have helped in those moments. I would recommend this book, with the caveat the writing will annoy you a bit. I give it 3 1/2 stars.
LawladyCase More than 1 year ago
Dr. Jean McClellan strains each day not to exceed her allotted 100 words. The shock of doing so was realized early after being fitted with a bracelet – counter – almost a year previously. The story grabs you from the beginning. Hold on because it is a wild, albeit all too possible, ride. The conservative outlooks that retreat back to the customs of the 1950s seem quite feasible in the contentious society we are now living in. I can’t express how encompassing this novel is. It really gets into your head and heart. I found that I couldn’t stop reading it. I felt as if I was experiencing everything through Dr. McLellan’s eyes and heart. It will be a long while before the issues raised here fade. What an awesome story with even better writing. If I could give it 10 stars I would. Definitely not just for liberals. Everyone should read this book. Whatever political leaning you find yourself at this is an eyeopener on the potentials or counterpetitions that could face the United States. It is scary to contemplate, but you will once you have finished this book. Do not be afraid that this is just another political book. It’s as anything but. I received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting and scary concept, viewed in light of the current political state of our country!
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I can feel the jolt right now, the physical pain that would startle me, even though I know it is coming. I would be one of the many who would be singled out, one of half the population who would have a limit on the amount of words that I could speak in one day. How could I adapt to live in a world where this is possible? I know for a fact, that I would struggle with this ruling and that I would fight against it. I have facial expressions which I use a lot but I am a talker, the Quiet Game is a hard one for me. I like to converse and be friendly, but to be silenced because I am a female, this would be so frustrating day-in and day-out. As I read this novel, I found myself absorbed in the inequalities and in the prejudices of the situation at hand. There are some who buy into this new world, for they want the simplicity and order and they don’t want to buck the system. There are some who are fighting their way to the top and some who are trying to get back some control. There are also a few who will stop at nothing to reach their ultimate goal. It was interesting meeting these individuals and their thought processes. Those who bought into the new system, I found interesting. They were content with their new limited daily vocabulary, a concept which was hard for me to handle. So many words unspoken each day, so many missed opportunities each day and I thought how lonely things must be for them now without words especially since they have the words trapped inside them and can’t express them freely. Inside this new world, there are struggles and competitions. It is a world evolving. For where there is hatred, there is also love. For where there is corruption, there is also justice. For where there is despair, there is also hope. Not everyone knows what side of the fence their neighbor is on, but someday they will and someday, I feel they will need to see where they stand also. This book really worked for me. I couldn’t put it down. I am thrilled that this is a series as I can’t wait to see what happens. A great read for me.
LeslieLindsay More than 1 year ago
Imagine the U.S. in a not-so-distant future where all women are silenced to only 100 words per day. That's what VOX sets out to explore. I have a feeling VOX (August 21, 2018. Berkley) is going to be a very 'buzzy' book if it isn't already. Hot off the heels of a successful Hulu run of THE HANDMAID'S TALE adaptation (Margaret Atwood), VOX has a very similar pretense, but with a more concrete conclusion. What if American women were silenced by a bracelet, a counter, they are to wear at all times on their wrist? It counts the number of words spoken in a 24-hour cycle, resetting at midnight, and not to exceed 100? And if it does, why then, pain is the result in the form of electrocution. Dr. Jean McClellan, a married mother of four and a (former) neurolinguist has been wearing the bracelet for about a year. She's had to give up her job and tend to the house, as did all women, per the new president's orders. When the president's brother suffers an accident and Jean is needed back in the workforce. She soon finds her research isn't as benevolent as she had envisioned. The writing is whip-smart, fast-paced, and intriguing. I found myself racing through sections and eager to find out what would happen. I am not 100% sure I really 'liked' the characters, but the premise intrigued, and so I kept reading. Plus, science with a slight hint of genetics and the psychological effects of this construct touched some current soft spots. (Think: #MeToo #WhyIDidntReport), and more. Just how far will we go to silence women, their power, their intellect? Some twists in the resolution of VOX and I'd classify this read as a dystopian literary thriller. There are some very real and very challenging aspects of VOX that left me feeling angry and unsettled. And it had me talking with others, which is always a good sign. One can let VOX get under their skin or they can read for what it is--dystopian fiction--but it's that kernel of truth that will haunt. Some cross-over in tone and style of Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE meets Chloe Benjamin's character Varya in THE IMMORTALISTS (science, research) meets George Orwell's 1984. L.Lindsay Always with a Book
INpurplereader More than 1 year ago
Living in the United States in 2017-2018 helped birth Christina Dalcher's Vox: A Novel. A dystopia where not only are women silenced, but they also lose any say in their finances, careers are taken away, and their roles in this reformed society are solely to be homemakers. Dr. Jean McClellan, a cognitive linguist, had nearly found a neuro-serum that would reverse aphasia before she was told to leave her lab and go home. Due to her husband Patrick's high level position, she blames him for not speaking up against the new policies. Her daydreams of a former lab partner only complicate matters by adding another layer to the tale. The first two-thirds of the book sets up the believable United States with women losing myriad rights; however a mood change occurs at this point, making the pace increase as tension mounts. I found this shift not to happen as smoothly as it might, my only criticism. Dalcher does a fine job of weaving a dystopia, a thriller, and a romance. Feminists can be human, intelligent, fallable, and desirous of a relationship, so no need to point fingers and find fault about how Jean behaves during the tale. For a debut novel, this book is treat, providing both a thought-provoking and an entertaining tale. Let's just hope Dalcher is not truly clairvoyant! This would make a great book club read, a faculty-wide book, a mother-daughter discussion novel, or just on to put on the top of your TBR pile. I look forward to see what Dalcher writes in the future. Highly recommend. Rating 4.5.
INpurplereader More than 1 year ago
Living in the United States in 2017-2018 helped birth Christina Dalcher's Vox: A Novel. A dystopia where not only are women silenced, but they also lose any say in their finances, careers are taken away, and their roles in this reformed society are solely to be homemakers. Dr. Jean McClellan, a cognitive linguist, had nearly found a neuro-serum that would reverse aphasia before she was told to leave her lab and go home. Due to her husband Patrick's high level position, she blames him for not speaking up against the new policies. Her daydreams of a former lab partner only complicate matters by adding another layer to the tale. The first two-thirds of the book sets up the believable United States with women losing myriad rights; however a mood change occurs at this point, making the pace increase as tension mounts. I found this shift not to happen as smoothly as it might, my only criticism. Dalcher does a fine job of weaving a dystopia, a thriller, and a romance. Feminists can be human, intelligent, fallable, and desirous of a relationship, so no need to point fingers and find fault about how Jean behaves during the tale. For a debut novel, this book is treat, providing both a thought-provoking and an entertaining tale. Let's just hope Dalcher is not truly clairvoyant! This would make a great book club read, a faculty-wide book, a mother-daughter discussion novel, or just on to put on the top of your TBR pile. I look forward to see what Dalcher writes in the future. Highly recommend. Rating 4.5.
INpurplereader More than 1 year ago
Living in the United States in 2017-2018 helped birth Christina Dalcher's Vox: A Novel. A dystopia where not only are women silenced, but they also lose any say in their finances, careers are taken away, and their roles in this reformed society are solely to be homemakers. Dr. Jean McClellan, a cognitive linguist, had nearly found a neuro-serum that would reverse aphasia before she was told to leave her lab and go home. Due to her husband Patrick's high level position, she blames him for not speaking up against the new policies. Her daydreams of a former lab partner only complicate matters by adding another layer to the tale. The first two-thirds of the book sets up the believable United States with women losing myriad rights; however a mood change occurs at this point, making the pace increase as tension mounts. I found this shift not to happen as smoothly as it might, my only criticism. Dalcher does a fine job of weaving a dystopia, a thriller, and a romance. Feminists can be human, intelligent, fallable, and desirous of a relationship, so no need to point fingers and find fault about how Jean behaves during the tale. For a debut novel, this book is treat, providing both a thought-provoking and an entertaining tale. Let's just hope Dalcher is not truly clairvoyant! This would make a great book club read, a faculty-wide book, a mother-daughter discussion novel, or just on to put on the top of your TBR pile. I look forward to see what Dalcher writes in the future. Highly recommend. Rating 4.5.
teachlz More than 1 year ago
My Review of "Vox" by Christina Dalcher  Berkley, August 21, 2018 Christina Dalcher, Author of  "VOX" has written an unusual, terrifying, intense, captivating, page turning, riveting, suspenseful  and twisted thriller. The Genres for this story are Fiction, Thriller, Mystery and Suspense, and  Political Satire. The timeline of the story is in the present and goes to the past when it pertains to the characters or events in this novel. The story takes place in the United States of America. (Believe it or not) The  Government and politics in place have some twisted rules, and everything seems to happen in the blink of an eye. The Women in this story are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. This is charted by an electronic bracelet that is placed on their wrists that tracks words and emits shocks.Very young girls also get the "band" and now go to school and are encouraged not to speak. The girls that say nothing get prizes. This leads to women being forced to stay home, and cook and clean, because they can't get jobs. There is no evidence of birth control, or condoms in stores. The men are given important roles, and some are entitled to visit elite clubhouses, where there are prostitutes. Any infraction in this society by the religious groups in power are punished. Dr. Jean McClellan can't believe that this is happening. She has been an expert on matters of the brain, strokes and aphasia. Now she and her four-year old daughter are limited to speaking 100 words a day. Her older teenage son questions her role in the home. It seems that the President's brother has had a terrible accident and they require Jean's assistance. What will she do for survival for her and her family? There is a resistance, and the people you would least suspect are in it. But, how do you know how to trust anyone? The government is using the top scientists for some secret project. I would recommend this chilling thriller to readers that enjoy this genre. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
Pegliss More than 1 year ago
Linguist Dr. Jean McClellan has been silenced. Like all women and girls in this dystopian novel, she is limited to one hundred words a day; a counter on her wrist keeps track and zaps her with an electric charge when she exceeds that number. The President’s influential brother’s injury gives her a temporary release from her counter, for she is needed to complete her cure from aphasia, the loss of language. This interesting premise, and the early parts of the novel, offered the hope this would rise above the recent flood of books about misogynistic societies. In flashbacks, Jean is shown ignoring her friend’s warnings about the rise of fundamentalism and her political apathy, happily conducting research and her family. Her life the past year has been a struggle, as she worries about the impact of this totalitarian society on her children, especially her young daughter, and faces her marital disillusionment. Once freed from her counter and reconnected with her two research partners, she finds her voice and some courage. Here the novel becomes a rapidly moving thriller, with short chapters, demanding more and more suspension of belief. The more complex themes of the social and political world are lost as Jean deals with personal issues and the demands placed on her to complete her research in just days. The ending is rushed and unsatisfactory, partly due a few too many coincidences. Ultimately Jean ends up relying on men to free her and get her to safety. This isn’t to say the book is uninteresting; I flew through it, wondering how all would be resolved. It just could have been so much more. (Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a DRC in exchange for an honest review.)
Caroldaz More than 1 year ago
The author said she hoped this book would make me a little bit angry and would make me think. Yes! It! Did! The book takes place in America where the government has decided that women are worthless. Most women cannot have a job, they do not learn to read or write and they are allowed to speak only 100 words a day. They wear a type of ‘bracelet’ which monitors their word usage and they receive a painful shock with every word uttered over the quota. Women are not allowed to own books, or to read and are not allowed to use any kind of sign language. Dr Jean McClellan reaches a point where she decides to fight, she wants a voice for her daughter and for herself. Made me think how important our voices are. Do we use our voices enough to fight for what is right? Or do we always leave it for someone else?
TeeP2 More than 1 year ago
This is a hard review to write. I have to separate how I feel about the subject matter from how I feel about the writing/plot development/characters/etc., and if you’ve ever reviewed any type of controversial book before, you know that is not an easy thing to do. As dystopian novels go, this one was packed full of frustrating circumstances, despair, oppression, and all the negative emotions you can imagine a dystopian novel would contain. No, all the characters aren’t likable (even, surprisingly, the main character), and most of them aren’t given a whole lot of backstory, so don’t expect a lot of character development here. It’s a quick read and most of the true action is stuffed into the final few chapters. But the premise is extremely compelling and it does draw you into the story easily. I did read this mostly in one sitting because I was so interested to see how it all played out in the end. Vox certainly serves as a cautionary tale reminding us that evil ideas prevail when good people do nothing – especially when we don’t go out and vote! You know that totally “woke” friend who is always pushing everyone to call their congresspeople and to oppose this cause and that cause? Listen to her. If nothing else, this book taught me that much. Did I love it? No. Was it worth a read? Sure. Of course, there are plot points that are infuriating and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands, but isn’t that almost a requirement for good dystopian fiction? This book made me angry, sad, frustrated and – at times confused, but I left it knowing that someone’s words caused all those feelings in me, and isn’t that kind of the point of reading? According to my personal rating scale, I gave Vox 3 stars: “This book was alright. Might be worth reading for most, but there are several things about it that will keep me from recommending it to all.” Three stars is not necessarily a bad rating from me. Lots of what I read ends up in this category. It was a solid book and will certainly appeal to a vast majority of readers.