I have read VOX for the book club that I attend at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry. What follows is a quick review.
VOX is a dystopian novel where women are given a word limit every day. If they exceed their limit they are suffer an electric shock from a device worn around their wrists. The novel follows the adventures of a brain damage specialist recruited by a Chauvinist, fundamentalist American government to create a cure for the Presidents brother who has suffered an accident rendering him unable to speak.
I read this book in about three hours, the chapters are short and punchy which maintains the energy and drives the story forwards. Interestingly enough the author writes that she wrote the novel in three months. I do not doubt this because there are some problems with the storytelling but clearly the ideas and the themes have been marinating in her mind for some time and this is interesting. Problems for me would include the unnecessary character of Poe and a less well sketched conclusion than the introduction. There is an attack by a monkey which seems very confused but is an effort to ‘shoehorn’ in a reference to a woman life being worth less than the cost of a laboratory animal. Orwell uses the same technique in “Killing and Elephant” to illustrate the brutality of colonial officials. A threatened attack might have been more effective than an actual assault.
In terms of dystopia the works of Orwell, Huxley, Burgess and Attwood are clearly and effectively referenced. The Government that the family live under is clearly totalitarian and is in the process of eroding civil liberties, the process not yet being complete. It feels more like the crack down in Clockwork Orange than the totalitarian control of 1984 which isn’t to say it isn’t effective. Like all dysopia it works hard to hit the balance between possible future and outlandish. By building on liberal anxieties about the Bible Belt, television evangelists, the Trump Presidency and the role of women in society the novel does achieve this balance. Amongst the sheer cleverness is the idea that the Trump wall is not to keep people out but rather to keep people in.
I think to conclude this is not the worst book I have ever read and I think it could be better. Sometimes it can be clumsy, particularly in its virtue signifying, and sometimes the prose could have had a stronger edit but there is a strong vision of right and wrong which is the foundation of a strong dystopian novel. It fits very well indeed into the genre of dystopia a powerful synthesis reworking feminist themes and tropes.