Today I am starting my second read through of this novel in preparation for a review. In my first read through I noted some really high notes amongst a pretty okay book. I do not do bad reviews and would normally ignore this book so in order to keep to my rules I will highlight what Chistina Dalcher does incredibly well.
VOX is a dystopian novel about the take over of the United States of America by a right wing, fundamentalist Christian WASP autocracy. Which is pretty standard, uncontroversial stuff. People who it is approved of and safe to hate. Against them are the usual suspects of feminists, human rights activists, foreigners and other allies. Again not controversial and a good solid base on which to tell a story about oppression and resistance.
Vox is obviously the Latin word for voice. The voice and the mouth were very important in Greek and Roman times because it was your political organ. By your voice you could participate in the forum and in politics. Denied your voice you are “idiotic” meaning an individual unable to effect the body politics. In this novel the autocracy removes (or at least limits) women’s political power by forcing them to wear a wrist band that gives an electric shock if they exceed a hundred words in any twenty four hour period.
What follows is a story about a woman’s conflict in staying safe, keeping her family safe and resisting the state as much as she can. Ms Dalcher, I think, does this very well. The Quisling son betrays his girlfriend, the husband slowly descends into alcoholism, the antagonist finds herself isolated from friends, her work and her family until the situation is resolved by a cataclysmic collapse of the state.
What Ms Dalcher does well is that that she draws very strongly on the existing tropes of dystopian fiction. She then weaves them together and combines them with the terrifying innovation of technology that punishes people, specifically women, from speaking. That is awesome thinking, powerful imagineering and keeps me coming back to this novel. This gimmick is powerful and I would like to see more of it explored in the future.