VOX by C V Dalcher
Published By: HQ
What The Blurb Says:
Silence can be deafening.
Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.
Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.
Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.
For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…
[100 WORD LIMIT REACHED]
What I Say:
Every day we are assaulted by a cacophony of words and sounds from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep. We chat, laugh, text, post comments and in my case, settle down with a book and talk some more.
Now imagine a world where women are limited to 100 words a day. If you go over your limit, a bracelet on your arm will administer an electric shock. If you go further over the 100 word limit, the intensity of the electric shock will increase until you inevitably die.
This law includes all females, so girls from a very young age also have a bracelet fitted which ensures that they too cannot use more than 100 words too.
So, VOX must be set way in the future, in an alien world far removed from ours?
Welcome to modern day America, ruled by a megalomaniacal President and his brother, assisted by a power hungry Reverend who is the head of the Pure Movement. A Presidential Election has facilitated the infiltration of this Movement throughout America, which believes that not only is a woman’s place is in the home, under the complete control of her husband, but that she should be seen and absolutely not heard, which is why the bracelet has been introduced into American Society.
Single women are given the laughable ‘choice’ of marrying someone, anyone, or are made to work in brothels. Anyone who is not heterosexual is criminalised and forced to work in camps where they are ‘re-educated’ to become straight again.
Jean McClellan is a doctor of neurolinguistics, who, like millions of other women is a virtual wordless prisoner in her own home. She is not permitted a bank account or a credit card, and has had to give up her career. She is trying to ensure that she not only does not flout the rules, but that her young daughter Sonia never goes over the 100 word limit too. Sonia and her brothers attend school, but as a girl, Sonia is not allowed to learn to read or write, and chillingly, her greatest achievement is receiving a certificate for speaking the least number of words (just 3) in a day.
Little by little, the government ensure that women are becoming nothing more than silent, passive bodies, ghosts who glide through their lives absolutely controlled by the men who rule the White House and the men who share their homes. Even more chillingly, Jean’s eldest son Steven, is being indoctrinated into this state controlled misogyny through school, as the curriculum is changed to reflect the teachings of the Pure Movement, so as soon as the boys start their education, they learn about the place of women in their world.
The scene is set as Jean and her family attempt to live within the horrific misogynistic confines of their world, as she is unable to do anything to protest against the President, because quite simply, to vocalise her anger means she will die and her family will be put in danger. Added to this, Steven is now falling under the spell of the Pure Movement, and has started to treat his mother appallingly, quite simply because that is what he is meant to do in this world.
So far, so depressing. Until one day, the men from the White House arrive at Jean’s house offering her the chance to remove her bracelet and resume her academic career. Ironically she is asked to give the power of speech back to the person who was responsible for taking hers away, as the President’s brother is unable to speak following a brain injury. Jean is placed in an awful dilemma – should she take the offer and be able to speak and use words (even if it is only until the cure is found) while helping the man who has inflicted this situation on America, or should she morally refuse and stay imprisoned in her silent world instead.
After much soul searching, Jean decides to research a cure for the President’s Brother. She also demands that Sonia has her bracelet removed too. The fact that Sonia is bewildered and scared by her freedom, unsure and unwilling to use her words because she has never had that opportunity makes VOX a difficult read at times. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking it would be, to live your life in fear of your child attempting to express themselves, for them to have to quell every creative thought in them so that they do not risk injury or more appallingly, their own death.
From this moment on, Jean is pulled into a presidential world filled with intrigue and lies, where she and her research team discover that what people say are not always what they mean, and that their intelligence and determination has the potential to change their world – but not always for the best.
For me, Jean is a completely relateable protagonist. You feel her pain and sense of frustration that she is forced to live in this way. Her drive to succeed is powered by her desire to ensure that her daughter and all women in America no longer has to live under this chilling and barbaric regime. VOX shows us how when we are faced with impossible and life changing choices, sometimes we have the greatest power within ourselves to do what it takes to succeed.
VOX is a novel that deserves to be read, discussed and shared with everyone. If you feel nothing while reading it, if it doesn’t make you rage and feel angry, or make you want to ask how this could possibly happen, then I am not sure we can really be bookish friends!
C V Dalcher has written a novel that works so brilliantly because in today’s world, with the recent political events that have happened, women losing their ability to use words is scarily not something that seems so truly far fetched any more. Setting the action in modern day America means that we can easily visualize the day to day world, which makes it even more chilling. The awful idea that something like this could happen in our lifetime makes this a timely and absolutely relevant read for all of us.
In creating a world that is so scared of giving women a voice, it seems that the men in charge of VOX’s world are fearful. Maybe they subconsciously realise that when women come together to stand up against something they believe in, nothing, not even a deadly bracelet can stop women being the ultimate force for change for the world we deserve.
I loved it.