Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating: ★★½ – ★★★
Vox takes place in an America where the female population is given an allotted 100 words per day. The consequences for disobeying or going over the limit are not pretty. Worse still, if you’re LGBTQ+, an adulterer, or just generally disobey, you get sent to camps in the countryside where your daily allotted word count is 0. On the day women all over America have the counters fixed on their wrists, they not only lose their voices, they lose their jobs, and are no longer allowed to read or write. In “Pure Girl Schools” they are still taught numbers, but really, you don’t need to know anything else to run a household; because that is what the religious fanatics who call themselves the “Pure Movement” aim to do. They want to “bring society to rights” by putting women back where they belong—as homemakers and caretakers, the loving presence in the home with the children, silent . Dr. Jean McLellan, a cognitive linguist, whose life work focused on finding an antidote for those who suffered damage to the area of the brain that causes speech impairment, is one of these women. That is until one day she is the one being sought for help by the government and the Pure leader. In accepting to help, Jean regains freedom for herself and her daughter, and reunites with her science team, although she knows that once the job is finished, there’s no question she’ll go back to being voiceless. Through scandals, an underground resistance, and the revelation of life-altering government secrets, Jean will have to decide just what she is willing do to stay free.
Just so you know, according to Google, women speak up to 20,000 words per day compared to men’s 7,000 words.
When I learned about this book I knew I had to read it. Having heard that Vox is similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is one of my all-time favorites, I was eager and ready to love it based on the premise alone. Yet, while I did enjoy it, I didn’t love it. I felt this book had the potential to be great, but it left too many aspects of the plot unexplored and the characters sorely underdeveloped. I wanted more depth but didn’t get it and when we reach the end, I felt a little miffed that it ended so abruptly and without explanation.
”Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. That’s what they say, right?”
This book started out strong and hooked me in from the first chapter. I felt my anger and disbelief stir to life inside me at the injustices being done against women. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about this book was that, although it’s a horrifying, unfathomable dystopia, there were elements that were seemingly cut out from our current socio-political-religious climate that made the story all the more easy to imagine happening. All you have to do is take a look at some of the people who are sitting in positions of power to see that the “Pure Movement” beliefs are already echoed, although thankfully to a much lesser degree.
As I read on, I became steadily more enraged at the expansive role of religion in law and politics, and wonderment at the entitlement of people to decide that half the population should be stripped of their basic human rights just because they are females. However, aside from these larger emotions, the writing didn’t evoke much else from me. Even in the moments that should have been fraught with them, such as when Jean worries for the safety of her children, I don’t feel any particular stirring of emotions. My biggest case in point would be the big revelation between Jean and Patrick, which was flat and unbelievable.
The relationships were too easy and seemed to lack any heart. The characters seemed to be “bare boned” without any meat to prop them up. I think the only character who experiences any growth is Patrick, but even that is only minor and happens in the last few chapters of the book. Most of the characters were also fairly unlikeable and the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn’t like Jean very much. She’s far from the worst character, but I found her so mired in confusion and guilt that she became extremely weak willed. What I find ironic is that despite ‘hating’ her husband (for being weak) and her son (for being a sheep), she basically leant on the men in her life to give her strength and to ‘save the day’.
I thought the plot also lacked depth. There were many elements that, if explored further, had the potential to make this a great book, but because it stayed on a very shallow/surface level, it just didn’t get there. The pace also yo-yo’ed throughout the novel, bouncing from an overload of scientific information, followed by quick thoughts and side events. The latter half of the novel was so jam packed with facts, moved so quickly from one event to the next, and was basically all over the place, that I didn’t have time to savor the build up to the end; which was what disappointed me most.
Just like the relationships, the ending came so easily and the story wrapped up so neatly that it was in no way believable; it honestly made the climax feel very anti-climactic. There are allusions to events that happen once the showdown is over, but the details are so vague, it gave me the impression that the ending wasn’t very well thought out and the author wanted to end the story as quickly as possible.
So while I enjoyed reading this for the most part, I am disappointed with it overall. It was good, but it could have been much better. I would recommend this to readers who don’t normally choose to read science fiction or dystopian stories, as it’s an easy and commercial introduction to the genre. I can definitely see this being made into a popular movie in the future!
Have you read Vox? If yes, what did you think of it?
Do you feel the same way I do about it?