I first heard about Vox by Christina Dalcher at San Diego Comic-con and I knew I had to read it asap. Since I don’t read a ton of adult fiction, I found the pacing a bit slow and some exposition didn’t feel super organic but my criticism ends there. The world presented in Vox is painfully realistic, and I want to talk about why it’s so important to read books like this one that brings ugly truths to light.
Click here for the synopsis!
Set in an America where 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 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning.
Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.
But this is not the end.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
100 words a day. Just for some perspective, the synopsis of Vox is 129 words. Imagine having 100 words to get you through the day, and if you exceed that you will be tortured. Conditions are even worse if you are anything but straight, married, and monogamous. This probably goes without saying, but this is a very challenging read, given the current socio-political climate. A lot of the ideas presented seem like they could all to quickly turn from fiction to fact.
The America of Vox essentially has no separation of church and state. As a result, both governmental and religious ideologies have a hand in the limitations placed on women. The Pure Blue movement seeks to take America back to the 50’s and 60’s idea of how women should behave. The leader teaches that women should be the caretakers of the house, that girls don’t need to read/write, that women are better seen and not heard. There are injustices enacted against anyone who doesn’t follow these guidelines. In the worst scenarios, people can no longer speak at all, they are imprisoned, forced into labor camps, or even executed. Women and LGBTQIA individuals are the primary targets. In order to justify these atrocities, the Pure Blue movements cite biblical texts and doctrines. They claim these changes will “Make America Moral Again”.
“Blink once for yes, twice for no. Or three times for Not Pure”
Obviously Pure Blue is an analog for modern American Christianity, and it is a fictional religious group. Anyone who reads the book in full can clearly see that although Pure Blue cites the Bible, it is a different and separate thing. That does not diminish the fact that there are groups in America today that use the Bible to justify discrimination and hatred toward various groups. Vox highlights the dangers of religious leaders twisting a doctrine to achieve evil goals, whether they realize they are evil or not. It demonstrates the importance of constantly questioning anyone who tells you to hate or belittle any group of people.
America certainly isn’t the only place where this happens right now. It’s important to read Vox with those places in mind. Places where women aren’t permitted to speak in public at all or have a say in who they marry, or if they can protect their bodies from unwanted pregnancy. Vox made me angry for those women, and angry at the people in America who would try to take those rights from me.
Over and over again Vox demonstrates that people are unwilling, or unable to see how bad things are until they directly affect them. I found it incredibly hopeful to see the change of heart that occurs for a few characters. Even though it is frustrating to read those scenarios, it makes you consider things you may be unwilling to take up arms over simply because they don’t impact your life directly.
Aside from the attention to social injustice in Vox, there is a big plotline about neuroscience. I have a background in neuroscience, so I found this really interesting, though I did question the accessibility of some terms to anyone who isn’t at least an armchair psychologist/neurologist. Personally, I thought it was really compelling, and realistic.
The main character Jean was very believable to me. She yelled when I would have yelled, she was brave and did what had to be done. A lot of characters in the book aren’t quite what you expect them to be. Without spoiling anything I’ll just say that sometimes help can be found in the unlikely places.
I clearly have a lot on my mind after reading this book, and I think it’s a great read for anyone. If you are religious, it will make you think and consider your beliefs critically. If you are (like me) not religious, it’s a great look at the ways religion can become insidious. Many groups are being silenced in various ways right now. News outlets are disregarded as fake, or have their funding pulled. People are discredited based on their personal lives, or even their appearance, instead of their professional credentials. There’s more than one way to quiet the voices of the oppressed, and it’s important for books like Vox to make readers think and see it happening right now.
Have you read Vox? Let me know what you thought in the comments, or recommend me a book that made you question your worldview.