Vox, Christina Dalcher, author; Julia Whelan, narrator
In this book, the women have been subjugated by men. It seems that they have protested one too many times, have marched once too often, have demanded far too much equality and too much of a voice in the way society is being run. The men have grown more and more frustrated with the women’s movement’s effort to marginalize them. Under the leadership of President Sam Myers (Is he Jewish? All religions are demonized in some way, in this book, so perhaps he is.), who followed the first black President into the White House (Guess who?), the clock is rolled back and women are forced to stop communicating on all levels. They have defiantly created a system in which the women are totally restrained. Even sign language is forbidden. They are forced to wear “bracelets” which count and register the number of words they speak each day. Going over the quota of 100 words a day will result in painful electric shocks which vary in severity depending on the scope of the violation. They have lost most of their rights to be independent and to be educated. They are an exaggerated version of The Stepford Wife. More quickly than anyone thought possible, homosexuals and lesbians are imprisoned, adultery is otlawed, schools are reorganized to teach females household skills, cooking and sewing. Only male children receive a full education, including the three “R’s”. All females become voiceless. In school, the curriculum now includes a huge dose of religious teaching to guide the young men and women into their futures. There is a new world order, although no one had ever really believed it would come to pass.
Although, activists for women’s rights had tried to warn the public about what was coming, the threat to the women had been ignored and dismissed as unrealistic, impossible, until it was too late. The activists had seen the writing on the wall and knew there was going to be an effort to silence them, but their efforts to stop the trend were to no avail. With disbelief, the world watched as policy after policy was adopted in America, to not only actually silence women, but to punish them for behavior the men deemed to be improper. The plan, which was diabolical, was largely designed by and widely supported by the church.
This is really a creative novel, but there is not even a veiled attempt to hide the partisanship of the author’s message. She even alludes to the Kool-Aid drinkers, made famous by Rush Limbaugh. They are of course the ones who are deluded. They are on the far-right. They are conservatives who overvalue their religious beliefs. They are the troublemakers shutting down conversation. (Although today, those on the left are actually shutting down conversation and preventing the free exchange of ideas with their need for safe spaces, the author never suggests that.) The reader learns that the renegade President, Sam Myers, built a wall along the borders of Canada and Mexico, making it just as hard for Americans to leave the country as it is for immigrants to enter it. Women have no passports and can not legally leave the country or travel to another. (Subtly, even immigration has reared its ugly head in this novel. Of course, everyone today knows who wants to build the wall. This author implies that it is Trump who is responsible for taking away the rights of women.)
President Myers relies heavily on the military (as does Trump) and his older brother for support and advice. Family is important to him. This new “young” President (perhaps the “young” description is an attempt by the author to soften her partisanship), has a beautiful wife. It is hinted that his wife is sequestered when not in public. It is hinted that she suffers with the restrictions of the bracelet counters and its consequences, as well. (The author’s description of the wife, reminded me of the stories that journalists wrote that insinuated that Melania Trump, who had not been seen for awhile, was being physically abused by her husband, when she was actually undergoing surgery.)
President Myers is being advised by a religious leader, Reverend Carl Corbin who dreams of a world of “pure” men and “pure” women. He will surely remind the readers of Tomas de Torquemada, the first inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. (Perhaps the author’s attempt to demonize religion was her quiet attempt to jab at Vice President Pence whose dedication to his religious beliefs over science has been well publicized and criticized by the left and the media.) In this book, the heroes use scientific research to try and defeat the religious fanaticism. In this new America, journalism and news no longer exist. Entertainment has been regulated. (These issues might be another possible suggestion that this evil President is fashioned after Trump. He has, after all, labeled much of the news media and entertainment world as biased and fake.)
Today, under President Trump, there is a non stop cry to resist and oppose him and anyone associated with him, regardless of what he or they accomplish. He has been painted as unhinged. Since the book promotes the very word resistance as a positive tool for the left to use against the right, even suggesting the use of violence to stop them, it would seem that the author is comparing and contrasting the villainous Myers to Trump, a man she views as villainous. (After all, isn’t Trump’s administration attempting to confirm a Supreme Court Justice that the left believes will curtail women’s rights, especially their right to choose?) Yet, if truth be told, hasn't it been the left and those that support the liberal agenda that has used violence to silence the voices of those that disagree with them?
Dr. Jean McClellan was told that the President’s older brother suffered brain damage in an accident, making him unable to speak coherently. She was asked to return to work in the lab to develop a cure for his condition. Before she lost her job and was silenced, she was one of the foremost authorities on the subject of aphasia. The authorities gave her a very short window of time for this research. As a bonus, the word counter would be removed temporarily while she worked. After she successfully discovered the cure, however, it would be returned to her wrist. In the meantime, other scientists were attempting to develop a drug to do the opposite, to cause rather than cure aphasia. That drug would be used to silence women and eliminate the need for the "bracelet" counters. It would cause them to speak in unintelligible sentences by damaging the Wernicke area of the brain responsible for fluent speech. Dr. McClellan’s husband Patrick worked in this White House that was rolling back women’s rights, and although he did not support the draconian methods, he seemed unable to do anything about them.
The narrator does a very good job of interpreting each character. The book presents the overarching theme that resistance is good, and should be encouraged, even if it calls for violence. In the real world, it is the progressives, not the conservatives being blamed, that do the loudest yelling and are shutting down the voices of those who disagree with them. They are unwilling to have a dialogue with them. There is also a theme that seems to be presenting women as superior, and men as cruel, weak, and sometimes no more than useful idiots. Since speech was a central theme, I found it disheartening that the author used crude vocabulary throughout the book. There was an unnecessary emphasis on sex. Were the women meant to be presented as preoccupied with thoughts of infidelity and promiscuity? Other themes support science as good and faith and religious dogma as evil. The enemies of women and equality live in the Bible Belt. There is a woman in the book, Jeannie’s friend, Jacky Juarez, who is a jailed women’s rights activist and lesbian. She is Hispanic (She is a perfect symbol.). She reminded me of Carmen Perez who was one of the organizers of the women’s march on the White house led also by the likes of Linda Sarsour. Perez worships Harry Belafonte, who is an avowed socialist.
Do the readers realize what is happening in the real world? Do they realize that voices are truly being silenced, but it is not those of women? The voices on the right are being silenced. Those with an opposing view are being silenced. The left is silencing them in the media, in the entertainment world and in the schools at all levels, even as they blame others for their own sins, and no one is taking it seriously, as no one took warnings in the book seriously. It doesn’t fit the agenda of the day.
Although the book is supposed to be about a fictional world, perhaps in the not too distant future, it seems to be hinting, with not very subtle accusations, that the current President and his administration are both usurping power and overstepping boundaries that might very well turn the clock back to a time when women were only supposed to stay at home and act like Donna Reed, serving the needs of their husbands and their family, over their own. If only the author had been content to write a good story and refrained from putting her hand on the scale in an attempt to make a political point. No one side should have been blamed for the plight of the women. The problem should have been expressed and analyzed, encouraging conversation so that a real dialogue could develop which might help to solve problems, not create them. This book feels like a propaganda tool for the liberals who will love it.