A review by Nalini Haynes
Jean McClellan is a wife and mother, removed from the workforce by white male supremacists who’ve decided the way to fix society is to segregate the ‘inferior’ and put bands on female’s wrists to administer escalating shocks when the wearer has spoken over 100 words in a day. Her son joins the equivalent of Hitler’s Youth while her daughter is silenced. Jean vies for freedom, first from the confines of housekeeping, then from her marriage via another man, and most of all from this oppressive regime.
Sound familiar? It should. Even Elle’s blurb refers to a ‘re-imagining of the Handmaid’s Tale’. At times Vox is almost a blow by blow rendition of Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece. I suspect that some readers will discuss what defines plagiarism.
Vox has the virtue of not including ritual rape and the men in power are significantly more consistent regarding ‘purity’. However, imposing silence (including punishing sign language) on women, girls and female babies would have catastrophic effects for the neural and academic development of children of all genders. Even boys deprived of the stimulation of their mothers talking to them would have difficulty learning language and would fall behind quickly after Dalcher’s cultural changes were imposed.
Vox’s conclusion might be more satisfying than the end of The Handmaid’s Tale for some, but I feel it was too convenient, too successful, and assumed too much.
Overall, Vox is a poor imitation of The Handmaid’s Tale with an ill-conceived premise with consequences that have not been considered by the author. However, Vox emphasises the present and real threat to our way of life and the real fear that white men feel due to being displaced as the masters of the universe.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Publisher: HarperCollins in Australia and Random Penguins elsewhere