Book Review: Vox

Vox and coffee cupVox by Christina Dalcher

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 to speak 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.

Review:
I’ve been hearing about this book for awhile, but have finally got the chance to read it (for a book club that is now cancelled!).
The concept for Vox is interesting: a dystopian future where women are limited to speaking only 100 words a day. The premise is set up as something that could happen in the US (the book takes place in the US) in a realistic way, with the erosion of rights for women, with distraction techniques, with people who are too busy to vote and protest.
There were definitely parts of this book that I liked. I enjoy taking a concept and pushing it to the extreme, as this author did. I loved how she also used her own knowledge of linguistics to fuel much of the book.
However, I didn’t like the main character, Jean. Usually that’s OK, I don’t need to like the characters. Still, I found, even in this book billing itself as a feminist exploration, that she kept waiting for someone to safe her. She was remarkably passive for much of the time. Perhaps this is to highlight how important it is for everyone to vote and stand up to injustice.
I also found Jean’s attitude toward her male children problematic. I know that her daughter was in more danger than her sons, but I found it hard to buy into a mother who would so easily, potentially leave some of her children behind.
This book is a mixed bag for me — interesting concept, great research, but the main character acts in ways sometimes that I have a hard time buying into.
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Book Review: Followers

FollowersFollowers by Megan Angelo

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the profound moment that changes the meaning of privacy forever.

Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it’s only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Review:
This is such a timely novel with a great premise — about how social media influencers are made and maintained, how social media could be in the future, and how it would be different if it were controlled by the government.
I love books that speculate on our future by making one change, and this book does that. What if the internet were hacked and the government took it over?
The book follows Orla, a blog type reporter, and her roommate Floss, who becomes a social media influencer in the present. It also follows Marlow in the near future who lives live-streamed in a constructed town in California.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the present and the future in this book and the exploration of the “what ifs”. I also liked how the story lines converged. However, something was a bit off for me. Perhaps it was because, although I found the characters fine, I had a hard time actually liking any of them. I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was the pacing of the book. However, I did find it thought provoking and find myself thinking about it still.
Thank you to Netgalley and Graydon House Books for the review copy.
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Book Review: Hazards of Time Travel

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

An ingenious, dystopian novel of one young woman’s resistance against the constraints of an oppressive society, from the inventive imagination of Joyce Carol Oates

“Time travel” — and its hazards—are made literal in this astonishing new novel in which a recklessly idealistic girl dares to test the perimeters of her tightly controlled (future) world and is punished by being sent back in time to a region of North America — “Wainscotia, Wisconsin”—that existed eighty years before.  Cast adrift in time in this idyllic Midwestern town she is set upon a course of “rehabilitation”—but cannot resist falling in love with a fellow exile and questioning the constrains of the Wainscotia world with results that are both devastating and liberating.

Arresting and visionary, Hazards of Time Travel  is both a novel of harrowing discovery and an exquisitely wrought love story that may be Joyce Carol Oates’s most unexpected novel so far.

Review:
I absolutely loved the premise of this book — that in a dystopian future a young woman gets sent back in time to the 1950s as a punishment for free speech. There is definitely a bit of a cautionary tale about where politics is going…
I did enjoy the book after she is sent back, but not nearly as much. She has to learn how to make her way in this foreign time, scared that she is being monitored and deciding who to trust.
Overall, Hazards of Time Travel turned out to be a cute read and didn’t live up to it’s early potential.
Thank you to Edelweiss+ for a review copy of this book.
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Author Interview: Marina Fontaine

Today I have the opportunity to interview dystopian author Marina Fontaine.

First, a summary of Chasing Freedom e-book cover3Marina’s book, Chasing Freedom:

Freedom is lost, but not forgotten.

In 2040s America, civility is prized above truth, conformity above free expression, and “green” living above basic human needs. Most have given up, too busy trying to survive in a country where life is cheap and necessities are scarce. Yet even in the midst of drudgery and despair, unbroken spirits remain.

Julie is a girl who has everything, including a plan to ignite the spark of resistance.

Randy dreams of winning Julie’s love and escaping the emptiness of over-regulated life.

Joseph seeks revenge on the system for a family tragedy.

Daniel is a young artist, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

Chris is an orphan prepared to do the unthinkable to protect his younger sister.

Whether by choice or by accident, each will take a path on a collision course with the oppressive regime. Will they find the freedom they desire? Or will the cost of defiance prove too high to bear?

Marina Fontaine is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She uses personal experience to craft a novel that takes an intimate look at life in a totalitarian society and the role that individual choices play in advancing the cause of liberty. Read more

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