On holiday I again turned to my Kindle. This time a February retreat to a beautiful villa in a wind farm on Tenerife. The weather matched the dystopian mood of the book as a storm carrying Sahara sand descended. There was no sea, whitish emptiness where it was supposed to be. The wind turbines, by no means small, were barely visible, yet it was uncannily warm for someone from the northern hemisphere. And there I sat on a lounger, inhaling the fine beige sand and reading Dulcher’s novel about voiceless women.
The idea of this novel is very similar to Handmaid’s Tale, just simplified. Distilled down to basics. Women are allowed to stay a 100 words a day. Any more than that causes an electric shock of increasing magnitude, administered by the bracelets/counters they wear on their wrist. A simple and efficient way of removing women from public life. Also a bit heavy-handed as a plot. Scary as it is.
We get to know the story through Jean, a former neuro-linguist (conveniently), mother of three boys and a girl, already wearing a counter. Jean’s husband, Patric, works in the administration that is responsible for implementing the counters that effectively took everything away from her.
I am a bit torn about this book. For the hatred Jean tries not to feel for her husband and the self-righteous eldest son is understandable and relatable. The fact that you can gag half a population almost overnight with god planning, believable. Yet, something rung false, like it was just a warning manifesto, not a fully-fledged novel.
Jean tries not to resent her husband who works for the government because they desperately need his income to stay afloat with four children. Patric, in turn, tries not to take advantage of the fact that his Ph.D. level educated wife is now all but mute. Their oldest sone gets gradually brainwashed at school. While Sonia, the youngest and the only girl, eagerly participates in a school competition for a girl that says the least during the day. All of this has Atwood’s nightmarish aura of being unbelievable and yet very probably at the same time.
So on principle level and when it comes to the message of this book makes sense. On the emotional side, though, it feels a bit rushed. And the plot is almost lifted from an action movie. All of this comes together to form a pretty weird mix. Definitely readable, but not very nuanced.
And maybe that’s why this book won’t change the world. It is too simple. Where Atwood is nuanced and multilayered, mimicking human nature, Dalcher gives us a very binary world. That’s why Handmaid’s Tale is read 35 years after being first published, and why I doubt VOX will last this long.
Still, it’s not a bad one if you’re looking for a decent dystopian read. It may even make you eye your other half suspiciously but probably won’t change your life.
What was the best dystopian novel you ever read? Share in comments and link to your reviews!