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PRAISE FOR VOX
"Christina Dalcher's debut novel, set in a recognizable near future and sure to beg comparisons to Margaret Atwood's dystopian The Handmaid's Tale, asks: if the number of words you could speak each day was suddenly and severely limited, what would you do to be heard? A novel ripe for the era of #MeToo, VOX (Berkley) presents an exaggerated scenario of women lacking a voice: in the United States, they are subject to a hundred-word limit per day (on average, a human utters about 16,000). Considering the threat of a society in which children like the protagonist's six-year-old daughter are deprived of language, VOX highlights the urgency of movements like #MeToo, but also of the basic importance of language."-Vanity Fair
"The females in Dalcher's electrifying debut are permitted to speak just 100 words a day-and that's especially difficult for the novel's protagonist, Jean, a neurolinguist. A futurist thriller that feels uncomfortably plausible."-O, The Oprah Magazine
"In Christina Dalcher's Vox, women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. Sounds pretty sci-fi, but the real-life parallels will make you shiver."-Cosmopolitan
"Vox is a real page-turner that will appeal to people with big imaginations."-Refinery29
"Fittingly, this book about women being silenced has got everybody talking and calling it The Handmaid's Tale for 2018."-Bustle
"VOX is intelligent, suspenseful, provocative, and intensely disturbing-everything a great novel should be."-Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Chilling and gripping-a real page-turner."-Karen Cleveland, New York Times bestselling author of Need to Know
"A bold, brilliant, and unforgettable debut."-Alice Feeney, author of Sometimes I Lie
"With language crystalline and gleaming, and a narrative that really moves, Christina Dalcher both cautions and captivates. The names that come to mind are Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley-had Orwell and Huxley had a taste of the information age. VOX is a book for the dystopic present. It woke me up."-Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces
"[A] provocative debut...Dalcher's novel carries an undeniably powerful message."-Publishers Weekly
"A petrifying re-imagining of The Handmaid's Tale in the present and a timely reminder of the power and importance of language."-Marta Bausells, ELLE UK
"This book will blow your mind. The Handmaid's Tale meets Only Ever Yours meets The Power."-Nina Pottell, Prima
Kurztext / Annotation
The government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily. 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. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof Copyright © 2018 Christina Dalcher
If anyone told me I could bring down the president, and the Pure Movement, and that incompetent little shit Morgan LeBron in a week's time, I wouldn't believe them. But I wouldn't argue. I wouldn't say a thing.
I've become a woman of few words.
Tonight at supper, before I speak my final syllables of the day, Patrick reaches over and taps the silver-toned device around my left wrist. It's a light touch, as if he were sharing the pain, or perhaps reminding me to stay quiet until the counter resets itself at midnight. This magic will happen while I sleep, and I'll begin Tuesday with a virgin slate. My daughter, Sonia's, counter will do the same.
My boys do not wear word counters.
Over dinner, they are all engaged in the usual chatter about school.
Sonia also attends school, although she never wastes words discussing her days. At supper, between bites of a simple stew I made from memory, Patrick questions her about her progress in home economics, physical fitness, and a new course titled Simple Accounting for Households. Is she obeying the teachers? Will she earn high marks this term? He knows exactly the type of questions to ask: closed-ended, requiring only a nod or a shake of the head.
I watch and listen, my nails carving half-moons into the flesh of my palms. Sonia nods when appropriate, wrinkles her nose when my young twins, not understanding the importance of yes/no interrogatives and finite answer sets, ask their sister to tell them what the teachers are like, how the classes are, which subject she likes best. So many open-ended questions. I refuse to think they do understand, that they're baiting her, teasing out words. But at eleven, they're old enough to know. And they've seen what happens when we overuse words.
Sonia's lips quiver as she looks from one brother to another, the pink of her tongue trembling on the edge of her teeth or the plump of her lower lip, a body part with a mind of its own, undulating. Steven, my eldest, extends a hand and touches his forefinger to her mouth.
I could tell them what they want to know: All men at the front of the classrooms now. One-way system. Teachers talk. Students listen. It would cost me sixteen words.
I have five left.
"How is her vocabulary?" Patrick asks, knocking his chin my way. He rephrases. "Is she learning?"
I shrug. By six, Sonia should have an army of ten thousand lexemes, individual troops that assemble and come to attention and obey the orders her small, still-plastic brain issues. Should have, if the three R's weren't now reduced to one: simple arithmetic. After all, one day my daughter will be expected to shop and run a household, to be a devoted and dutiful wife. You need math for that, but not spelling. Not literature. Not a voice.
"You're the cognitive linguist," Patrick says, gathering empty plates, urging Steven to do the same.
In spite of my year of practice, the extra words leak out before I can stop them: "No. I'm. Not."
Patrick watches the counter tick off another three entries. I feel the pressure of each on my pulse like an ominous drum. "That's enough, Jean," he says.
The boys exchange worried looks, the kind of worry that comes from knowing what occurs if the counter surpasses those three digits. One, zero, zero. This is when I say my last Monday word. To my daughter. The whispered "Goodnight" has barely escaped when Patrick's eyes meet mine, pleading.
I scoop her up and carry her off to bed. She's heavier now, almost too much girl to be hoisted up, and I need both arms.
Sonia smiles at me when I tuck her under the sheets. As usual, there's no bedtime story, no exploring Dora, no Pooh and Piglet, no Peter Rabbit and his misadventures in Mr. McGregor's lettuce patch. It's frightening what she's grown to accept as normal.
I hum her to sleep with a song about mockingbirds and
One of Entertainment Weekly's and SheReads' books to read after The Handmaid's Tale
One of Good Morning America's "Best Books to Bring to the Beach This Summer"
Set in a United States in which 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 one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning...
Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.
...not the end.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at several universities. Her short stories and flash fiction appear in more than one hundred journals worldwide. Recognition includes first place for the Bath Flash Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and multiple other awards. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband.
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