Vox by Christina Dalcher

The world seems ripe with dystopian fiction right now, and for good reason too. Daily news stories that once could have only been the work of fiction are appearing more frequently. Women’s rights in some parts of the world seem to be taking a step back, while minorities across the world continue to fight for equality.

So just as season three of The Handmaid’s Tale kicks into life, Dalcher’s reality in Vox doesn’t seem too far away. Here, women are limited to 100 words a day, if they go over they’ll receive an electric shock. Keep talking and the shocks increase in volume. Forget about children, women are to be seen and not heard.

It’s a simple enough concept: families are dysfunctional, the working woman wants more opportunities and she’s taken her equality for granted. The solution? Stop women from working, send them back home and limit their conversations. Sign language is, of course, forbidden. And girls must also follow the 100-words-a-day limit – it’s best to teach them young after all.

But when Dr Jean Mackenzie gets the opportunity to continue her work as a neurolinguist she’s aware this isn’t a straight forward job from the president. No, something else is going on behind the scenes. The government wants to use her and her team’s knowledge to create a formula that reduces women’s speech into linguistic gobbledegook. Then throw in an old affair that comes back to life, a law-abiding brown-nosing son and life suddenly seems far more complicated.

Vox is a fictional story, but its ability to stand just on the cusp of reality gives it real power. It doesn’t take much for our rights to be taken from us, it takes even less for the new rules to become the norm. It can be a slow introduction for a world to turn upside down. Which makes fighting for the tiny changes now imperative to protect our future.

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