London, March 2019
A dystopia in which women are limited to speaking 100 words a day
Modern America has been taken over by an ultra right government with strong religious overtones which strips woman of all their rights and limits them to speaking no more than 100 words a day. The limit is regulated by a bracelet that issues an electric shock that increases with every excess word spoken.
Dr. Jean McLellan, mother and forcibly retired neurologist deeply resents the government. Jean’s husband, a government man, does nothing to oppose the sanctions and her teen son has been brainwashed into the bad side.
Then one day the government offers to remove Jean’s bracelet in return for her completing her ground-breaking research. Jean’s soon reunited with her work buddies – her Italian lover and super intelligent female colleague.
Of course all is not as it seems and Jean soon discovers that the evil government has an evil plan up its (evil) sleeve.
Vox had a great premise but the novel’s limited scope meant that as soon as Jean’s bracelet is removed the frustration of limitation lifted with it. This leads to pages and pages of Jean’s affair with the most stereotypical fictional lover and the govt’s comedy villains whose every sentence is prefaced with the prompt word ‘dastardly’.
The end of the novel is so trite that I can’t believe that the novel has received such a positive reception. Its constant comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale are incorrect and insulting to anyone who can read.
Its position in the growing list of modern feminist dystopia is a complete anomaly. The main character is selfish and self-indulgent but the beach-thriller pace style of the novel’s second half does nothing to mollify her and by the end she seems a bloated princess who got everything she wanted.
The attempts to seem diverse felt as though someone had referred to a checklist somewhere – do we have the effect on the female ethnic minorities? How would the lesbians fit into this? So, the single women would be whores and a conservative woman’s ruin will always go down in the novel as the biggest sacrifice. All were sidelined by the grandiosity of Dr. Jean’s ego, which couldn’t be curbed even by a bizarre attack by a random lab monkey.
My single question on finishing the novel was just who it was that tapped a pen against their chin and said, ‘Guys. You know what this is missing – a monkey – a monkey with a temper – a monkey attack!’