Book Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Full disclosure: I am a long-time Margaret Atwood fan, so this review is not totally unbiased!

Vox is a story about women finding their voice both metaphorically and literally. In a dystopian near future the government have limited women to 100 words per day, with a bracelet that provides an electric shock if this limit is breached. Women are relegated to the "traditional" roles with men taking over every other aspect. Women are booted out of their jobs and returned to the home. Some men, like our MC's husband, are sympathetic but most seem to generally agree with this new way. Children are indoctrinated at school into this new philosophy, called Pure.

Our main character, Jean, is a former professor of linguistics with a wealth of research behind her in helping stroke victims rediscover language. This becomes majorly important towards the back end of the novel although it isn't so much hinted at during the rest of the novel as has neon signs. She's also the mother of 4 kids and so has been relegated to the stay at home mother role. 3 of these children are boys, with one completely swallowing the Pure philosophy taught by schools in an interesting conflict between mother and son. The other child is a daughter, a key motivator in breaking Jean's perceived apathy, as her daughter is also limited to 100 words a day. Rather than frustrating her daughter as it does Jean, her daughter speaks as little as possible, effectively becoming mute.

Jean is a difficult character to love for me. She dislikes her husband for not fighting against the regime however there's a twist to this and one that she doesn't seem all that bothered by. She doesn't like the new regime but is mostly apathetic towards it. When her daughter stops talking she's bothered but again there's a lot of apathy contained in the character. Jean finally does make a move towards rebellion but only when the scales are very clearly tipped. In one way this fits my generation - those who decry everything but do very little action towards it - in another way it makes Jean difficult to understand or love.

She's also undergoing a choice between her husband or the Italian man she had an affair with, now working back at her research lab. Jean is offered the choice to stay or leave and even this choice is decided for her by the events of the novel tied in with her husband *spoilers she says in a River Song voice* It leaves you wondering whether if left to her own devices, she would have continued in this apathetic manner forever. Whereas Offred is openly oppositional, Jean tends to be sneaky about it and only moves when she is almost forced into it.

The world building is excellent however it borrows heavily from The Handmaids Tale and relies upon you have an understanding of the previous book. I feel that the world building would be lacking for someone who didn't have prior knowledge of Atwood's work. I did like the flashbacks explaining how the current system came to be. The speed at which it happens is quite horrifying and the way in which it's done is something that I can easily see replicated in our society.

Vox reads as an updated Handmaids Tale for our current society with a less loveable protagonist for me. Still worth a read but the original remains the best.



You were meant to live forever.

As we watched a classic Who episode a year and a bit ago my Dad poked me in the shoulder and said, "You know what you'd love? Blake's 7!" I believed him, after all, my Dad is the one who got me into Doctor Who and so less than a week later I found myself sitting in front of the TV, waiting for The Way Back to start.

I fell in love with Blake's 7 as soon as I started watching it. It's everything I've always wanted a show to be and I loved Blake as soon as I met him. The first episode had me hooked and demanding to watch more. The whole dystopian beauty of it, the force of the Federation, how different it was and is to any other show out there. The flawless writing by Terry Nation and later Chris Boucher. Just like Doctor Who, I knew I was going to be a lifelong fan.

But come the second episode, I fell in love hard and fast.
And my heart is breaking today.

The second episode features Blake on a prison ship bound for the penal colony planet Cygnus Alpha. As he's barrelled onto the ship they pass a grey figure sitting in a supremely disinterested way. He was sitting in the kind of explosive arrogance that I've only ever seen again in Space Commander Travis. Blake starts plotting a way out and he's introduced to Kerr Avon, selfish computer mastermind who is less interested in fighting for freedom than he is fighting to save his own neck. The minute I saw Avon I sat up because there was something about how he sat that made you take notice.

Then he opened his mouth and I gave away my heart.

Avon is the best anti-hero I've ever seen. He has beautiful character development from an unwilling rebel who is forever looking for a way away from Blake to a rebel leader in his own right, even raising the next generation like Tarrant. He went from contemplating whacking Blake one to saving the man's life by shooting Space Commander Travis point blank (at which point he was obviously wearing a protective vest and escaped. I refuse to accept any other outcome #TRAVISLIVES) He always knew Blake inside out and Blake never had to hide from him. I always used to think that Blake had to keep up this "hero" image to Cally, Gan and Villa but Avon was the one person who knew him for what he was - just a man trying his best and often failing, like we all do.

Staying with you, Blake, requires a stupidity I no longer feel capable of.

He could go from savage insults and sarcasm to heartbreaking moments with Anna to saving Blake's butt like the hero of the hour. He'd go toe to toe with Servalan any day and alwaaaaays kept a backup plan in his pocket. He was a genius and grew to be an excellent fighter too. The whole episode where Travis and Avon are fighting each other on a wasteland planet had me in convulsions because I didn't know who to support. The greatest anti-hero or the greatest cybernetically enhanced supervillian you ever met? And can we talk about Stephen Greif's butt in leather pants? Can we?

No-one else could be Avon but Paul Darrow. I absorbed and continue to absorb everything I can on Paul Darrow - watching Hammer House of Horror, rewatching Doctor Who eps he was in, buying his books and chasing his audiobooks. I read every article I could and I spent ages trying to figure out the entire Blake's 7 fandom war that happened when I was still a Time Tot. As someone whose grown up in the Supernatural fandom with the acceptance of Destiel the whole battle of shipping Blake/Avon seemed overblown to me but I guess that's the difference in the acceptance of LGBTI culture between now and then.

Sometimes the characters you love belong to people who couldn't care less. Again, I've been spoilt by being a Mark Pellegrino fan, where the man literally introduces himself as Lucifer. But Paul Darrow went above and beyond. He was Avon on and off screen, he wrote books in the Blake's 7 fandom, telling Avon's story as if it were his own - because it was.

And when a 31 year old fangirl wrote to him begging for an autograph, Paul Darrow wrote back and sent me one.

I love him so much.

I quote Avon every day. Kerr Avon is the inspiration for one of the characters in my Archangel One series, Logan Sigma.

Paul Darrow was someone I assumed I'd one day get the chance to meet and tell him how much I had always loved his work. Now that chance is gone. I never thought anything would happen to him, I mean, he survived an aortic aneurysm and the loss of both legs. This was a strong man who'd outlived Gareth Thomas and Jackie Pearce. He was meant to live forever. Waking up this morning to read that he'd passed away hurt like a flare between my ribs. It doesn't seem right that there are moments now where Avon isn't alive. Logically I know that a 78 year old man can't go on forever but I always believed he would.

I half expected that when Death did turn up, knocking on Paul's door that he'd turn from the Liberator's transport pad and growl, "I'm not expendable, I'm not stupid and I'm not going."

I will miss you always and it will have always been too soon for me.

You were meant to live forever.

Standard by Two, Zen

Thank you, Paul.