“Vox” – Christina Dalcher

This novel can unfortunately be shoved off to an imaginary list of disappointing bestsellers which apparently appeal to the masses. If you don’t want to fall into that trap, I’d suggest you to skip this book & rather read Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale”, if you’re looking for a dystopian feminist story.

I accidentally bought the German version of the book (which is why the following quotes from the book won’t be in English) because it has the same name, “Vox”, in all its translated languages. The only exception being in Spain, since a radical right party carries the same name & the novel has instead been published as “Voz”. There’s nothing in particular to be said about the style, it’s not innovative, it’s very simple & plain, simply serving the purpose of telling the story with a strong focus on an extremely colloquial tone of voice. I finally got annoyed by it with time because it exaggerated all the clichés & the cheesiness the story-line is already dripping with…

“Ich kann nicht anders, als in seine dunklen Augen zu schauen, und dabei sehe ich jedes Wort, das in ihm eingeschlossen ist.” (p. 148)

” ‘Sie sind ein Scheiß-Projektleiter, Morgan’, sagt Lorenzo. ‘Sie sind ein miserabler Wissenschaftler und ein erbärmlicher Forscher, und wenn ich Sie jemals allein erwische, werde ich Sie in Stücke reißen.’ ” (p. 332)

“Er ist einfach die Ruhe selbst, und ich wünschte, er machte es einem nicht so leicht, ihn zu lieben.” (p. 360)

The structure of the story was clear, easy to follow & linear, with a few flash-backs here & there. The parts that felt like straight out of a “writers 101” course though, were the ones when the author described a dramatic situation, trying to make you believe that it’s the reality and then telling straight afterwards what actually happened. It feels too deliberately constructed & fake after the same “manoeuvre” was applied multiple times. What bothered me even more though, was the fact that the ending wasn’t well developed & a lot of questions remained open in a sloppy way. Whereas in the beginning a bit too many details were given, it felt like the author was rushing towards the end & wanted to wrap up everything as quickly as possible. The way the novel finished didn’t feel logical or believable, it also wasn’t supported by fitting arguments explaining why certain final events took place the way they did.

Listening to an interview with the author within a book club group that I read “Vox” with, a lot of things I assumed, got confirmed. Christina wrote the book within exactly 2 months & it says a lot about its quality. You can really feel it that it was lacking development. It becomes apparent that the author isn’t very attached to the book when she mentioned that she liked the title, “Vox”, more than the book itself. She also didn’t remember some characters’ names anymore, which shows her lack of involvement with the story & makes it clear why it was narrated in a careless way at times.

All in all, the story was just a circus of clichés. The main character is a married woman with 4 children, who happens to have a lover whom she met through work. Can you guess which nationality he is? Obviously… Italian. If we’re going for an Italian, why not throw all the clichés of a South Italian at him too? He’s portrayed as jealous, a crazy & reckless driver and always wanting to get into a fight or flexing his muscles at each & every occasion:

” ‘Klär das mit deinem neuen Freund, wenn du rausgehst.’ Lorenzo lächelt. ‘Und flirte nicht zu viel. Ich bin eher der eifersüchtige Typ.’ ” (p. 356)

“[…] Man kann den verrückten italienischen Autofahrer zwar aus Italien holen, aber die Verrücktheit kann man nicht aus ihm herausbekommen.” (p. 270)

“Bei einem Blick über die Schulter sehe ich, wie Lorenzo die Hände zu Fäusten ballt. ‘Lass, Emzo. Er ist es nicht wert.’ ” (p. 341)

Add on another disturbing detail that makes you shake your head in disbelief at the majority of the main character’s actions. She will be the one who’s stupid enough to sign a work contract with her arch-enemies, without reading through it & then being surprised about being presented with a deadline she’s given (which was mentioned in the contract!!!!).

“Ich nehme den Stift […] und unterzeichne alles, ohne es durchzulesen […]” (p. 136)

She is the one whom you can count on to spread the cliché that women are attracted to men who solve problems with their muscles, rather than with their brains.

“Mich beschäftigt jedoch nur, was Patrick [ihr Ehemann] tun würde: absolut gar nichts. […] Und Lorenzo [ihr Lover]? Lorenzo würde den Dreckskerl windelweich prügeln.” (p. 174)

She “oversees” things that are completely obvious, while the story is crystal clear & predictable for the reader. The cherry on top of the cake were also some far fetched details like: The fact that she gets pregnant (as a 44 year old woman) from that one last time she had sex with her lover. Of course one of the mean guys who’s supposed to guard her & her fellow colleagues from escaping, ends up rescuing them in the end. And how convenient is it that her husband dies, so that she can escape the United States with her Italian lover, her children and all that with a “clean consciousness”? To finish it off, that mean guy who finally saved them also miraculously managed to save the notes on the antidote they were developing (which were supposed to have been destroyed), so that she can save her mother in the end.

To sum it up, this is exactly the kind of story I would expect from a female, 50 year old American writer, living in Virginia, who describes herself as a “homebody” (& exactly the kind of books I pray to be able to avoid in the future!). There might have been a spark of a good idea within the story but it should have stayed a short story (which it started off as & was then expanded into the length of a novel).

“Vox” – Christina Dalcher

★☆☆☆☆ (1/5)

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