Dystopian fiction – Vox and The Farm reviews

It’s release day for Margaret Attwood’s The Testaments, and book world is alight with discussion on all things dystopian. I’ve not yet got my hands on a copy of The Testaments, but thought I’d review a couple of other dystopian books that I’ve recently read that link neatly to Attwood’s themes.

Vox, by Christina Dalcher, describes the subtle erosion of women’s rights to equality by a hard religious right administration in the US. It starts so disingenuously – a proposal that if women simply stepped out of the workplace and returned to their ‘proper’ position of working in the home, that would free up jobs for unemployed men. And so begins a spiral to the point at the start of this book, where women’s voices are restricted to a small number of words per day. When the administration requires the unique scientific skills of one woman, though, they are prepared to make exceptions, and the story follows Dr. Jean McClellan as she sees another side to what is happening to women in the US. If this book had come out ten years ago, I would’ve seen it as an interesting dystopian take. With all that’s happening at the moment in the US and the UK, the subtle erosion of rights sat very uncomfortably with me. I thought the story was cleverly done, and definitely pulled me along to the conclusion.

The Farm, by Joanne Ramos, is a story that you could absolutely believe would happen right now. Young women are recruited as surrogates for wealthy women, and housed in a luxury ‘retreat’ where they are served all the right foods for pregnancy, given exercise regimes and told they are helping a woman who is unable to have a baby herself. As the women at The Farm compare stories, things start not to stack up and they begin to question the restrictions around their lives there and the motivations of the women that have hired them. It’s written with verve and with authentic experience of the vulnerability of recent immigrants, and I loved some of the characters. Nicely done, and another good tie in with Attwood’s work. On to something a little more cheerful next!