HQ has bought a “powerful feminist dystopia” by linguistics academic Christina Dalcher, billed as “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Power”, in a six-figure deal.
Vox follows a female neurolinguist and is described as “book club fiction with huge commercial appeal and a sharp political edge”. An HQ spokesperson described it as "poignant and subversive, a thrilling feminist dystopia that resonates with the exploding conversations around female equality and the misuse of power".
Dalcher, who is based in Virginia, has a doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University and specialises in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects.
The novel follows neurolinguist Dr Jean McClellan who has become a woman of few words, “one hundred words per day to be exact; any more and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins”.
Now that the new government is in power, the blurb reads, no woman is able to speak over this limit without punishment. Books are forbidden, bank accounts transferred to the closest male relative and all female employment suspended. But when the president’s brother suffers a stroke, Jean is temporarily given back her voice in order to work on the cure. And she soon discovers that she is part of a much larger plan, to eliminate the voices of women entirely.
HQ editor Charlotte Mursell acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada from Tawanna Sullivan, associate director of subsidiary rights at Penguin Random House US, in a six-figure deal. Cindy Hwang, editorial director at PRH US imprint Berkley, procured world English rights from Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency. It will be published in hardback in August 2018.
The news of the deal comes days after feminist dystopias were marked as a key fiction trend by fiction editors in a report for The Bookseller.
Mursell described it as “fiery, feminist and utterly timely” which “acts as a powerful call-to-arms – that we, as women, must not remain silent”.
She said: “Spine-tingling, adrenaline-inducing, Christina’s thrilling debut is a story we’ve been waiting for. I’m delighted that HQ will be publishing this extraordinary book later this year.”
Dalcher said: “I nearly fell off my chair while reading the enthusiastic comments on Vox from the HQ HarperCollins team. With that kind of support, I can’t think of a better champion to bring my debut novel to the UK and the Commonwealth.”
She has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates. More than 100 of her stories and fiction pieces have been published in journals worldwide and she has been featured on the Bath Flash Award’s shortlist as well as many other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.