Vox by Christina Dalcher review – overblown feminist dystopia

Women get electric shocks if they speak more than 100 words a day in the latest speculative thriller to jump on the Handmaid’s Tale bandwagon

Writing about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power author Naomi Alderman declared: “There’s no gain the women’s movement has made that can’t be taken away – a fact that will sound terrifying to some and a gleeful plan of action to others.” Terror and gleeful action – a pretty good blueprint for a bestseller, no?

Christina Dalcher’s Vox is the latest in a rush of feminist speculative novels, and like most of them begins at the terrifying end of the spectrum. All the women and girls in America have been fitted with a metal bracelet that delivers an electric shock if they go over their limit of 100 spoken words a day. Pens and paper are forbidden; books locked up; sign language punishable ...

The Pisces by Melissa Broder review – my boyfriend, the merman

In this bracing satire of love in the age of consumer capitalism a woman finds emotional and sexual satisfaction with a mythical sea creature

This season, the bookshelves are full of tails: mermaids have popped up in novels by authors from Scotland (Kirsty Logan), Ireland (Louise O’Neill) and England (Imogen Hermes Gowar). Now comes the US contribution, although the Pisces here is a merman, and one thing you need to know about him is that “the tail starts below the dick”.

I’ll stop there with the graphic details of mer-sex. Though there is more. Much more

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Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton review – slick identity thriller

A well-worn tale about an unequal friendship in contemporary New York forensically unpicks our relationship with phones

Downtrodden wage slave meets rich soulmate and is swept up into their wild life: from Cinderella to Gatsby, it’s a well-worn tale. Tara Isabella Burton, a journalist and academic, has updated the story to present-day Manhattan, where it’s not a night out unless every instant is Instagrammed.

Louise is struggling to pay the rent on her grotty sublet and knows that, at 29, her chances of being noticed as a hot young writer are running out. (Over 30, in this context, and you’re nothing.) Her fab new friend is socialite Lavinia, an Emma Woodhouse to Louise’s Harriet Smith. Fully half the novel is given over to Louise’s immersion in Lavinia’s extravagant, libertine life, and Burton does a brilliant job of depicting the toxic charm of such a world, the way its artifice ...

Never Greener by Ruth Jones review – Gavin & Stacey co-creator’s debut is a soggy squib

Jones’s first novel, about the destructive effects of a love affair, is a far cry from the brilliance of her TV writing

How long does it take to become a national treasure? It’s not a label bestowed lightly, but Ruth Jones is well on her way to earning it, thanks to her much-loved TV projects, Gavin & Stacey and Stella, which mixed drama and comedy to heartwarming effect. Her screen work has that elusive quality of the top-notch writer, a “voice” that wins you over instantly.

So it’s disappointing to open her debut novel and find that voice subdued to the point of absence. Can this flavourless work really have come from the same writer who gave us the outrageously quirky Nessa? “It’s a different way of writing,” Jones said of her novel last year, “because you go inside people’s heads.” And indeed, she seems to have treated ...