The Power by Naomi Alderman
Published by Little Brown , 2017
Genre: Science fiction, fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I would like to come back to this one a decade or two from now.
Reviewed by Indiana
Spoiler free review
The Power reads like a more recent version Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Yet the two story lines are polar opposites. The entire book is a draft of a historical novel written by a man. It’s being reviewed by a female friend at a publishing company.
Within the novel, a certain sect of women get this power where they can electrocute others. Usually women who are just coming of age get the power, but they can also give the power to others who are older.
The book explores how this would impact the modern world. The book theorizes that the power dynamic would eventually flip, with women holding the higher up positions at most companies and with men being afraid to travel alone, especially at night. It’s told through a few different narrators. One is a young girl, named Roxy, whose family is involved in a modern day mob. Then there’s Allie, who is sexually abused by her adopted father but rises up to become this terrifying religious leader. The other is a mother and politician who is able to seize political power above her male counterparts. Then there is a male journalist who is traveling the world trying to capture the upheaval.
Each perspective offers a different glance into the terrifying new world. There are multiple scenes where women who have the power are just raping and killing people, for seemingly no reason. I found that disturbing and unnecessary. There are plenty of other ways that the author describes how awful the new world is (there is one scene where a female leader makes a male servant lick shattered glass off the floor).
However, I did appreciate the fact that society wasn’t completely peaceful just because women were given this power. Somehow the fact that many of the women were abusing the power made them more human. There were plenty of scenes where other women rose up to protect others or stop the violence. But the ones who abused the power somehow showed that the author wasn’t trying to say that if women were all powerful the world would be perfect because women are completely faultless.
There are also a few scenes with men’s rights activists that are on point and semi-funny. A men’s rights leader insists that the women are going to kill off most of the men in the world because they only need a few around to keep producing children. He argues that that’s why men have always been stronger, so that the women didn’t realize that and just start killing the men. What a strange worldview.
Perhaps my favorite line in the book is the final comment from the editor to the book’s author. In a letter, she writes to say that the book might come off as just another “men’s book” and asks if he might consider changing his name to a woman’s name?