The Power, by Naomi Alderman, is a science fiction novel that depicts a world where women are supreme. Suddenly, the whole female population is convulsing with power. Unexpectedly, women discover that their bodies can inflict electrifying pain with just one touch.
The story opens with a letter from a Mr Neil Adam Arman, from the Men Writers Association (can you imagine if such a thing actually existed?!). He is pitching a historical novel, about when woman-kind rose up and seized control from their male counterparts. His inappropriate, over-familiar, female editor’s response sets the scene for the rest of the novel:
“I think I’d rather enjoy this ‘world run by men’ you’ve been talking about. Surely a kinder, more caring and – dare I say it – more sexy world than the one we live in.”
From here on in, Neil’s story is told from the perspective of characters who were there when the female uprising began. First, we meet Roxy. She’s a tough, London teenager from a criminal family. Then there’s Tunde, a male Nigerian reporter. Flying across to America, we meet Margot, an ambitious female politician. Finally, and most importantly, there’s Allie. Allie acts as a catalyst for the zealous, intense and spiritual uprising of women against men. She replaces traditional male Gods by transforming into ‘Mother Eve’.
The novel leaps between central characters, diving into moments of tumultuous action across the globe. Each new section of the book brings us nearer to the war between men and women. As you can gather, this is a fast-paced, hyperbolic tale of rebellion, revolution and retribution. Sexual power is reversed, father-figures are subverted, male-dominated spaces are reclaimed. It speaks to our current moment in history, when women are marching for empowerment and campaigning for real change.
Disappointingly, all the pow-pow, ‘take-that’ action, the dialogue is sacrificed. As if written to be made into a corny blockbuster smash-hit, the occasional one-liners really made me cringe. It felt as though the author was throwing me from one movie-trailer-worthy quote to the next, leaving no time for subtlety or unspoken moments of poignancy.
Despite the cheese, there were so many interesting nuances and parallels to ponder throughout this novel. From the play on Neil Arman’s name (which highlights the ridiculousness of male literary pseudonyms for female writers) to the devastating affect that abuse can have on characters like Allie, this book really enables you think about the inequalities we take for granted. For me, it was a shame that these parts of the story seemed to be secondary to the explosive, violent scenes which dominated the book.
If you’re looking for an interesting, thought-provoking thriller, this book is for you. It has a lot of powerful, meaningful comments to make about the ludicrous disparities in our society. However, I would’ve loved to see the balance of power between men and women levelled in an intelligent and inspiring way, rather than completely flipped by sheer violence and brute force.