Thursday, August 02, 2018
The Power is very thought-provoking work of speculative fiction which attempts to portray an alternative world where women develop a power to inflict pain and grievous bodily harm (primarily through self-generated electric shock), that results in a world where gender roles are upended and women become the dominant sex.
The key strengths of the book are its setting and the ways in which the author riffs off aspects of our culture and societal norms in depicting how the world in the book is impacted by the sudden change in the power dynamics between the sexes. Would women really abuse and sexually dominate men if the roles were reversed and women now have the power to physically harm men whenever they want? In the world depicted in Naomi Alderman’s The Power, the answer is a full-throated yes.
A key weakness of the book in my opinion is the depiction of the characters around which the story is centered. For the most part, there was no character that I identified with strongly enough to become emotionally invested in their future. The one exception is the primary male character, Tunde Edo, a Nigerian boy who turns into scampi’s journalist and chronicler of the extraordinary events resulting from the discovery of The Power by women. Tunde was interesting and I definitely cared about what happened to him but as for the other characters, Ricky, Darrel, Allie, Roxy, Jocelyn and Margot, not so much. I don't think this is because of my own gender identity as a cisgender man; Tunde is continually depicted sympathetically, something which really can't be said about any of the other characters in the book (with the possible exception of Jocelyn and Margot).
It wasn’t until I reached the end of the book that I noticed another interesting feature. The entire work is characterized as a work of fiction by a guy called Neil Adam Armon who is exchanging letters about a book (which we have just read) with someone named Naomi, who are discussing different points about the ideas depicted in the story. it's clear from their interaction that women being the dominant sex is perfectly natural in their world and the idea that men could be soldiers and commit atrocities on women is entirely fanciful and somewhat titillating. One of the last communications from Naomi is the suggestion that the book might do better if it is published under her name instead of a man's.... Also, between chapters there are illustrations of "historical artifacts" which purport to depict ancient examples of women in the past who had the power, demonstrating that the power has been a reality for a very long time. It’s the inclusion of similar clever subversions of gender like this which makes The Power a compelling (and quick), if flawed, read.
Title: The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman.
Paperback: 341 pages.
Date Published: October 27, 2017.
Date Read: July 21, 2018.
OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).