REVIEW – The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power follows an interesting premise whereby young girls develop the ability to shock and electrocute men. Discovered by accident when girls feel attacked, it then develops into a worldwide phenomena that can be passed to older women – well really any woman. Many things are blamed for the phenomenon – nerve gases, witchcraft, but the expectation is always that a cure will be found. The source of the power of these women? A stein, located at the collarbone that when working effectively gives the girls these frankly amazing abilities.

Interestingly, the book is peppered with historical ‘artefacts’ and instances to suggest that this had either happened before or represented a shift into the very distant future documenting the present as given to us in the book. It’s fairly unclear which but that developed a fairly interesting dimension.

The two central characters for me are Allie/Mother Eve and Roxy. Allie is taken in by a family and abused, where she discovers her power and a special voice that only she can hear to guide her. She then becomes ‘Mother Eve’ – a prophet of a new type of Christianity-esque religious practice – where the focus turns to the Virgin Mary and the idea of God as a SHE. Roxy becomes her second in command, with a gangster dad and a murdered mum, she is used to the darker sides of life and how far people will go. What I wasn’t expecting was the intimacy/relationship that would develop between the two.

The big question the early chapters in the book tries to address is this – should girls be encouraged to repress their powers, should girls themselves be repressed or should girls be helped to control their power? This is where the NorthStar camps come into the picture – as a facility for helping girls control their power and not to hurt anyone – accidentally at least.

And the massive theme you can find within this book is, as the title suggests – POWER. And the corrupting influence of said power. Long hailed as the gentler and weaker sex, the new matriarchal society that this book forms shows sexual violence reversing and women becoming the aggressors. It takes on a fairly sadistic angle in places and many of the characters are or do become somewhat unstable.

Overall a fairly enjoyable read of some speculative fiction and musings on the notions of gendered aggression and power.


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