Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman*

12:00 pm

* Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a gorgeous copy of this book, all opinions are of course my own *

Pardon my language, but The Power is fucking incredible. Top quality contemporary speculative fiction exists and it's being written by Naomi Alderman. I haven't felt so chilled by a book in a long time, not just from the imagery in it, but from its ideas. As someone who wrote their masters dissertation on feminist dystopian fiction, this was always going to be right up my street, following in the eye-opening footsteps of Marge Piercy, Le Guin, and Joanna Russ (praise be, The Female Man).

We are greeted by a dystopian world, a recognisable world, but this time, young girls are developing powers. With a small twist in their chests they can shock people they touch, create arcs of electricity strong enough to kill, and in turn dominate society through fear. We focus on four characters: a young Nigerian man caught in the middle of the world changing around him, a troubled foster child abused by a religious family, a female politician whose daughter struggles with her newfound power, and a Londoner brought up surrounded by brothers. Each character is an engaging as the one before them, with stories unique enough to set them apart and give a new perspective on the events that unfold. Themes of religion and gender (naturally) are touched upon heavily, with the building blocks of society shifting to something both completely unfamiliar and eerily recognisable. Mary becomes the figurehead of Christianity, Tara for Buddhists, and so on. Men are raped and mutilated in the streets so sex is no longer physically pleasurable for them, but searingly painful, and sometimes deadly, a mirror image of the world's troubles with FGM.

From beginning to end I found this book chilling, but endlessly engrossing. There is no moral to the story, no lesson we can take away. There is no 'right side' to be on. Everyone is troubled and misguided, so if you want to feel completely conflicted, shocked, and confused, pick up a copy of this book. I really do believe this will go down as a classic in the canon on dystopian fiction. Now, I haven't read a lot of Atwood but people have been saying this is very reminiscent of her writing. To me it reminds me a lot of Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve, where a civil war has broken out in a dystopian America between the sexes. That also contains horrifying scenes of forced genital mutilation and rape, similar to those seen in The Power. So if you enjoyed (enjoyed definitely being the wrong word) New Eve, I think you'll like The Power, and if you've read The Power, give Carter a go! She's ace.

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