Unstructured Review: The Power

Ok, now I’m really stretching things with Fuldapocalypse. I’m reading and reviewing something that’s social-commentary supernatural fiction. Even if it does involve a war.

The book is Naomi Alderman’s The Power.

So, the premise of the book is that women gain the ability to fire blasts of electricity (the way Alderman explains the origins of this power reminded me of old comic books, and I really wish she’d kept it more deliberately mysterious than she did). The most oppressed are the first and most determined to lash out, and they end up taking over the world and showing that power corrupts (hence the title).

The geopolitics are weird (A Saudi-focused Moldovan civil war?) and clearly bent to fit the story even by the standards of a world where women can become she-Electros. The depictions of every conventional armed force are cringeworthy in the limited research, even if forgivable given the author’s background. There are interludes that serve as combination infodumps and “ok, do you get it now? DO YOU GET IT NOW?” reinforcements of the point. Worst of all, the prose manages to be exceedingly dull and exceedingly pretentious at the exact same time, plodding on with every chapter feeling the same.

I can’t fault the book for wanting to have a message or make a statement. The basic messages of “people who are pushed down will push back if given the chance” and “power corrupts” are true and worth sharing, even if they’re not exactly the most profound or unknown. But it’s just so blatant and so clunkily executed that I was soured by it.

Which is a shame, because both of the concepts (women suddenly gaining a physical advantage and/or superpowers emerging regardless of the context) would make for good serious speculative fiction if done right.

(For a somewhat different opinion on this book, see author Kate Vane’s review here )

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