There is just so much to love about this book. First of all, let me note that I am not one for the reversal of power in the world and that a reversal of power is not the feminist end game. However, The Power does perfectly show everything that continues to be wrong with this world as it reverses the power dynamic at play in the world we live in. But it’s so much more than just the plot. The framing of the story with the use of museum artifacts “before the Cataclysm” is genius and really drives the whole thing home. The whole book shows us what is wrong with the way things are by showing us the exact opposite in the same way that Gloria Steinem did in Moving Beyond Words with her reversal of Freud’s papers.
This is the kind of book that I wish men would read so that they can see and yet I feel like it would still be easy for them to miss the mark. The horror is in all the little things, like the way mundane acts can make you feel unsafe. I especially loved the way Alderman captures the way the dynamic would be different around the world and in different segments of society. The countries that are more patriarchal had more upheaval and a bigger reversal of fortune than those who had made strides toward equality. That’s probably pretty fair. But even then it showcases the little differences in the way people think in large groups and the way that people feel and handle themselves when they have the upper hand, when they feel they are safe no matter what.
There are four central characters that let us see it all. There is Allie, an abuse survivor who strives to make the world safe for herself. There is Roxy, the mob bosses daughter and most powerful girl in the world. There is Margot, the politician who’s power is awakened by her daughter. There is Tunde, the man who is determined to report on the way this change is changing everything else. Each one plays a part in driving the story and making sure that we see the way this simple change effects everything. There are political and religious revolutions, there are governments being overthrown, there is a whole new black market and crime has taken on a different face. Everything goes topsy turvy but Alderman herself points out the most disturbing thing of all about the book in an interview with the NPR:
People say to me, ‘Ah, your novel is a dystopia.’ And I say … ‘It’s only a dystopia for the men.’ And in my world, nothing happens to a man that is not happening to a woman in the world we live in today. So if we find my world to be a dystopia, then we are already living in a dystopia.
With that in mind, I come back to the framing. The story is amazing, but the framing drives it home. There are the museum references mentioned above but there is also a correspondence between two writers that were my favorite part in a lot of ways. This is the part that really reminded me of Steinem. The man is asking advice from the woman about the novel and the concept of a society ruled by men and the woman responds in a way that is so similar to all the times I’ve ever been in conversation with men about women being in charge. She’s so sweetly condescending about it and it’s so exactly the way I’ve heard men talk about it. I just love it.
My absolute favorite thing about The Power is that it is a book that envisions a future where women are in charge that is not inherently more peaceful. I have a really hard time believing that women would be any less power hungry if the tables were entirely turned. I’m a big believer in keeping each other in check and no one having absolute anything, let alone absolute power. The books that have hypothesized this type of peaceful future may not be wrong, but I don’t follow their logic. At the same time, the weighted way the power makes a difference in more equal societies made a lot of sense to me.
If you haven’t checked it out already, definitely read this book. It’s well written and paints a future that is horrifying and intriguing. I borrowed it from the library, but it’s also available from other outlets. Click on the cover image above for purchase options from Booklikes or add to Goodreads for later. The Power was my pick for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge task #17, a sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author. I know there was one male protagonist, but he was outnumbered and so I’m counting it.