(Naomi Aldermann, Viking, 2016)
What would you do if you woke up one morning and discovered you had a new power? Specifically, an electric power with which you can shock, and even electrocute those around you with a mere touch. Would you tell people about your new found strength? Would you use it to strike down those who stand in your way of success? Perhaps become the leader of a cult? Would you use it for good and serve your own brand of justice? This is the backdrop for The Power. It follows the stories of six major interconnected characters as they navigate chaotic and turbulent times as the world is confronted with the shift from male to female being the dominant gender of the human race due to the new found power.
The Power makes for a nuanced look into the human psyche and the fragility of society. Aldermann’s work shines a light onto what would happen if suddenly women had the physical strength to overwhelm men. Through this feminist lens Aldermann explores many aspects of power especially political power, personal power (i.e. charisma) and how power is balanced and what happens when it is not. One of the most striking and successful devices used in The Power is that the story is a manuscript written by a man in a world where women have always been the dominant half of the species. The book is prefaced and concluded by letters between Aldermann and an alter ego discussing the content of the manuscript and the finer points of society and gender relations. The professional relationship between Aldermann and Margaret Atwood shines through in this work and makes for a number of chilling dystopian moments that underline the flip in power relations.
I found The Power a troubling read, which was the point. It forced me to think critically about modern society, gender roles and the glass ceiling. Although I found it initially quite preachy, I discovered I was too quick to judge. I did not feel that I was part of the target audience for The Power. It is not a book i would have gone out of my way to read (which probably says more about my literary diet more than anything else). However, the fact that it was a step out of my norm and comfort zone made it an all the more enlightening read. It not only asks the right questions in regards to gender relations and societal power balance, but also serves as a warning for a possible dystopian future of modern society as a whole. I would challenge anyone reading this post to challenge themselves and pick up a copy of The Power.