Winner of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. A speculative fiction novel in which a genetic mutation causes girls across the world suddenly acquire the power to conduct electricity and thereby alter the world order.
Alderman has written our era’s Handmaid’s Tale, and, like Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Power is one of those essential feminist works that terrifies and illuminates, enrages and encourages ... Alderman’s greatest feat is keeping this premise from settling toward anything obvious as she considers how the world would adjust if women held the balance of energy and could discharge it at will ... That globe-spanning ambition could easily have dissipated the novel’s focus, but Alderman keeps her story grounded in the lives of four characters who are usually sympathetic, sometimes reprehensible ... In her acknowledgments, Alderman thanks Margaret Atwood, Karen Joy Fowler and Ursula Le Guin — possibly the most brilliant triumvirate of grandmothers any novel has ever had. That lineage shows in this endlessly surprising and provocative story that deconstructs not just the obvious expressions of sexism but the internal ribs of power that we have tolerated, honored and romanticized for centuries.
Through exaggeration and reversal, many books have set out to illuminate inequality or open up new vistas of possibility. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen the status quo inverted to such devastating effect as in Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel ... The novel is constructed as a big, brash, page-turning, drug-running, globetrotting thriller....But it’s also endlessly nuanced and thought-provoking, combining elegantly efficient prose with beautiful meditations on the metaphysics of power, possibility and change ... One of the most impressive aspects of the book is how it uses a new schematics of sex and power to illuminate our reality ... Why do people abuse power? The novel can’t offer any answer beyond the one already found in our world: because they can. 'That is the only answer there ever is.' This is a bleak truth, but not a bleak book – it’s far too smart, readable and joyously achieved for that. The Power is an instant classic of speculative fiction.
In the first 100 pages of The Power, women with the Power tear down repressive governments, force sex traffickers in Moldova to plead for their lives, and make men everywhere physically afraid of women, upending one of the givens around which society has evolved. This revolution in gender norms unfolds in the background as Alderman shuttles rapidly through the lives of the main characters ... The Power is at once as streamlined as a 90-minute action film and as weirdly resonate as one of Atwood’s own early fictions ... Jumping from one character to the next, writing in a propulsive unfussy style, Alderman has conducted a brilliant thought experiment in the nature of power itself.