We live in an age where Science Fiction is abundant but most movies or books seem to be a slight variations of previous works. But in “The Power“, Naomi Alderman has managed to craft a tale that is original and brilliant at the same time.
We are told of a time similar to the 21st century. Girls all over the world, 15 years and younger, are found to have developed a mutation, a soft tissue called skein, that gives them the ability to produce an electric shock similar to electric eels. They can also awaken this ability in the women of the previous generation.
This power changes the very structure of the society. Boys now fear girls. Incidents of girls giving fern like marks to boys by zapping them become commonplace. The shocks are painful and in many cases fatal. Boys are segregated and put in single sex schools. Domestic violence against women is replaced by women abusing their power against men. In cities like Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Delhi (India) women topple governments and take control.
In the backdrop of all this chaos, we are introduced to four characters which help us see this “New World”. Allie, an abused orphan, runs aways from her foster parents and settles in a covenant in a seaside town. Guided by a mysterious voice, she leads a new religious movement, similar to Christianity but where the Mother is above the Son. She soon develops a huge following both on ground and on the internet. Women, all over the world, look to her as the Prophet sent to guide them as they take charge of affairs. Roxy, daughter of a crime lord, seeks to exploit the situation to her favor. She possesses power unlike anything familiar to the other women. Tunde, a Nigerian journalist, visits different countries and documents the change of events. He becomes famous overnight. The author uses him to portray the insecurity, fear and loneliness that accompanies men in the changed situation.Margot, mayor of a major metropolitan, realizes that she can use her political standing to create new opportunities for herself. She plays smart and soon rises in the ranks of power. On many occasions, the storylines merge and help understand the story from different perspectives.
The most prominent theme I observed was that the author wishes to convey the opinion that whether it be men or women, the powerful gender will exploit the other. Women, given their chance at power, will end up abusing their power. This casts questions on how we should approach issues like gender discrimination and rights violations in general. We probably need a worldview that does not put one against the other.
The Power is a brilliant novel with strong characters that keeps the reader hooked to its pages and encourages them to look around at how power is misused in society and why it must not be that way.