The Power

The Power

A Novel

Book - 2017
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What would happen if women suddenly possessed a fierce new power?
" The Power is our era's The Handmaid's Tale ." --Ron Charles, Washington Post
One of the New York Times's Ten Best Books of the Year One of President Obama's favorite reads of the Year A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year
One of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of the Year An NPR Best Book of the Year
One of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year A Bustle B est Book of the Year
A Paste Magazine Best Novel of the Year A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice An Amazon Best Book of the Year

"Alderman's writing is beautiful, and her intelligence seems almost limitless. She also has a pitch-dark sense of humor that she wields perfectly." --Michael Schaub, NPR
In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power--they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, THE POWER is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.

Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Edition: First North American edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780316547611
Characteristics: 386 pages : illustration ; 22 cm


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From the critics

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SCL_Justin Sep 20, 2019

I loved this book and its reflection on the ways patriarchy works by flipping it around. It was visceral at times and never really let up on the pressure it put on the reader.

Jul 06, 2019

A little difficult to review this one. I kinda loved it; I certainly couldn't put it down, and started and finished in two days. The premise is that this is a "history" of ancient times (5 thousand years ago AKA the present day) when civilization was inexplicably ruled by men, before an evolutionary mutation gave all women the power to electrocute at will. The tone was all over the place and the multiple POVs were sometimes successful, sometimes not. But I was very engaged throughout the entire over-the-top roller coaster ride. However, I think therein lies the problem; my impression is that I was supposed to be taking this all very seriously rather than enjoying something I found a bit of a hoot. Not that there weren't parts that had me shudder or get disgusted or roll my eyes at the revisionist take of the beleaguered men ("women NEVER had it this bad..."). So, bottom line: I had a blast but I think that might mean there's something wrong with me.

May 21, 2019

The concept is what initially interested me and the fact my book club was reading it for the month. However I found a lack of character development persistent in this book. In addition with various character stories in each chapter I started to lose interest and found it hard to keep each person’s story straight. Also the pacing was too slow for me. I didn’t finish it. Which is surprisingly odd for me as I usually will finish and was in the middle of the book. I even had time to finish as I took it with me on a trip. Others in my book club enjoyed it.

May 10, 2019

The Power by Naomi Alderman (AlderMAN) is a powerful and important speculative fiction that looks at the question, what if there was a reversal of which gender has greater physical power? Because women develop, or re-learn, that they have the potential of electrical power to protect themselves and harm others, the male dominance applecart is upset. I appreciated that this story was told from the POVs of different women so that different geographical and cultural contexts were explored. I appreciated the very Margaret-Atwood feeling of the novel. I would like to have looked at this in a group discussion like a classroom or a bookclub, to elaborate the various layers and nuances of the story. But I think many in my bookclub would find the book to have too much violence. There is a great deal of violence but to me it seemed essential to the narrative -- the cultural/political power reversal wasn't going to happen just because women now had the potential to overpower. But ultimately I felt discouraged that the author's answer to what-if is that there would be a simple and essentially symmetrical reversal. In the acknowledgments, the author noted that two of the illustrations, "Serving Boy" and "Priestess Queen," are based on real archeological finds. She says: "... despite the lack of context, the archeologists who unearthed them called (the first one) "Priest King" and (the second one) "Dancing Girl. ... Sometimes I think the whole of this book could be communicated with just this set of facts and illustrations."

Apr 28, 2019

In a new book club, this was the 2nd book we read. I appeared to have been the only woman to have finished it. Not that I loved it, but I've read sci fi before, and can wrap my mind around the general concept. One reaction I had was that this came startlingly close to the #metoo movement that followed a year or so after this book was published. All of a sudden powerful women are, in real life, accusing powerful men of sexual assault, and the women are prevailing. In "The Power," we find a reversal of power between men and women, where girls generally in their mid teens learn, first giggling, that they can toss electrical energy from one palm to the other. From there, their power escalates to "The Cataclysm," where WW III is about to break out because of the Power shift between the genders. All this is framed by letters between a man and a woman, whose names I didn't catch as anagrams until reading one of the reviews. The writing is stunningly beautiful, experimental, as the male author inserts paleoarcheological diagrams, etc. Many of the characters are cardboard, unfortunately, but the action definitely is not.

Mar 24, 2019

This was a timely book to have happened upon during this era of #MeToo. Definitely a one of a kind book. I have never read this sort of science-fiction before and it was strangely liberating and incredibly insightful.

It is amazing how it takes such a simple exercise of role reversal to make you rethink some of the things you’ve long accepted as “normal”.

There is one main character in the book that really shows you the progression of change that is occurring in this fictitious society. He goes from living in a world where he ALWAYS feels safe, to living in a world where he is likely to get violently attacked at any moment (and does). Having that sort of mental exercise put into context the violence that we, as women, have to face on a nearly daily basis. And if we are not directly facing it, we are living in constant fear of violence against us.

The UN recently released a report titled a Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls. One of the key findings of this study was that of the 87,000 intentionally killed women in 2017, more than half of them (58%) were killed by intimate partners or family members. This study made headlines because it was stated that in the four regions of the world with the highest share of murdered women, the home was the most likely place for a woman to be killed. To put this into context, women and girls account for only 20% of total homicides. And only one out of every five homicides at the global level is perpetuated by an intimate partner or family member. However, women and girls make up the vast majority of those deaths (64%).

The Power gives the reader the opportunity to imagine what the world would look like if women no longer had to fear for their lives. If women no longer had to fear for their lives in their own homes. If women no longer had to fear their significant other or their family members.

There is this particularly powerful scene in the book where a governmental official realizes during a meeting that she is the most powerful person in the room. That if she wanted to she could do anything she wanted to anyone she wanted. The internal discussion she has with herself is incredible because she thinks to herself, “Is this how men have always felt?”.

All in all, a great read and highly recommended.

Additionally, I highly recommend checking out these two French films that do a similar mind experiment: Oppressed Majority and I Am Not An Easy Man.

Mar 24, 2019

The Power is a speculative fiction story that starts in the world of today. But what if one day, all women woke up with a power no one else had, one that put a debilitating physical advantage over men literally in the hands of women? As the power spreads from younger women to older ones, from backyard tricks to geopolitical takeovers, from fighting back to fighting each other, The Power explores this new world from a multitude of perspectives. There’s a mixed-race orphan girl who discovers she has the finest degree of control she’s seen; a street-smart girl who uses the power to kill her mother’s murderers; a New England mayor who’s struggling to keep the tiniest bits of political power to do good in the world; a male photojournalist who becomes a household name documenting women’s revolutions; and a historian writing from centuries later with a perspective completely different from historians today.

The best part of this book was how complex and jarring it was. Every character has a unique perspective, and at times I was rooting both for and against each one of them. The power corrupts people in ways I never expected, but which made sense in the course of the novel. And just when I thought I had defined each character in my mind, the things that defined them could be ripped away and I’d have to reimagine them again. It was an experience to read.

Another compelling thing about The Power was the “historical” perspective. The book starts with a series of letters between two authors, one a man, about the “history” of the era described in The Power that imagines criticism from a matriarchal society’s perspective. Interspersed through the chapters are drawings of “archeological finds” that reflect this. For example, one of the figures is an iPad welded onto a Sumerian statue (but not described as an iPad, of course). And finally, the entire story of The Power is presented as a historical fiction novel written by one of the authors before. It definitely makes you reorient the entire narrative in your mind and is a real “trippy” mental exercise to go through.

Mar 03, 2019

Looked it over, decided it's not my cuppa tea.

Feb 27, 2019

I really enjoyed listening to this book. The narrator read it so well, she was able change her voice with each character so well. I did think it could have ended a bit sooner than it did, kinda just started to drag towards the end with information that seemed like they just wanted to extend the book. Still a good book and would recommend.

Feb 11, 2019

It got a little violent at times, but I do like the turn

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