With The Handmaid’s Tale on our TV screens – and more politically relevant than ever before – what better time to read a new novel inspired by Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic?
Only in Alderman’s novel the women aren’t enslaved by the patriarchy: they smash it. Suddenly imbued with the power to electrocute their mostly male oppressors, they take over the reigns.
What happens next will shock you, as the clickbaiters and the punmakers say.
Alderman’s book leans more heavily into the sci-fi than Atwood’s book did, but it’s still grounded – focused firmly on the people and the politics rather than the superpowers themselves.
The means through which the women take over is ultimately not really important – what matters to Alderman is what happens once they do.
A bright, shining future of peace, prosperity and equality? Not so much.
We follow the stories of four central characters – rising political star Margot; cockney criminal Roxy; abuse-victim turned evangelical cult leader Allie; and young male journalist Tunde – from the time the power first emerges to a cataclysmic tipping point ten years later.
It soon becomes clear that “the power” of the title refers less to the electricity the women funnel through their fingertips than it does the dominance it delivers them. And power, as we know all too well, corrupts – whether you’re man or woman.
Murder, genocide and even rape are not gendered imperatives, the book suggests – rather they are the byproducts of untrammelled power. Because what is power, really, other than the ability and willingness to make people afraid of you?
Perhaps The Power will not have the same enduring effect of its classic forebear, but it’s a smart blast of speculative literary fiction nonetheless.