When my Buffy book club picked this book I couldn’t wait to tear in, but I was disappointed to find that feeling wore off pretty quickly.
On the surface, the premise sounds perfect for a bunch of Buffy loving feminists – women suddenly develop the ability to create and control electricity. However, the further I got into the book the more obvious it became that the book had little interest in exploring feminism, or the patriarchy, or binary vs non-binary gender experiences at all. It used feminism as a hook to tell a story about power and the nature of power. In fact, I can see how in the wrong hands it could be held up as an example of how “feminazis” want to rule and dominate men.
Leaving the gender hook aside, it was a fairly straightforward indictment of th
e ways in which power corrupts. Even characters with the best of intentions are driven to further and further extremes once they begin to see what power can do for them, and to be honest, most of the characters intentions were dubious, to begin with – though that fact is very in keeping with human nature.
For me, the most scathing criticism was the position the book took on the role of religion in creating and maintaining power structures. Religion has always had a role in motivating and/or justifying the actions of those in power. It’s a dynamic we are seeing play out even more obviously today – large portions of Alabama were willing to overlook serious allegations of abuse of power because Roy Moore is “Christian” and “godly” and, arguably more importantly, maintained the status quo of the current power dynamic. Too many people use religion as a shield against their own racism and bigotry.
That isn’t to say there aren’t parts of the book that I really enjoyed. The more subtle examples of the shift in the power dynamics were interesting and often made me chuckle – particularly a throughline featuring news show hosts and the shifting version of “eye-candy”. And the back and forth debate contained in letters of the framing narrative does a good job of creating subtle commentary without feeling the need to place neon flashing lights on the irony.