Man, this book is intense. I actually finished it a while ago, but I had to digest it a little before I could even start to think about writing up a review. I liked it? I mean, I did like it, but there are some parts that are a little tough to get through. I’m glad I did though.
This is a story asking the question, what would happen if, all of a sudden, every girl on the planet around 16 years of age could shoot electricity out of her fingers? Like real, stop your heart, leave lightning trees electricity? What would happen to our social structures, our cultures, religion, our future if, all of a sudden, men weren’t necessarily stronger than women? Would the world become the calmer, more measured place we always posit will happen if women were more in charge? Or would thousands of years of being treated as less than, of being held down, abused, sexually assaulted and discounted in all the little ways women have been discounted for so very long all over the world result in a situation where lust for power and thirst for revenge would simply move the shoe to the other foot and women would prove to be just as vicious and cruel as men if given the chance?
This novel is a fictionalized history of the time when women gained The Power, as written by a man, Neil, approximately 2000 years in the future. His editor, Naomi, thinks it’s “cute” that a man would try something so ambitious and waits to see what he can come up with. Thus the world is created, and Alderman does a really, really great job setting up this world. In reading Neil’s account of the point in history where the world changed, we come back to our present day. The story of the change is told through the eyes of various people around the world: Roxy, a tough Londoner who is the illegitimate daughter of a mobster, Tunde, a Nigerian kid who teaches himself to be a journalist and travels all over the world looking to be in the middle of whatever is happening, Margot, a low-level politician in a mid-sized city with a lot of ambition and frustration, and Allie, an abused foster kid being raised by monstrous, extremely religious caregivers.
From there the author goes all over the world, and sees how something like this would affect women in different situations. How would an American High School girl react and be affected by a change like this? What would a group of women who have been held in sexual slavery for years do with this sudden ability? What would the advantages be? What would the fallout and backlash look like? Long term, what would the world look like 2000 years after this? There is a lot here, and Alderman mixes it together with a really interesting, round characters and a good plot line that moves along at a good, entertaining clip. In fact, there are enough layers to this book that I think I just found one more while I was writing out the review. Basically, I just noticed that the author of the book and the editor character in the book have the same name, and that is actually relevant.
I don’t want to give too much away, because a huge part of what I enjoyed in this book was seeing how the author wove together events throughout the world and through various cultures and social classes. I also really did enjoy the “Archival Documents” showing artifacts and rare documents from the time period.
That said, I do want to give a heads up that there is some pretty explicit violence in this book, some of it of a sexual nature. That’s the “brutal” part I was talking about. It is not gratuitous, the few times it starts to feel that way you could clearly see the reason why the author was doing what she was doing, but that still doesn’t necessarily make it easy. If you are very sensitive to that kind of thing, this one may not be for you.
I found this book on a San Francisco Chronicle ‘Recommended Books’ Listicle, which of course I can’t find again now that I want to post the review. I’m going to keep looking, though, and add it when I do find it.
That said, this is my Listicle Square for Bingo.