Book Review: The Power

‘The power to hurt is a kind of wealth…’

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Musician and writer Blindboy recently asserted in a fascinating episode of the Adam Buxton Podcast that when critics want to like comedy, they have to call it satire. Satire is an acceptable medium to lavish with praise, whereas comedy is not. This is how Chris Morris can rightly be hailed as a genius despite at least half of his comedic output being made up of pure Pythonesque silliness. The Power isn’t really funny, but is satire. For this reason, it seems to have been hyped up just a little more than it should. There is an expectation that satire will be clever and there is an element of patting oneself on the back for being in on the joke. Naomi Alderman’s acclaimed book is smart, and clever, and all those other beard strokingly important things, but alas, it isn’t very entertaining.

The world changes forever when women suddenly realise they can produce electricity through their bodies that has the ability to maim and kill. So you see, women now have the power. Not at all on the nose. We follow a gangster’s daughter, an intrepid reporter and a conflicted politician as society struggles to cope with the crumbling of the patriarchy. This all bafflingly takes place as a book within a book, the events we are reading about having occurred more than 5000 years in the past, a ludicrous concept that only adds an extra layer of bewilderment.

All that being said, despite its ponderous pace and eye rollingly tired premise, when The Power is good, it’s really good. The characters are mostly well drawn, and one sequence that sees the power unleashed in all its hellish malevolence is genuinely chilling. These moments don’t come often enough however, and by the end, just finishing the damn thing became a bit of a chore.

The Power clearly wasn’t for me. Despite the fact that I adore dystopian fiction, Alderman’s novel left me cold. As the book caused quite a stir on release, some people somewhere must have enjoyed it. More power to them.

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