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Library Journal Review
During the early 21st century, women develop an electrical power that is expelled from their fingers and can be used to shock or kill. As the Power spreads, it ushers in a new religious and political order run by strongwomen, ending with a worldwide war between the sexes. Historical documents from the Cataclysm era interrupt the novel to signal that we are reading about the past. The framework suggests comparison to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is unfortunate because while Alderman's (Disobedience) book won the Bailey's Women's Prize, it fails on multiple levels. There's a flimsy explanation of how women got the Power (from a liquid introduced into water systems during World War II to protect against nerve gas, but then why are only females affected?), and the worldbuilding is just as bad. It turns out that it isn't possible to create a believable world from a pastiche of Facebook feeds and Reddit threads, and in any case we need some evidence that misogyny is a worldwide problem and not just a personal one. Pre-Power women's victimization is generalized and in some cases assumed (Muslim women are oppressed), and however tragic, the backstories crafted for the strongwomen are poorly imagined and serve only to justify war crimes and transnational drug dealing during the revolution. The narrative abounds with stock characters such as the ambitious woman, the victim, the misogynist Middle Eastern king, and a good guy with a camera, and almost everyone is a background player to Allie and Roxy, the architects of the Cataclysm. There's also hard-charging female politician Margo, a set piece going nowhere. With Margo, we have to fill in the blanks ourselves; we know she's ambitious, for instance, because she let her husband raise the kids. In the end, by focusing on the few and most violent women to make her point, the author ignores the complicated nature of power. Societies fail through the daily capitulation to power and privilege, to self-serving silence and the abdication of individual agency, which is what makes The Handmaid's Tale so powerful and so relevant. Verdict Ripped from the headlines but lacking in verisimilitude, this is a book about power through a narrow lens. Readers will be talking about it, but it is not recommended.-Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Alderman's science fiction novel, set all over the world, was awarded the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Sometime in the near future, young women discover they have within them the ability to unleash skeins of electrical current that can maim and kill. One of them, an abused American foster child, joins a group of nuns, reinventing herself as the healer Mother Eve. She promotes a new religion in which Jews look to Miriam, Muslims to Fatimah, Christians to Mary. Her ally is an English crime lord's daughter named Roxy, whose skein is warrior strong, and whose violent family has global connections. Meanwhile Tunde, an opportunistic photojournalist, manages to break the news of several women's revolts across the world. The first upheavals are in Saudi Arabia and Moldova, places where women have few rights. But the woman who rules Bessapara, the first nation of the new world order, is unscrupulous and afraid, and she creates further instability by stripping men in her country of all rights and implicitly threatening world war. Roxy runs into trouble trying to keep a lid on this international situation, while Mother Eve convinces herself it might be for the best to start the world anew. Margot, an American politician taught to tap into her skein by her daughter, rises to power in the States, her message becoming more hawkish as she gains influence. But she is corrupted by her addiction to power over her male rivals, and she, too, plays a part in the endgame. Alderman tests her female characters by giving them power, and they all abuse it. Readers should not expect easy answers in this dystopian novel, but Alderman succeeds in crafting a stirring and mind-bending vision. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Alderman's (The Liar's Gospel, 2013) sublime new novel posits a game-changing question: What if women suddenly manifested an electrical charge that they could control and use as a weapon? This new female power, the origins of which are attributed to a WWII chemical experiment, first becomes evident in teenage girls around the world in the present time. Roxy, the daughter of an English mobster, attacks the men who have come to kill her mother, while in America, foster-child Allie finds she has the ability to fight off her lecherous foster father. Teenage girls can somehow awaken the power in older women, as Margot, an American politician, learns when her daughter injures a boy in a fight. And in Nigeria, Tunde's journalism career is launched when he observes a girl using her power on another boy. Alderman wrestles with some heady questions: What happens when the balance of power shifts? Would women be kinder, gentler rulers, or would they be just as ruthless as their male counterparts? That Alderman is able to explore these provocative themes in a novel that is both wildly entertaining and utterly absorbing makes for an instant classic, bound to elicit discussion and admiration in equal measure.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
All over the world, teenage girls develop the ability to send an electric charge from the tips of their fingers.It might be a little jolt, as thrilling as it is frightening. It might be powerful enough to leave lightning-bolt traceries on the skin of people the girls touch. It might be deadly. And, soon, the girls learn that they can awaken this newor dormant?ability in older women, too. Needless to say, there are those who are alarmed by this development. There are efforts to segregate and protect boys, laws to ensure that women who possess this ability are banned from positions of authority. Girls are accused of witchcraft. Women are murdered. But, ultimately, there's no stopping these women and girls once they have the power to kill with a touch. Framed as a historical novel written in the far futurelong after rule by women has been established as normal and, indeed, naturalthis is an inventive, thought-provoking work of science fiction that has already been shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in Britain. Alderman (The Liars' Gospel, 2013, etc.) chronicles the early days of matriarchy's rise through the experiences of four characters. Tunde is a young man studying to be a journalist who happens to capture one of the first recordings of a girl using the power; the video goes viral, and he devotes himself to capturing history in the making. After Margot's daughter teaches her to use the power, Margot has to hide it if she wants to protect her political career. Allie takes refuge in a convent after running away from her latest foster home, and it's here that she begins to understand how newly powerful young women might useand transformreligious traditions. Roxy is the illegitimate daughter of a gangster; like Allie, she revels in strength after a lifetime of knowing the cost of weakness. Both the main story and the frame narrative ask interesting questions about gender, but this isn't a dry philosophical exercise. It's fast-paced, thrilling, and even funny. Very smart and very entertaining. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.