The Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think I've just stumbled upon one of those "Important Works" I keep saying is so necessary. No UF fluff with magical women or post-apocalypse SF nonsense where it's mostly about shocking us about the brutality of man against woman. (It seems that's mostly what it is, these days.)
Indeed, what we've got here is a careful and complex study of all the gender roles turned on its head, slowly, surely, and irrevocably.
We have women getting the power to shock the living shit out of anyone and teach this power to any other woman. Throw that wrinkle in today's worldwide culture, and suddenly we have a really ugly war of the sexes on a scale that's horrifying. All the abuses of power, of violence, of insanity, is now going to be returned to the sender.
I'll be honest, I loved the grand build-up of this reversal of power, thought the justice of it was delicious as hell. But it's another thing to see the justice turn to insanity. The practice of power for power's sake. To see women roaming the streets looking to abuse a stray man who was just looking for it, to have training camps to make women all stronger, to destroy anything that gets in their way.
It still seems like justice. All those nasty patriarchies and misogynists getting their due was FUN. Until it wasn't. Until women become fully as bad as the men always were. Or as we assume men always were.
The book also brings up the question of archeology in a wonderful way, fast-forwarding 5000 years into a culture where women have all the power and men are treated exactly the way women are treated today. With intellectual dishonesty, prejudice, ignorance, and the assumption that things were always as they were now, that men in armies are a joke or a sexual fantasy that could never have been true, like some of us may say Amazonians are today. That all the ancient statues destroyed depicting men as warriors back then must have been a grand joke or not what it seems. That the author, a man, ought to change his name to a woman's for the publication of the book to lend it credence.
And this last bit happens throughout this novel, lending it an inevitable and horrific outlook on the nature of the real problem.
It's not men. Or women. It's as Adler says. It's a POWER issue. Those with power abuse it. Those with power over others need to have someone to USE it on. This is the root of the disease.
I've often thought and agreed with certain authors who bring up the possibility that women DID have the power in our ancient pasts, 45-55 thousand years ago, the statues being the only evidence I really have. I liked to daydream about what lost societies, full cultures, civilizations in our own deep pasts might have been like before time eroded everything.
There really is no reason not to believe we've been through this exact same cycle many times, always suffering the same hubris and error in thinking. Power causes upheaval. The pendulum swings. The weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth.
It's humbling, this turning of the wheel.
But back to the novel. It's extremely well written and painful to witness and thought-provoking and even delightful at times. It's also deep. Easily one of the very best novels of it's kind, being obviously gender-centric, sociological, and quite entertaining on the character level. The skein of power is almost secondary to the story. It's all about turning the tables. :)
I totally recommend this book for everyone. Period. It's just that brilliant and should be required reading for anyone in the discussion of what it means to be a woman OR a man. Let's open our eyes! :)
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