Alderman has written a convincing novel about a world in which women are able to seize power by virtue of a newly developed anatomical device called a skein. From the moment women can control men by literally electrocuting them with their skein a grab for power starts. At the end things do not end well: do not think Alderman sends us the message that a women-controlled world would be perfect, on the contrary: a women-controlled world sucks as much as any world controlled by the power-hungry, the religious fanatic or the criminal. It is disconcerting to read about the disturbed schizophrenic who can become the leader of a new religion, about the politician who goes for control of the world with the help of a female ‘peace-force’ or the daughter of the ruthless criminal who steps into her father’s footsteps and starts selling a drug that makes the skein even more powerful (and drives the women using it mad).
Alderman safes one determining fact for the final pages: her novel does not start in the now but in a women-controlled society somewhere around 7017 that bears a striking resemblance to our current society. By confusing us she sends her message through loud and clear: we humans have a tendency to succumb to power and money or to listen to religious nutcases, whatever their gender.
This message is the one thing making me doubt whether The Power is an excellent novel or a very well written pamphlet. At a certain point I felt the message taking over, becoming the more important issue in the novel. Alderman became slightly pushy in sending it across, in this way making the literary quality of the novel secondary.
Alderman has written a decent novel that sends a powerful message across. Somewhere in the novel the message takes over. I was relieved to find out that the most cynical of all characters, criminal Roxy, turns out to be the one who can see sense at the end. Her skein being surgically removed might have had something to do with that, making her taking her distance from her previous power-hungry and religiously fanatic pals also slightly obvious: Alderman is once more pushing the message through too loud.