Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: The Power

Ugh, that was a bit of a slog.

Several people told me to read this book (and I think someone actually gave me this book) and so I thought it would be right up my street.

I can see why that might be the case: it’s written by a woman, it’s about women, it’s a commentary on gender politics. But on the other hand, it’s really a bit hateful and I dislike almost all the characters (except for maybe Roxy and it’s probably not a good sign that you like the international drug cartel leader).

So the plot is that women basically start being able to generate electric shocks, so powerful that they can kill people. There’s some digression into why this is the case, but it is ultimately unimportant. Some women are really powerful, some are not, some women have problems, occasionally a rare man will also have the power (basically it’s like another organ).

In some ways it reminds me of Book of Joan in that it’s trying to be a bit more clever than it ends up being. It’s just all a bit hit-over-your-head obvious that it makes it very uninteresting. I think I’ve read so many more subtle, intricately woven stories in the last few months that this just felt like a hammer trying to crack an egg.

And there are bits that I really disliked, such as all the sexual violence. I know it’s an inversion of violence against  women that is rampant in fiction but how many fucking times do you need to make that point. Once will do, you don’t have to go back to it so many goddamn times. And it diminishes the more subtler critiques of power to the book’s detriment. Honestly, some of the best parts were the inversion of the roles of the TV hosts that are peppered throughout the book. The woman starts out as “ahh ha ha, you’re so funny,  now something about puppies!” But by the end of the book, she has a new, younger, male co-host who basically becomes her younger self, with her touching his knee and calling him cute. I would have liked more of that and less gang rape.

Like I get the critique, but it’s as subtle as a safe landing on your head. Actually, it’s more like a safe falling on your head every chapter. There’s not being subtle and then there’s LET US SPELL THIS OUT OVER AND OVER IN GLORIOUS TECHNICOLOUR. I got it the first time, thanks. Let’s move on, no? *Safe falls from the sky*.

The other thing I disliked was all the religious bullshit. Again, I can see where it was all going, but again, hammer and egg, repeatedly.  The political power playing was far more interesting, with the same sort of bullshit being played out but with a gender reversal. Even then, it was like KLANG look at this thing happening, isn’t it so familiar?

So in the end, it just go more and more obvious of what was happening and you’re just waiting for the story to play out. Maybe the end had a tiny twist, but I feel like the ending undermined any not-so-subtle critiques of gender that the book makes in the first place.

This felt like it had ideas about what it wanted to critique but no substantial story to weave around it, so you were just left with a garish parade of ghoulish spectacle. Ugh. No thanks.  There are so many better science fiction stories that tackle gender issues in a much more compelling way and I’d recommend you read them instead.

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