The Power

Naomi Alderman’s “shocking” work of speculative fiction won the 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction – and for good reason. Her novel is an incredible work of imagination, picturing a world where women suddenly develop the power to electrocute people at will, “from a tiny tingle all the way to full electro-death”, says Alderman. This is enough to flip society on its head. After centuries of male control, women are now the dominant sex. The novel is a “historical” account of the time when this power first emerged, and it tells stories of women from across the globe.


Like her mentor Margaret Atwood, Alderman uses science fiction in her novel to explore deep questions about gender inequality. Despite the best efforts of feminism over the last century, sexism is still a problem in every corner of the globe. Where does it come from? And why does it persist?


In The Power, no one knows why women have suddenly developed this terrifying skill. But it changes everything. Electricity is one of nature’s most powerful energies. Humans have harnessed it to improve our lives significantly. But can we really control it? And are we too dependent on it?


It is violence, not words, which finally gives women the upper hand in Alderman’s novel. Some of the characters do not want to use their new-found power to hurt other people. Some do. Is violence an innate part of human nature?


Who has the power in society and in relationships? Why do they have it, and how can they use it responsibly? These are questions that the novel considers by reversing the gender balance in our current society.

The future

“Speculative fiction” is a popular genre which imagines how people will live in the future. Of course, it often reveals the anxieties of the age in which it is written. So, how do scientists currently imagine humanity’s future on Earth?