Read on, and see which takes your fancy!
Clare Morrall’s latest novel takes us into the near future, whereas After the Bombing was set in the recent past. It’s a light thriller / coming-of-age novel that reminds me of Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship. As with many futuristic novels, part of its appeal lies in the author’s imaginings of what will and won’t have changed: I particularly liked the multiculturalism and racial integration that was taken for granted, quite a tonic in today’s crazy sociopolitical climate. But, for those of us who aren’t sci-fi aficionados, it also contributes to the reader’s frustration, when the story sags as the new technology, never mind how brilliantly created, is explained to the contemporary reader (in this case, with comparisons to what Roza’s mother has told her about the state of the world in her own childhood).
Having picked up this novel shortly after my own part of the world was hit by the first floods of the winter (not quite as severe as they can be, but with a stronger personal impact as I drove through the torrents – and road diversions – to an evening author event), I had no problem with the way climate change was integrated into the novel. Clare Morrall depicts our dependence on, and need to adapt to, extreme weather events in a clear and convincing manner. (And she’s not alone in this, so I can’t agree with Amitav Ghosh writing in the Guardian that climate change is ignored in literary fiction.) Thanks to Sceptre books for my review copy.
Who hasn’t wondered, or gone to books that do our wondering for us, how different the world would be if women were in charge, and whether corruption can be blamed on the type of people who rise to power or whether it’s a consequence of power itself? If you think you’ve done all the wondering there is to do on those subjects, I challenge you to read Naomi Alderman’s electrifying new novel and see if you can’t find anything new.
What would it be like to discover that you can shock, injure or kill your enemies with nothing but a charge from your fingertips? What would it be like if, by dint of your gender, others possessed the power but you were denied? Naomi Alderman imagines this from the perspectives of a girl from London’s gangland who’s seen her mother murdered before her eyes; an abused American foster child who reinvents herself as the head of the new matriarchal church; an ambitious mother and mayor with her eye on the presidency; and a male Nigerian photojournalist – as well as a host of minor characters and conspiracy theorists working in Internet chat rooms. The multiple viewpoints, which can make for a fragmented reading experience in the hands of some authors, gives it a pacey adventure-story feel, perhaps partly thanks to the author’s other life as a creator of computer games.
This is Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel (the first of hers I’ve reviewed but the third I’ve read, although I wrote about The Liar’s Gospel in my post about ideas that blow your mind). When I requested The Power (thanks Viking Penguin) I wondered if, although I knew I liked her writing, I’d find this too gimmicky, but I was totally convinced. Humorously framed as a historical novel from 5000 years in the future, yet with some disturbingly violent scenes, the preposterous premise is rendered credible by beginning at the beginning when the world is waking up to the phenomenon and via some pseudoscience around how it might have come about. Psychologically astute on the complexity of human nature, The Power does not divide its characters into straight heroes and villains, and no-one comes away unscathed. Still despairing at Trump’s election, I loved the part in which the electorate criticises Margo for abusing her power in a televised debate yet vote for her in sufficient numbers for her to move into the governor’s mansion. Encompassing human trafficking, drugs, child abuse, religion, official and unofficial warfare, adolescence, rape culture, refugees, and with a soupçon of redeeming love, Naomi Alderman has pursued her theme into virtually every area of contemporary society, reminding me of another novel about the moral implications of an alternate body experience, The Smoke. Read, enjoy, and admire the skill of this accomplished author!