Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Power Audiobook by Naomi Alderman

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyThe Power, Naomi Alderman; Adjoa Andoh, narrator (Hachette Audio 978-1-47899990-4, $24.98, digital download, 12 hr., unabridged) October 2017.

Young women suddenly gain the power to deliver powerful electric shocks, brutally upending the power differential between men and women, eventually leading to a matri­archal society 5,000 years later in which women can’t even imagine a time where men were physi­cally, politically, or artistically dominant. The present-day story is told from the perspectives of the illegitimate daughter of a London crimelord, a teenage victim of sexual abuse turned prophet, a male Nigerian freelance journalist documenting the political and social upheaval, an ambitious American politician, and her daughter, whose power doesn’t quite work correctly.

British actress Adjoa Andoh, best known to geeks as Francine Jones, the woman who didn’t approve of her daughter Martha traveling with the Doctor on Series 3 on the revived Doctor Who, narrates the book. Her voice is refined, throaty, and appropriately intense and urgent. The story requires a fairly wide palette of accents, includ­ing Nigerian, working-class English, and Eastern European, among others. Andoh handles most of them excellently, except for some of the American accents. Professional English actors can usu­ally manage a Southern American accent (which worked quite well for Mother Eve, the prophet from Alabama), but any other region is typically expressed in a flat, generic accent that would be hard put to place (Margo sounded part Southern, part I don’t-know-what, which didn’t entirely work for a politician who is supposedly based in the Northeastern United States.).

When this book was first released this fall, it got a tremendous amount of buzz, and, of course, was dubbed a modern Handmaid’s Tale. The framing device, in which a series of violent and terrible events are perceived almost as trivial and amusing from the perspective of a distant future, is the same, as is the understanding that women in positions of power won’t necessarily behave any better than men currently do. This book might be a less subtle expression of the argument, but it feels both convincing and devastating. Personally, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

This review and more like it in the April 2018 issue of Locus.

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