I was blown away by this book. Alderman created a brilliant concept in how to shift the basics of physical power, and explored how that would change society. Throughout history, men have always been physically stronger than women, and have been able to physically impose their will. In many areas of the world, to this day, this physical dominance is at the root of making women a subjugated class, with fewer (or no) rights.
Alderman’s brilliance is creating a construct that doesn’t suddenly make women physically stronger than men, but does give the typical woman absolute dominance over the average man — generating electricity, a-la electric eels. Electricity shuts the body down, so when a woman uses it on a man, she is in absolute power and can physically impose their will.
In the book, in a matter of months, the global balance of power shifts. The book examines the maturation of that shift, and explores the old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is a hard book to read, because Alderman is a powerful writer when it comes to communicating difficult physical assaults and abuses. She pulls no punches. Triggering events galore in this one.
To me, the thing that makes this book special isn’t just the brilliant conceit, it’s how she portrays women committing the exact same sins and dehumanization that men have committed for millennia. She doesn’t create a make-believe world where women are beneficent and kind, where they create a new world of peace and love and kumbayah and other happy horseshit. Alderman portrays humans acting like humans have acted for tens of thousands of years — when society’s rules relax, the strong dominate, the weak are subjugated.
This is a brilliant work of science fiction, and overlaps significantly into pure horror.