The bestselling, award-winning author of The Power delivers a dazzling tour de force where a handful of friends plot a daring heist to save the world from the tech giants whose greed threatens life as we know it.
When Martha Einkorn fled her father’s isolated compound in Oregon, she never expected to find herself working for a powerful social media mogul hell-bent on controlling everything. Now, she’s surrounded by mega-rich companies designing private weather, predictive analytics, and covert weaponry, while spouting technological prophecy. Martha may have left the cult, but if the apocalyptic warnings in her father’s fox and rabbit sermon—once a parable to her—are starting to come true, how much future is actually left?
Across the world, in a mall in Singapore, Lai Zhen, a famous internet survivalist, flees from an assassin. She’s cornered, desperate and—worst of all—might die without ever knowing what’s going on. Suddenly, a remarkable piece of software appears on her phone telling her exactly how to escape. Who made it? What is it really for? And if those behind it can save her from danger, what do they want from her, and what else do they know about the future?
Martha and Zhen’s worlds are about to collide. An explosive chain of events is set in motion. While a few billionaires assured of their own safety lead the world to destruction, Martha’s relentless drive and Zhen’s insatiable curiosity could lead to something beautiful or the cataclysmic end of civilization.
By turns thrilling, hilarious, tender, and always piercingly brilliant,The Future unfolds at a breakneck speed, highlighting how power corrupts the few who have it and what it means to stand up to them. The future is coming. The Future is here.
My first novel,’Disobedience’ was published in the UK by Penguin in 2006 and in the USA by Simon & Schuster in 2007. It’s been published in 10 languages. In the UK, I won the Orange Award for New Writers, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and a Waterstones Writer for the Future Award. In the USA I was shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction and the Sami Rohr Prize.
‘Disobedience’ is the story of Ronit, a 32-year-old rabbi’s daughter from an Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, northwest London. She left London years earlier, is now working in finance in Manhattan but the death of her father Rav Krushka brings her back home. And it’s the story of Esti, Ronit’s childhood friend, who stayed in Hendon even though the community consider her strange. And it’s the story of Dovid, Esti’s husband; he’s heir presumptive to Rav Krushka, but doesn’t seem to want the post.
The novel is about the meeting place between religion and modern life, between sexuality and spirituality, between our own desires and the demands of the communities we live in and the God we worship. It’s about the importance of changing, and also about the things that we inevitably lose when we do. It is about the power of silence and the power of speech, and the quintessential human characteristic of disobedience.
It is a wonderful novel. There is wonder in the plotting, which presents Esti and Ronit together or apart in ways that defy conventional expectation. But the real wonder is in Alderman’s capacity for original thinking. Nothing is quite as the lazy-minded might expect it to be: forbidden desire is not unequivocally good, deterministic religion is not unequivocally bad. Orthodoxy (as much as Ronit’s dissent from it) absolutely glows out of the pages of Disobedience, as rich and fresh and fascinating as this lovely novel itself.
It is ultimately a tale of love lost and a paean to the contentment that self-sacrifice can bring. Each chapter starts with a snippet of sacred text, whose themes elegantly shape the action that follows, making for a book of burnished depth. It would be easy to mock the way that Esti and her neighbours submit to such ancient and complex laws but, while Alderman has a bold comic touch, she consistently reaches beyond the obvious.
Alderman’s commentary on Orthodox Judaism in the 21st century is thought-provoking and illuminating, and she has the comic’s gift to assassinate from within with compassion.
Disobedience is an accomplished and absorbing debut. Its thrust comes from the evolving triangular relationship between Dovid, Esti and Ronit – three very different characters who must react to the same strictures. Each has a different relationship with God and, perhaps more importantly, with tradition and the culture they have come from.
My second novel, The Lessons, was published in 2010. This one was a long old slog! It took me four years to write, though mostly because, when I came to read my first draft I realised I’d have to throw out the first 50,000 words. Sigh. Still, I worked it out in the end.
It’s a novel set at Oxford University, among a group of friends – it’s about what happens to them while they’re there, and in the thrall of the rich and mercurial Mark Winters, and the terrible thing that happens after they leave.
I was a bit pissed off that so many novels about Oxford talk about the beauty and the glamour and the glittering prizes, but not about the vast amount of work and how everyone seems to be having breakdowns all the time. So it’s partly about that. And partly it’s about money. What having a huge amount of money does to a person. How it can distort friendships and relationships. I’ve thought of a new title for it, in fact. The Cost of Money. But maybe that would just have sounded like a book about the financial crisis.
This book had some lovely reviews in the UK and some absolutely cracking ones in France – it’s funny how that happens, different books appeal to different audiences. Here are a few reviews.
“Alderman is a virtuoso on Oxford: “It is a magician dazzling viewers with bustle and glitter, misdirecting our attention… It is old and it is beautiful and it is grand. And it is unfair and it is narrow and it is cold.” A perfect city for ghosts. Which Alderman, with great skill and style, finally lays to rest.”
L’Anglaise, dont il s’agit ici du deuxième roman après La désobéissance(L’Olivier, 2008), épate avec un livre fiévreux et maîtrisé. Ce formidableMauvais genre qui achève d’en faire l’un des auteurs les plus talentueux du moment.
“With cool, crisp aplomb, Alderman charts mercurial Mark’s increasingly erratic behaviour, a path to ruination that is waymarked by an unsuitable marriage, a desperate affair and a terrible tragedy.”
My new novel, The Liars’ Gospel, was released by Penguin on 30 August 2012. Here’s the blurb:
This is the story of a Jewish man, Yehoshuah, who wandered Roman-occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick. Now, a year after his death, four people tell their stories. His mother alternates between grief and rage while trouble brews between her village and the occupying soldiers. Iehuda, who was once Yehoshuah’s friend, recalls how he came to lose his faith and find a place among the Romans. Caiaphas, the High Priest at the great Temple in Jerusalem, tries to hold the peace between Rome and Judea. Bar-avo, a rebel and a murderer, strives to bring the peace tumbling down.
Viscerally powerful in its depiction of the realities of the period – massacres and riots, animal sacrifice and human betrayal – The Liars’ Gospel finds echoes of the present in the past. It was a time of brutal tyranny and occupation. Young men and women took to the streets in protest. Dictators put them down with iron force. Rumours spread from mouth to mouth. Rebels attacked the greatest Empire the world has ever known. The Empire gathered its forces to make those rebels pay.
And in the midst of all of that, one inconsequential preacher died. And either something miraculous happened, or someone lied.
And a note from me not the back of the book: I’m calling it at the moment the story of Jesus told from the perspective of the Pharisees. Mostly because as an ex-Orthodox Jew I grew up a Pharisee, and I feel one doesn’t hear enough about what an excellent point they had on lots of matters.
“Alderman writes in tough, visceral prose; this is a world of blood and dust, sweat, sex and violence. The dark wit that characterised her previous novels, Disobedience and The Lessons, runs through this book as an undercurrent, but The Liars’ Gospel shows the hand of a mature novelist, a daring and accomplished work on a broad canvas. She is as much at home describing the sorrow of a mother as the cut and thrust of theological debate, as convincing on the weariness and self-doubt of a man forced by politics into moral compromise as the rush of blood in a teenage boy caught up in his first riot. She paints the sweep of history through the sharp pain of human love and loss, and it is a remarkable achievement.”
“Alderman, however, is doing something rather different. While The Liars’ Gospel shares a central preoccupation with the nature of truth and the inherent slipperiness of words and memories, it roots its characters firmly and vividly in their historical and political context. You can see, hear, smell and taste first-century Judaea on every one of its pages. Alderman, whose previous two novels were concerned with contemporary Judaism, here succeeds magnificently in re-Judaising a story set 2,000 years in the past.”
“By turns poetic and visceral, “The Liars’ Gospel” liberates towering figures from the stasis of iconography, giving them psychological depth.”
“Alderman’s story is filled with pathos and doubt and pain that shows not so much the suffering of one Jew – “the King of the Jews” – but of all the Jews.”
“In a lacerating study of despair, Alderman portrays a woman who feels herself doubly bereaved: not only by the death of Yehoshuah, but by his rejection of her while he was still alive. “Her heart is a stone. Her mouth is a closed door.” The metaphor is typical of Alderman’s method. Brilliantly evocative in its own right, it also casts her grief as a rejection of what the followers of Yehoshuah are already interpreting as the supreme miracle of the resurrection.”
‘She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.’
My new novel, The Power, is published by Penguin on 27th October 2016. It’s a piece of feminist science fiction – or speculative fiction, or fiction about a fictional thing rather than a real thing (curious concept). In the novel, very suddenly almost all the women in the world develop the power to electrocute people at will. Anything from a tiny tingle all the way to full electro-death. And then everything is different.
The novel follows four main characters as they pick their way across this changed world. There’s Roxy, the daughter of a London crime family with three older brothers; she was never supposed to take over the family business but she starts to have other ideas. There’s Tunde, a young journalism student in Lagos, who sees that the revolution needs documenting, and gets himself into some dicey situations trying to be the one to do it. There’s Allie, who comes from a troubled background in the South of the USA and sees that what people need is something new to believe in. And there’s Margot, who was a low-level politician in New England but begins to have new ambitions.
It’s a novel of ideas – what would happen if women had the power to cause pain and destruction? Do we really believe that women are naturally peaceful and nurturing? How much of gender is in our expectations of violence? But it’s also a thriller; in pursuit of power each of the main characters will eventually come into conflict with the others, and they’re each a force to be reckoned with.
At the novel’s heart is the question of power: who has it, how do you get it, what does it do to you when you’ve got it? And when you wield the power, how long will it be before the power wields you?