In Naomi Alderman’s The Power, teenage girls around the world suddenly develop the ability to generate and control massive amounts of electricity—a development that has world-altering consequences including, eventually, outright war. The Kirkus-starred 2017 SF novel offers numerous intertwining storylines: Allie Montgomery-Taylor, a teen from the American South, uses her ability to electrocute her rapist foster father; she hears a voice in her head that guides her, as “Mother Eve,” to found a new, woman-centered religion that attracts adherents around the world. Roxy Monke, the daughter of a British gangster, also has the power; she’s drawn into Mother Eve’s orbit and later becomes involved in the manufacture of a power-enhancing drug. Soon, superpowered teens find ways to awaken the electricity-wielding ability in adult women; one is Margot Cleary, the mayor of a Midwestern American city and later a U.S. senator, whose daughter Jos had it first. Cleary sets up training centers to enhance gifted girls’ skills. In a country in the former Eastern Bloc, Tatiana Moskalev, the president’s wife, leads a revolution against the male power structure that eventually leads to brutal dictatorial rule. As all this unfolds, a young Nigerian man, Tunde Edo, travels the world, covering the growing phenomenon for news outlets. A frame story sets the book up as a historical novel, written by a man far in the future; correspondence between him and his friend shows where society eventually ends up.

It’s a complicated story with a huge cast, and the first three episodes of the new series adaptation are impressively faithful; in fact, they improve upon the source material in subtle ways. They premiere on Prime Video on March 31.

The novel is highly episodic in structure, with multiple, discrete storylines that ultimately connect; this, along with the ambitious scope, gives it the general feel of other wide-angle SF/fantasy epics such as Stephen King’s The Stand. Unlike that doorstopper, though, The Power comes in at a relatively brief 400 pages. As a result, it’s lightning-fast, jumping between characters and settings with brisk economy. Unfortunately, that also forces the work to focus almost entirely on plot and worldbuilding, to the detriment of complex characterization; even as sparks literally fly, the players often feel like pawns being moved around a large board.

In this regard, the first three episodes of the series are a distinct improvement. Toni Collette is excellent as Mayor Cleary, who’s committed to finding out the truth as the power first emerges, and who’s frustrated by the apathy and sexism of the governor (The Good Wife’s Josh Charles) as society starts to fray. Auli’i Cravalho, as Cleary’s daughter Jos, is also impressive as a teen who’s simultaneously frightened of and emboldened by her new abilities, and Mr Selfridge’s Ria Zmitrowicz, as Roxy, seethes with frustrated ambition. So far, the show remains true to the book’s plot, faithfully hitting each beat, but its more deliberate pace allows some elements to carry more emotional weight—especially the pure sense of joy that that controlling bolts of lightning brings to otherwise powerless teens.

Time will tell if the series manages to remedy the book’s greatest flaw, however. Alderman’s premise is a great one, and it gestures toward a refreshing examination of how the world might change with women in power everywhere. In the end, though, The Power follows a predictably dark post-apocalyptic playbook in which humankind, instead of banding together, just tears itself apart—yet again. Sure, people may collaborate and work toward shared goals for a time, but that time is limited, and in the end, conflict reigns, as usual. That’s an insight that has lost its power.

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.