By Sarah Metts | Contributor Published: 07/20/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: July 9, 2013 Publisher: Titan Books | Buy Book
Some superheroes are made out of freak accidents, terrifying life scenarios, or mythical/mystical curses or blessings. Not Samit Basu’s heroes. In his superhero tale Turbulence, passengers on a flight from London to New Delhi, ordinary people unaware of the coming change, are given super powers.
Each passenger receives a power influenced by their dreams and desires. There are a wide range of powers introduced, some surprising and others (such as super strength and flying) that are old favorites of the superhero genre. The newly-found powers force their wielders to choose how they will use their gifts. Through these decisions, the forces of good and evil gain allies.
For the good side, there is Aman Sen, a nobody who acquires the ability to mentally browse the web. Connecting to anything on a network, Aman can now create change that he didn’t feel capable of before. This drive puts him at the forefront, bringing together other passengers with a desire to do good. Tia, whose body can divide into endless copies. Uzma, the aspiring actress who only attracts admiration. Vir, the Indian Air Force pilot complete with the ability to fly.
On the other side of the coin, the military is tracking down super humans, placing Squadron Leader Jai Mathur of the Air Force in charge.
Jai’s search brings him to the list of passengers. He systematically starts to locate potential super humans, eliminating them, capturing them, and studying them, or recruiting them to fight with his personal army.
By the time Jai is confronted, he has grown too powerful to control. Aman and his team come into contact with Jai’s army, forming and breaking alliances with other super humans along the way. The struggle between Aman’s team and Jai’s thirst for world domination is the main conflict, from beginning to end.
Several more interesting powers emerge throughout the course of the novel. Some I found very poetic. The Singer, an elderly woman, has the ability to bring the dead to life with her voice. She speaks about her dead husband, convincing me she dreamed of her husband on the fateful flight. The others are more striking in how they are revealed, so I’ll hold off on giving those tasty tidbits away.
The idea for this novel is highly ambitious. Essentially, Turbulence attempts to provide an origin story and enough action to fill three novels within the span of 360 pages. On his blog, Basu states that the novel features two main questions:
“How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted?”
“What would you do if you were given the power to change the world?”
These questions are at the center of Aman’s development from a nobody to network-hacking philanthropist. How Aman’s actions recoil provides a good twist. Aman takes from the rich and gives to the poor, only to find that vengeful drug lords go on murdering sprees and charities misuse the money, an interesting turn of events illustrating the demise of “best laid plans”.
A large hang-up for me was how heavily dialogue was used to propel the plot forward. I was exhausted reading the back and forth between characters and found some comments to be clichéd. Large blocks of dialogue and action made the quiet, introspective sections delightful, but those parts lacked in number. At the end of the novel, I wasn’t deeply attached to any of the main characters. I never really got a clear picture of how they looked, moved, or spoke, nothing uniquely their own.
Because of the clichéd feel and how it read like the script to a superhero movie, I felt no sense of urgency or peril in situations that were meant to be suspenseful or shocking. The setup for situations and characters felt familiar and safe.
The individual ideas are compelling on paper, but the execution of the novel leaves room for growth in Resistance, the sequel, which is scheduled to be published by Titan Books in 2014. Basu commented on Resistance in a 2012 interview, stating:
“Broadly speaking, when I was starting out my plan was that if Turbulence was the Superman book, about the world being rearranged by the arrival of a new kind of human, then Resistance would be the Batman book, about ordinary people rising above themselves to face the challenges of a changed world.”
This comment leaves me with high hopes for Resistance. If it’s taking a look at individuals, Resistance may give me the character development I felt this novel was lacking.
Turbulence left me wanting more from Basu. His ideas are entertaining and fun; a good break for the mind after tackling memoirs and historical nonfiction (the majority of my reading list). I’ve thought about what I’ve desired on flights and how it would be twisted into a power—most likely the ability to make small spaces larger and making economy flight first-class comfy. What would your power be? Or would you be on an airplane in the first place?
Summary:DECENT: Turbulence is an ambitious novel that flourishes with entertaining ideas but stumbles on the execution. From here, Basu can only get better with the sequel, Resistance. It is a book for superhero fans and for anyone needing an easy read that lets the mind kick up its feet. Perfect for the beach.
Genre:Superhero, Fantasy, Science Fiction