Turbulence by Samit Basu
Review Spoilers: Low
What it would be like to wake up with a superpower you’ve always wanted? Maybe you can fly, adjust time, or are a celebrity wherever you go. That’s our premise to Turbulence. Simple, right? I mean, I’ll admit, the summary isn’t what got me to read it. This novel caught my eye by the fact that it was already a best-seller in India and the UK…and maybe because of the psychedelic cover. But seriously, what’s making people pick up this book? What’s so captivating?
I’ll start with this: Turbulence took me completely by surprise. Samit Basu doesn’t need a brand new idea to tell a gripping story. It’s clever, full of jokes, brutal action, personal loss, and hearty characters. To say the least, there’s never a boring moment.
Turbulence kicks off with an Indian Airforce pilot flying over Pakistan, rebelling from his duties. This throws us right into the action, and from there, people on a flight heading form London to Delhi have dreams, wake up, and have powers matching those dreams. These folks spend plenty of time simply trying to understand their powers and get a grip on them, and this slows the action for a little while, but I promise you doesn’t slow down the excitement and wit of the story.
I’m a stickler for character development, but Basu’s got it mastered. Our protagonist, Aman, is a 20-something computer nerd with little aspirations, but one day he wakes up able to hack into any network and access nearly anything he wants on the web. He’s an unlikely protagonist, which I totally love. Unlike what you’d expect out of a superhero, he has a humorously geeky attitude, and can barely manage his powers.
The other main characters are quite a bit of fun and also not what you’d expect. One is the cloning super-mom, Tia, who, to my surprise and pleasure, kicks serious ass wherever she goes. Another personal favorite is Uzma, who’s an aspiring actress who charms every person she comes in contact with. A couple others are Bob, a teen with powers over the weather, and crazy scientist Sundar. It’s a strange superhero team, but makes for a whole lot of fun.
“What’s the plan?”
“We want to form a real-world Justice League – of India,” Aman says.
“I’m British. My parents are Pakistani,” Uzma replies.
“I know. I was kidding.”
And I’ll just say, the setting to this novel is brilliant. As an American, I’ll admit I’m rarely exposed to stories that are centrally India. Yeah, Samit Basu is from India. So, no, it might not have been some clever idea on his part. But considering the monopoly the US has on superheroes, I can’t express enough how refreshing it is to see some in South Asia.
Beyond all the fun, Basu compels readers to consider challenging questions about humanity. What would happen to humans if they were given the powers of their dreams? Would we all have boisterous powers to save the world…or simply ones to help us in day-to-day life? Also, Basu also places the right amount of personal loss into Turbulence, balancing out the excitement and humor that carries so much of the story.
For any superhero fan, Turbulence is a must-read. It’s got everything you’d ask for out of a comic book, packed into a clever, action-packed novel. It’s got a modern edge that puts it in it’s own category of awesome. The anticipated sequel, Resistance, will be due out soon from Titan Books.