When it comes to superheroes, the origin story is probably the most common tale one can tell. Everyone wants to see the hero but they’re also interested in how they became this defender of the innocent. Where did they get their powers? Why did they decide to become a hero as opposed to a villain? There are a number of answers to those questions. Some are born with powers. Some became heroes because of a freak accident or an experiment. Some heroes don’t have powers but choose to fight for what’s right. Then some heroes get their powers because of an event. Not a personal event, no. Some big event that is unexplained and usually affects a lot of people. It’s always never really explained. It’s just accepted. It’s where science and miracles meet and produce powers. And this event usually creates not just one hero or villain but a whole slew of them. This approach has been a popular one for the past 10 years or so, most notably with Heroes, the NBC series that ran from 2006 to 2010. What happens when you drop a bunch of powers on an unsuspecting group of people? Shit hits the fan. And that’s pretty much how it is for the characters of Turbulence by Samit Basu. Released in paperback earlier this summer through Titan Books, this is the perfect book to end off your summer. Much like the summer blockbuster, this book is filled with action and adventure. But there’s also a lot of heart. While the ride may be a bumpy one for the protagonists of this novel, the reader will find that thanks to well developed characters and a surprising plot a pleasant journey awaits.
After a late night commercial flight from London to Delhi, the passengers all find that they are no imbued with special powers. How they received these powers is unknown but it appears that whatever they dreamed about has now granted them specific powers to attain those goals. Uzma, a wannabe bollywood actress dreams of making it and now finds that everyone loves her. Jai, an ambitious soldier dreams of being the ultimate warrior and now cannot be killed. Vir, an airforce pilot dreams of flying (what else) and now finds he can….well, you get the picture. Aman Sen, another passenger on the flight, is your typical slacker. He’s smart and ambitious but lacks any real motivation. He too gains powers to connect with all computers and global communications. When he discovers that there is someone out trying to capture and kill all the other powered people, he takes it upon himself to begin forming a team of superheroes to find the other passengers, protect them from whoever is trying to hurt them, and essentially save the world. But he’s not the only one with the idea of creating a super team. Jai has also begun to put together a superhuman army with the goal of taking over the world’s governments and ruling with an iron fist. It’s only a matter of time before these two groups come to a head. But what does it have to do with a mysterious stranger who’s causing mobs of people to break out into a violent frenzy? And will this end in another cliched superhero slugfest?
The themes in this book are ones that are not uncommon in superhero stories. The idea of “What would you do if you got the one thing you truly wanted?” and “What would you do if you could change the world?” are the driving force behind the narrative and there is a continued attempt to answer these questions throughout by the characters and their actions. Character is key in this story. And by character, I mean that everything is a character. With some well thoughtout descriptions, Basu turns the setting of India into a character. I have never been to India, but through Samit’s detail I could picture and experience it all. The trope of the hero’s journey is also a strong character as it influences Aman, Jai, Tia (a woman who can make multiple copies of herself) and Vir in their many decisions. There is a debate throughout the book, sometimes suble and sometimes very overt, on whether powers make you responsible to do the best to protect others or to use them to assert dominance. It’s a classic plot device in comics and is used here effectively to bring forth a smooth yet unpredictable plot.
As a longtime fan of comicbooks and fantasy, I am very familliar with the idea of heroes and villains. Their motivations and struggles have been a regular part of my entertainment diet. What’s amazing about Turbulence is that while it does a great job of paying proper homage to the many superhero stories from comics’ past, it also presents a story that feels very unique and original. At no point while reading could I have predicted where the story would end up. There were obvious bench mark moments that I knew would come about but as for where each of the character themselves would end up, I was always surprised. That is a very difficult thing to do these days.
If you are a fan of superheros, you will like this book. If you’re a fan of strong characters, you will like this book. If you’re just looking for something to entertain you during the week while you wait to watch new episodes of Breaking Bad, you will like this book. The book is slated for a sequel (Resistance in 2014) so now’s the time to pick this first installment up. Turbulence is the best book I’ve read this summer and I think you’ll agree if you check it out.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!