Last Summer, I got the chance to read a very interesting book that looked at the superhero genre in a whole new light and presented unique characters that avoided cliches and had a depth not usually associated with the fun adventure tale that the book delivered. The book was Turbulence by Samit Basu. It told the tale of a group of passengers on a late night flight from London to Delhi that acquire super human abilities in their sleep. The powers they receive vary as they are based on their true desires. Jai, a soldier with grand asperations, becomes invulnerable, unable to die. Uzma, a beautiful young woman who wants to be an actress, gains the power to tell folks what to do and they obey. Vir, an airforce pilot who loves his job can now fly. And at the center of it all is Aman, a twenty-something slacker who loves pop culture, the internet and information who suddenly can now link up with any computer system in his mind. Due to their unique abilities and the opportunities that arise, these people, along with the other passengers on the flight, go through their own journey to find their new place in the world. Some would be protectors and heroes. Others would become great villains. Through the course of the book, some even switch sides. But in the end, they all must come together to stop a great disaster from destroying London. Nothing would ever be the same after that. Needless to say, it was a breath taking and exciting book. So when it was announced that Basu would be releasing a follow up book starring these same would be heroes, I knew that I would have to check it out. Would the book live up to the original. Thankfully, Resistance ends up being the perfect sequel.
As we left Uzma and Aman in the last book, they were at a crossroads and had to go their separate ways; Uzma to lead the “Unit” (this world’s version of the Avengers or the Justice League) and Aman to continue to fight the good fight from the shadows. Each thought the other was wrong. Uzma believed that a super team was the only way to protect and serve the people. Aman saw it as a solution that would only lead to “superhero slugfests” and leave the real problems of the world unfettered. It’s now 11 years since the famous flight that gave them powers and it turns out they were both right. Uzma’s Unit has become celebrities, working with the U.N. to avoid major world disasters while causing new ones, all the while fighting with a corporate entity by the name of Utopic who wishes to gain the secret of super powers. Aman lives on a private island that is off the grid and attempts to come up with new ideas to help humanity but is unable to truly affect change from his position, especially since the whole world thinks he’s dead. But when a series of events are set in motion that may bring about the end of the world, their paths are drawn back together. In an epic adventure that spans from New York to Tokyo and involves an army of supers, a giant Mech warrior, a billionaire with a vendetta against metahumans, and an 11 year old boy with the powers of God, the fate of the world has never been more dire.
When you start reading this book, it feels like any other. New characters are introduced and others are re-introduced and you think you know where the story is going. Then all hell breaks loose….but in a good way. The intensity and urgency of the tale is heightened chapter by chapter. You think you know which way the story will go and then it takes you in a completely different direction. Basu has maintained his ability of giving a fresh perspective on the genre, taking familiar tropes and archetypes and turning them upside down and inside out. The motivations of the characters are strong and true to themselves, but wholey upredictable. I found myself continually surprized as the story headed to it’s climax. It was a thrill ride but also very well thought out. It had both style and substance with every character serving a real purpose and getting their time to shine.
I was also impressed with the tribute to the superhero through both homage and satire. What’s brilliant is that both homage and satire could appear within the same paragraph. There is a level of craft here that takes the time to pay proper respect while still “taking the piss” out of the characters at the same time. I also enjoyed the updates to the world Basu has created to include Japanese Mech Warriors and Kaiju, the latest craze in the pop culture canon. It’s all in the details as they say and that is very true with this book.
As I read Resistance, I pictured a block buster movie projecting in my mind. If ever they tried to make this book into a film, I’m not sure it could ever live up to the vivid and complex world that Samit Basu has created. Just like with Turbulence, whether you like superheroes or just enjoy diverse characters, you owe it to yourself to give this book a read.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!