Review: TURBULENCE Offers Up Original Super Heroes

Written by Samit Basu
Published by Titan Books on July 6, 2012
360 pages (paperback)
ISBN: 9781781161197

Turbulence is my first experience in reading an origin story for superheroes. I enjoyed it. I did not know what to expect from Samit Basu’s book; I simply found the description interesting: smart young man who is on a flight where the passengers board as a normal person and deplane with some sort of super power. He wants to help ‘heal’ the world but discovers it may mean hurting others at the same time.

After his fateful flight from London to Delhi, Aman discovers he as the power to tap into the internet, mentally. He uses this new talent to determine which other passengers also developed special abilities as well. Aman manages to connect with a few individuals who move into a safe house with him: Tia, a woman who can multiply herself; Bob, who controls the weather through his stomach (they keep him full of cold food to keep the air conditioning bill low); Narayan, the mad scientist who can work in his sleep; and Uzma, a woman who can charm people into liking her.

Aman wants to use these powers to make the world better. He wants to balance out the economy so everyone has food, money is used for experiments that can help humanity, and people who are corrupt are brought down from powerful positions in companies and governments (calling his set of comics Rural Infrastructure Development League). He also wants to know why some people on that plane have completely vanished.

Aman and the others discover from Vir, a flying super human, that there is a rogue Indian super human military officer, Jai, who is collecting other super humans that have extremely powerful abilities. Jai is set on building a super army; anyone with an inferior power is killed. Since Jai’s own power has made him indestructible, he is not resisted by many.

Aman’s group attempt to fight Jai, only to become both prisoners and then partners. Aman thinks he can save the super humans by helping Jai take over the world. What they are not prepared for is a mysterious mob controller who creates havoc in large public places. In an attempt to discover and destroy this villain, they create a showdown worthy of a superhero story, as well as a surprising twist.

Now, the challenge that Basu faces with this book is to make it different from other superhero stories, which he did. He places his characters into our current world, which is littered with comic book heroes and stories. He keeps humor in the story by adding little comments from Aman referencing this, whether an action is acceptable behavior in a comic book, referring to Vir as Superman, or comparing themselves to the X-Men or the Justice League…of India, constantly poking fun that they have B-Level superpowers. Basu also keeps the characters fresh; when you think they will turn left, they turn right. A moment that gave me a good laugh was when Aman decided to punish certain political and social groups by rerouting their website links to the YouTube video of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

The fights scenes in the book are well expressed, giving the reader a great visual to create in their mind. There are three major scenes and they do not disappoint. Basu manages to keep the pace of the fight steady, building to its climax and adding witty dialog from the characters. At the end of any action scene, the reader left standing there, shaking their head, asking themselves, “Wait, did that just happen?”

But what I like the most is the internal conflict Aman and the others have with themselves about how they should act with these new powers they possess. Unlike movies, books allow you more insight imto the characters, their motivation and fears. I enjoyed this: the main character Aman’s conflict with trying to accomplish what he wants while accepting how his actions have effects on others. Vir wants to be a super hero, but only if he can do it in the name of his country, India. Uzma does not want to be a super hero. She just wants to pretend nothing has changed and move on with her spectacular life, even though it’s her powers that are helping create it. Jai simply wants to rule the world; if people object, they die. Vir and Jai are clean cut hero and villain. However, what about the individuals in the middle who are deciding on how to best use their new powers without crossing the fine line of doing more harm than good?

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading its sequel, Resistance, at some point. This story ends at a good place so that I feel satisfied, but I am curious to see what is up next for our characters, especially after a conversation between a couple of them (I will not spoil). I think this book is good for readers who enjoy super heroes and understand how origin stories are developed. I also think this is a good read for the newer fans, so they can take their time and truly soak in the depth it takes for the development of a superhero, which cannot always be easily conveyed in a two-hour film.


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