Written by: Samit Basu
Published by: Titan Books
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
This is my first time reviewing a novel. For the most part my reviews are usually of the comic book or cinematic variety. I’ll be the first to admit….I don’t get a chance these days to read actual books. Between my job, my family responsibilities, this website, and various other small projects I’m lucky if I get to sit down and read a magazine article these days much less a book. It’s not that I don’t like to read. I love a good book. It’s just that finding the time to read that good book tends to be a bit of a challenge these days.
So when my contact at Titan Books offered to send me Turbulence for review purposes I was a bit hesitant. Not because I doubted that the fine folks at Titan Books could publish a good book. It was because I was more concerned with my ability to commit to reading a full-length novel. But when I did a bit more research into subject matter behind Turbulence and found that it dealt with people in India discovering they had superpowers…well, let’s just say that I was more than intrigued. Being that the superhero is very much an American invention I was very curious to see what kind of twist an author from another culture could add to a concept that has grown somewhat weary since its almost one hundred year inception. What would people who had grown up with different ideals than those of mom, dad, and apple pie do once granted with abilities beyond those of mortal men? How would someone who was raised in Mumbai react when given superpowers? Just how different would a superman (or superwoman) be if they were raised in the Republic of India and not the good ‘ol U. S. of A.?
These were all the questions that compelled me to pick up Turbulence and make time to read it. Unfortunately, all of those questions were also what would lead to my initial disappointment with the book. I had set my expectations up for somewhat of a cultural revelation and what author Samit Basu gave me was much of the same type of super heroics that fanboys like myself have been exposed to for most of our comic book collecting lives. While, yes, the characters that inhabit Turbulence are citizens of India and they are slightly different in nature than your stereotypical American action heroes, for the most part they are very similar to much of what’s come before in the genre. Mr. Basu is obviously writing for a Western audience in Turbulence. Unfortunately, because of this, he never really takes the concept of superheroes anywhere new in this novel. Much of the beginning of the book reads much like the first season of Heroes or even the British TV show Misfits. I suppose my preliminary dashed expectations were very much due to wanting something different from the book because the author and his characters were from another country. What I wanted from Turbulence was a view into a different world than I’d already been exposed to and it didn’t necessarily provide that. I’m more than willing to admit that my slight disillusionment with Turbulence could be due to some sort of strange misconception I may have with Eastern culture. Maybe I assumed too much in my preconceived notion that Turbulence’s setting would provide something unique in the pantheon of super heroic storytelling. If this book has done anything it’s reminded me that no matter how far apart we are on the planet…many of us may have more in common with one another than we care to admit. What Samit Basu’s novel has shown me, really, is that the concepts behind super beings and the yearnings that drive them are actually universal.
But what Turbulence lacked in cultural diversity it absolutely made up for with a compelling super heroic adventure. When I decided to take it for what it was and not keep looking at it for what I wanted it to be, I was able to see that Basu’s novel is actually one of the better narratives featuring meta-humans that I’ve ever read. Turbulence begins innocuously enough by maintaining its focus on a small group of super people existing in the “real” world but before you know it Basu has taken the realm he’s created and spun it on its head and flung the reader headlong into four color world of over the top super heroism. Basu pulls a literary sleight of hand in the novel leading the reader to believe that they are to be confined to a world of super people they’d find in a prime time TV show, a world limited to small time supers that can’t accomplish much with the abilities they’re given. Midway through the book, however, the stakes are jacked up and Basu leads his readers into a world that lives up to the scale of any X-Men or Justice League adventure that’s ever graced the pages of a comic book.
Basu knows what works in the genre and he knows how to keep things fun. Turbulence balances itself between many things: super hero deconstruction, large scale widescreen blockbuster action pieces, and interpersonal relationship dramatics. Turbulence is a perfectly balanced soup of super hero derring-do lifted from the pages of a comic book and played out brilliantly through the prose of a novel. It’s an entertaining read that keeps the story moving at a breakneck pace. Everything in Turbulence works just as it should and Basu gives comic and non-comic fans an exploit that’s an enjoyable read from the first page to the last. Turbulence delivers what it sets out to deliver…a super hero tale that lives up to the comics it was obviously inspired by.
I was actually very surprised by how much I ended up liking this book. Generally, I don’t seek out novels about super heroes. I tend to leave the super stuff for the comic pages. My train of thought tends to be that the comics deliver this type of story so well that a novel wouldn’t be able to deliver a super power fable as powerfully as the pages of a comic book would. Samit Basu’s Turbulence has me re-assessing that way of thinking and I know that when the sequel to Turbulence is released next month that I will be one of the first people to pick it up. If you’re a fan of comics or just high adventure I’d highly recommend picking up this book. It’ll take you into a world of super humanity that will remind you of why you started loving super people in the first place.