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Turbulence Whether or not you will like this playful novel about Indian superheroes depends largely on how much you like its distinctive voice Here’s the opening paragraphs#In 1984 Group Captain Balwant Singh of the Indian Air Force’s Western Air Command had dangled his then three year old son Vir off the edge of the uppermost tier of the Eiffel Tower in Paris nearly giving his gentle and hirsute wife Santosh Kaur a heart attack in the process With the mixture of casual confidence and lunacy that is the hallmark of every true fighter pilot Captain Singh had tossed his son up caught him in midair and held him over the railing for a while before setting him down safelyHis son’s future thus secured Balwant had turned to shut off his wife’s uncanny impersonation of a police siren with the wise words “Nonsense foolish woman See my tiger is not afraid at all He is born for the sky just like me Vir say ‘Nabha Sparsham Deeptam’”Vir had not been in the mood for the Indian Air Force motto at that point his exact words had been “MAA”All these years later Vir still remembers that first flight with astonishing clarity the sudden weightlessness the deafening sound of his own heart beating the blur of the world tilting around him the slow motion appearance of first the white dome of Sacré Coeur and then a wispy white cloud shaped like Indira Gandhi’s hair behind his flailing red Bata Bubble Gummers shoes His father had said that moment had shaped his destiny given him wingsBut his father isn’t here now Flight Lieutenant Vir Singh is all alone in the sky#Vir like the other superheroes got his powers on a commercial flight to Mumbai; why and how this occurred is never explained and doesn’t matter The powers derive from the characters’ deepest desires so Vir an all Indian hero became Superman; Uzma a British Pakistani aspiring actress is loved by everyone she meets; Tia a discontented mom who wishes she’d made different life choices gets the ability to generate copies of herself One guy gets the power to control weather based on the condition of his stomach but exactly what this power means to him is not exploredThe characters’ knowledge of superheroes and the fact that most of the superheroes they know of are not Indian provides a lot of the comedy and social commentary of the book as they discover that all the good superhero names in English are taken and the Hindi alternates are incomprehensible or unpronounceable to a global audience Vir’s suggestion based on the highest Indian military decoration is shot down due to no one who isn’t in the Indian Air Force having heard of it And is a giant superhero battle with lots of property destruction the inevitable climax of any superhero story? The characters are lightly but vividly sketched They’re types rather than well rounded characters but they’re fun types My favorites were Uzma who just wants to be famous Tia whose power is badass than it sounds and the super baby or rather the hilariously bonkers cult following attracted by the super baby But the wry narration was my favorite part of the book tossing off uips and references like a never ending shower of brightly colored confetti There is a seuel which I will definitely read but this book ends conclusively I think the seuel takes place several years later and mostly involves different characters I tried I really did Thrice Stopped at the second chapter on the first try Couldn't go past the 25% mark on my third try I give upThe story is about a bunch of people getting superpowers based on their heart's deepest desires all because they happened to be on a certain British Airways flight There's a villian trying to kill 'em all of course there is and an undecided character who might be a friend or a foe I stopped reading before this was revealed perhaps This whole plot sounded very interesting but once I got reading it just couldn't keep me interested There were a lot of things happening true but it was very insipid and bland for want of better words It was dry I wasn't looking forward to turning the pagesSo I gave up I loved Simouin Prophecies but this one just didn't do it for me Of late I seem to be rather adept at finding and reading lacklustre books Here is another one with a terribly disjointed storyline and droll attempts at humorA review is beyond me for I cannot think up of anything to compensate the time spent trying to read this I tried an incremental approach 25 pages at first a hesitant 50 pages and finally a last ditch 100 pages and nothing changed That was it Let me begin by saying I have very mixed feelings about this bookFirst the positives There are uite a few of them My favorite part is how Basu's writing cleverly inverts tropes and stereotypes turning them upside down The language itself is evocative without trying too hard and features sly turns of phrases witty references and jokes and a very authentic mature Indian voice that isn't insecure of its identity The characters are mostly well written choosing what they choose for complex reasons that keep changing as they process their new powersIf that sounds interesting to you do check out Basu's Gameworld Trilogy which starts with The Simoin Prophecies It features his signature aversion to tropes as well as his influence from Indian themesNow for the negatives This book gets uite meandering after the first half or so and the plot goes around in circles before ending with one of the worst endings I've ever read in a book that isn't otherwise horrible A lot of the characters barely feature in the story for a few pages and you wonder what was the point of including them at all There are also plenty of loose ends and chapters that go nowhere Plus one of the main characters I'm not saying which one ends up being very little than literally just a pretty face in sharp contrast to the other characters who are three dimensionalNo seriously the ending is that bad It's a deus ex machina that comes completely out of left field and what makes it worse is how it's at odds with the clever subversion of lazy tropes and convenient endings the book features up until then It's a huge let down and it effectively makes the entire second half of the book practically just filler contentThe book is a fun read that features some great witty clever writing with very imaginative trope subversion this is not your standard fare Bollywoodsuperhero movie Just don't expect it to go anywhere or to get any real closure out of the plot When Aman Sen gets off a plane from London to Delhi he discovers that he and everyone on his flight now has extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires Aman wants to heal the planet but with each step he takes he finds helping some means harming others Will it all end as 80 years of super hero fiction suggest in a meaningless explosive slugfest At the moment superheroes are hip and smart Films such as the rebooted The Amazing Spider Man due any time now as I type Iron Man the third instalment now being filmed and The Dark Knight also the third incarnation of the Nolanverse Batman due this summer are all current The Avengers is one of the biggest grossing movies of all time TV series such as Heroes and Alphas have raised the awareness although admittedly in the case of Heroes crashed and burned in the end In text George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series has had a rebirth and books such as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible seem to have tapped into this zeitgeistIn such a fervent atmosphere I think Samit Basu’s novel Turbulence will be enormousIt is unabashedly a new style modern superhero novel with a distinctive twist It is also current smart energetic and a sparkling readThe story’s setup is fairly simple On a plane journey from London to Delhi Aman Sen and his fellow passengers 403 of them experience something strange and the result is that everyone who disembarks in Delhi has superhuman abilities Each one is different Aman’s skill is the ability to access global communication networks without euipment Others on the plane have similar strange powers we have hopeful Bollywood actress Uzma who seems to charm everyone she meets Vir who can fly at supersonic speeds without mechanical means Tia who can be in than one place at once Throw in a mad scientist and his crackpot inventions and you have a Justice League team to end all Justice League teams or rather “World Changing Super Suad” as one of the characters calls themselvesThe key plot point is this when being given such gifts what do you do? Do you aim for helping the masses organise world peace stop wars make life better or do you concentrate on getting what you want at the expense of others?Samit’s book looks at these thorny uestions Some of the solutions and their conseuences are realistic intelligent and thought through effectively To paraphrase the book takes on the old Spider Man adage ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ or even simpler ‘all actions have conseuences’ and then follows them through to some interesting conclusions Aman’s attempts to bring about world peace support environmental concerns and reduce global ineuality ultimately lead to of the same the bad guys simply find new ways of carrying on what went on beforeAnd when one of the newly enhanced humans decides that the way forward for global domination is to rule by fear rather than reason then Aman and many of the other characters here are divided in their actions Do they support him in his aims for the greater good or denounce him as a misguided despot? Some of the choices made in what Aman calls his ‘Face Darth Vader’ moment are not what we would usually expectThere are some lovely set pieces as the team discover and increase their new powers A showdown between two brothers from an Indian gangster family who were on the plane and the rest of the team is brilliant in its pace and execution The ultimate showdown at the end of the book in London is as exciting as you would hope for and not entirely what you expectThis is good in itself But what is most impressive is that the book takes common traditional superheroes themes and then writes about them from a very different perspective Whilst some of the ideas are not new see the list of other similarly themed work at the beginning of this review as most of the action takes place not in the traditional locale of the US but in Asia in India there is a different outlook to the superhero mythology that is uite refreshing and not something you would normally read in say a Marvel comic book Turbulence involves topics as diverse as Bollywood cricket media networks celebrity hype and Hindu god worship The characters are of varying social backgrounds and each has enough variety to be both diverse and engagingMost of all the frenetic pace is great and the dialogue fizzes with whip sharp uips and comments It’s smart it’s funny it’s intelligently witty it’s greatThis was a welcome and very pleasant surprise Think of it as Heroes meets Slumdog Millionaire or Ian McDonald meets Stan Lee Once started I found it difficult to put down Loved loved LOVED it Review originally posted by me on UKTurbulence is a book about super humans Now I'm the kind of person who likes his super humans confined to comic books and movies so from the idea of a superhero novel is foreign to me as such reviewing one is eually foreign so I'll start from the beginningAs with many books I find that the front cover provides me with no information about what I am about to read It does however contain a uote you'll demand a seuel Ben Aaronovitch I haven't the faintest idea who that man is but I share the sentiment I hereby demand a seuel So if the cover puts you off ignore it you're missing something goodSo onto the book This book has an interesting take on superheroes In a set up some may find familiar from the TV show 'heroes' seemingly random people gain seemingly random powers and proceed to do things with them However UNLIKE the heroes this book handles the subject well The characters are likable Their reactions to things are believable Their powers make senseWe learn early on that these powers come from whatever the person wanted Specifically what they dreamed about It was interesting to discover what the characters powers really were what they wanted and why More importantly it had me thinking what power I would have wanted in the same situation What would I have doneThe book handles 2 things exceptionally well as far as I am concerned1 Powers origins2 ReactionsPowersOne initial concern I had before reading this book which is the same before I see anything that deals with a 'new' superhero setting was how the powers are handled Will I just read 400 pages of generic insert DCMarvel hero here rip off? The answer to this is no BE WARNED in the beginning we are introduced to Vir aka superman This may seem like a cop out but it leads me to origins Vir is a fighter pilot Vir's FATHER was a fighter pilot Vir wanted to be the best BUT he is also for some reason claustrophobic His desire to be able to do his job without being cooped up in a fighter cockpit makes sense at least that's how I read it feel free to correct me This is the case with all the powers I'm seen but I refuse to state and ruin it Good origins make for sensible and in some cases seemingly useless powersReactionsIgnoring individual character reactions to their own powers and various plot points which were very good this is about something bigger We have a superhero team do we tell the world? The book contains a phrase something along the lines of 'Superman is real and he isn't American' How can you convince the world your hero group works for everyone when all but one member is Indian? How can you prevent wars being waged when countries start blaming India for unexplained disasters? The book handles uestions like these except it asks them better and gives brilliant answersBasically I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone with an interest in actionsuper powers but also to anyone else This book asks important uestions and answers them and I think there is at least something in it that will keep most people reading An unlikely combination of engaging humour and a juvenile storyMr Basu's writing is witty and humorous and very refreshing to read It is really uniue irreverent sharp and demonstrates an understanding of the melting pot that is contemporary India I really enjoyed the first few chapters Really did Till the story kicked inThink of Wodehouse for instance The story in any of his novels is incidental A mere pretext a place holder for his writing It is his writing that one really enjoys Mr Basu must stick to something like that His attempt to have a story here is a disasterHis humour is multi layered and will be appreciated by adults Those who have the ability to appreciate it will see a lot of humour But the comic book story of super heroes won't appeal to anyone but kids and teens who can't appreciate the depth of his humor What's the point? Neither can appreciate bothIt's like serving noodles and sambarReview also posted here Will it all end as eighty years of superhero fiction suggest in a meaningless explosive slugfest?Yes Yes it willI like the idea of this book; a non US centric take on the superhero myth challenging the way the world is set up to work etc And for the first couple of chapters I hold out hope that it'll be a fun mashup of say Heroes and The Satanic Verses In the end though despite a few hints at interesting ideas I find myself bored with it by the halfway mark The characters are flat and fickle Basu's prose reads like an excited fan's retelling of any action laden MCU movie and the only thing that makes me finish the book is that I'd forgotten to bring another one Although it was pretty good it didn't keep me engaged I would often stop after half a chapter then start again I still wanted to finish it I just personally didn't find much excitement is this book

About the Author: Samit Basu

Samit Basu is an Indian novelist film director and screenwriterSamit's most recent novel Chosen Spirits an anti dystopian novel set in Delhi in the late 2020s was published by Simon and Schuster India in 2020 was critically acclaimed and a bestseller in multiple categories in India In books Samit is best known for his fantasy and science fiction work His first novel The Simoin Prophecie

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