Turbulence, by Samit Basu


 The cover doesn’t do justice to the book.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I laughed, cried, or gasped while reading Samit Basu‘s Turbulence.  But I also didn’t put it down once I’d picked it up, and I most certainly do demand a sequel.  I’m not sure how I couldn’t, after having happily finished the book in one day.

This book is profoundly easy to read.  Some stories are told in a way that defies accessibility, that requires you to think hard and work your way through the language to the story underneath.  This is not one of them.  Instead, Basu’s descriptions of the world surrounding our protagonists are offered offhand, seemingly effortless in the way that they paint a picture of the world.  The first analogy that comes to mind is watching Bob Ross paint his happy clouds; one minute there’s a blank blue sky, and the next there are beautiful fluffy cumulus floating in it.  He hardly seems to exert himself beyond the bare minimum necessary, and yet a whole world drifts into being over the course of a few words.  Basu certainly relies on his audience to fill in the gaps, as we always do, but each time he conjures up another tiny detail or reminds me of the appearance of some particular piece of scenery, everything flows together again.

Turbulence is the story of what happens when a single plane full of people are all granted superpowers for no apparent reason.  By focusing on the many and varied people aboard BA flight 142 from London to Delhi, Samit Basu offers a superhero story about people who aren’t American (though American superhero comics exist and are referenced), and in which women aren’t automatically relegated to the status of sex-objects.  I really liked it.  Heck, I think even Spaige would like it.  I wasn’t especially surprised by the twists that Basu provided, but I enjoyed all of them and I loved the end of the story.  Now I can’t wait for more.  Fortunately, it looks like I won’t have to, since the sequel comes out in July.

More after the break.

Turbulence isn’t a very long book, and yet it somehow feels like it encompasses a great deal more ground than it actually covers.  I think this is due in part to Basu’s sparse and fairly rapid style, the way that he shifts from one scene to the next as soon as he’s established whatever he wanted to cover.  I admire the way in which he spares so little time for unnecessary details or scenes, and I can only imagine that he’s put a great deal of time into editing down his own work in order to cut away all extraneous detail.  It’s something that I’d very much like to practice more myself.

Going hand in hand with that, the pace shifts rapidly at times yet still manages to hold my focus.  I wouldn’t have expected such fast-paced shifts, moving from slow to fast to slow and back again, as I’m more used to a consistently rising action.  But they work well here, and finish out with all the requisite features of a good climax.  Better yet, they cover a broad and internally convincing shift in the characters’ beliefs, setting up a series of transformations that lie at the heart of where I think the sequel is going to start, and from which I believe it will grow.

Now, some superhero stories feel really stupid because the supers themselves appear to fundamentally lack an understanding of the potentials of their powers.  That doesn’t happen here.  I certainly think that there are points at which the powered people don’t fully make use of their abilities, but I didn’t notice any particular time at which the characters seemed to fail due to their own stupidity, or due to stupidity enforced on them by the plot rather than because it seemed like what they would do.  It didn’t seem like anyone had to hold the idiot ball for a long period of time, and I didn’t notice the idiot ball truly crippling any given individual the way that it does in any number of other superhero narratives.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all of the stupidity I see in this appears to be something that follows directly out of the characters themselves.  Some people lack much imagination, and that’s made pretty clear.  Some are very nearly trapped within their own archetypes.  But it feels genuine rather than forced, and I really like the end result.

I’m going to avoid giving you any outright spoilers, so I’ll leave it there.  Check this book out.



2 responses to “Turbulence, by Samit Basu

  1. Pingback: Resistance, by Samit Basu | Fistful of Wits

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Superhero Action Abounds in Resistance | FanGirlConfessions.com

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