I love Titan Books. Let me get that out right now. They produce a number of books on a number of topics that I enjoy — retro sci-fi (Flash Gordon), Sherlock Holmes, and much more. The only problem? Titan Books releases a lot of their books in the UK first, months before the US ever sees them. Thankfully I have someone there who doesn’t mind shipping books across the pond, even if I have to sit on book reviews for a bit before the book is released here.
Take Turbulence, for example. Written by Samit Basu, it’s a tale of normal folks discovering their new super powers. In India. I got a UK release copy last September (2012) and put out a review, but any reader wanting to grab a copy had to order internationally, complete with international shipping. But not anymore. Turbulence has just made its way to the US — and I’m not kidding here — if you like superhero stories and are looking for some truly unique powers AND a completely new locale, you MUST read Turbulence.
It. Is. That. Good. (And there’s a sequel — <guy squeal>)
Oh, and here’s an update on the sequel I just received:
Several years after the events of Turbulence, when the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi disembarked the plane to discover they possessed extraordinary powers linked to their innermost desires, Resistance transports the blockbuster action to New York, and introduces a brand-new cast of super-powered characters.
I’ve been enjoying a number of books recently that focus on superheroes. While comic books are the typical forum for origin stories, team formations, and ultimate battles between good and evil, books provide the deeper details that comic books usually cannot. Descriptions of events and locales are more detailed, the inner thoughts and struggles of the major characters are given more coverage, and plotting can go much deeper and be resolved much faster (instead of waiting months or even years for a comic book arc to be completed).
I’ve just completed Turbulence by Samit Basu, a writer from Delhi, India. Much of the story takes place in India with references to Indian television shows, celebrities, and sports teams, but despite these locale-related details, the story is outstanding.
Turbulence has it all — origin story, discovery and acceptance of superpowers, inevitable coming together of the heroes, inevitable rise of one key villain and his lesser-powered followers, and ultimate battle for the future of mankind. Oh, and did I mention that it’s got some hilarious dialogue and completely believable reactions from its primary characters who are all coming to grips with their new powers? (Just as I enjoy British television and humo(u)r, I am finding that reading a fiction story set in India with its culture that is unique to me is just as enjoyable.)
The story jumps right into the action, with one of the most powerful heroes, Vir, flying (illegally) into Pakistan to take out a nuclear research facility. Vir is a pilot in India’s Air Force, and he’s got a bit of a personal struggle developing as he has to weigh the orders he receives that are good for India against the results of his actions that may not necessarily be good for the rest of the world. And that’s a key theme throughout the book — just where does a superhero’s loyalty fall? In Turbulence, the surviving heroes are mostly Indian citizens. These Indian superheroes all started out as passengers on a single jet. They all had dreams and personal goals, and a few days after landing their powers began to manifest. And these powers were all related to needs that were currently unmet. Vir, for example, dreamed of flying… minus the jet. Sundar was a physicist, but dreamed of inventing devices that pushed the limits of current technology — he’s now the mad scientist holed up in an apartment with some of the other passengers. Tia, a wife and mother, is overtasked at home and just wishes their were more of her to spread around — she can now split herself into multiple bodies capable of merging together later and blending their experiences. These are the heroes, and there are many more. Those not of Indian nationality have disappeared, and the government is on the hunt for those hiding out in fear of being discovered and exploited. Or worse.
And then there are the villains. Vir’s got a superior officer who has been tasked with capturing the others and putting their powers to work for India. Or so the Indian government thinks. Jai has his own agenda, and I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that he is one bad person. He’s surrounded himself with a few loyal supervillains and uses blackmail and threats of violence to family and loved ones to keep the others obedient. His hunt to grow his team is where the majority of the book’s story develops, especially when he begins to hear rumors of one woman’s ability to see the future and turns on the heat. (Heroes die, so be warned.)
Aman is trying his best to use his powers to improve the world. He can access anything digital — Internet, mobile phones, security systems, radio, and much more. He has no problems moving a few billion dollars from a corporation’s coffers to a non-profit using online banking technology. He releases dozens of censored videos and documents to news organizations around the globe. And he disables the navigation systems on all the nuclear missiles worldwide. Oh, and he might have accidentally given the Internet sentience.
Aman is all about gathering the heroes and fighting back. But he’s not ready for the reality of fights between heroes and villains. And as heroes begin to fall left and right, he’s just not certain if he’s up to dealing with the fallout of his actions and the actions of those he’s trying to lead. He’s trying to convince Vir that his allegiance should first be to the Earth, and then to India… but try telling that to any career soldier!
Of course, the story builds to the climactic battle between heroes and villains. Jai’s got London held hostage and is itching for a fight with Vir. Aman and Tia and a few others are also heading to London for a showdown in which they believe they already know the outcome. But it wouldn’t be a superhero story without a few twists and turns… a traitor or two… and some difficult decisions that all heroes must make to be called true heroes. It’s a worthy fight, and reminded me that the best fiction tales of good versus evil never end the way you wish.
Sequel? Absolutely! Resistance is due out in Summer 2013, and, based on some of the hints and clues dropped throughout the book, there’s plenty of room left for another great superhero story. How did these people get their powers? Are they the only ones to develop powers? What happens when the rest of the world sees one country become the most powerful nation overnight? And how will non-powered citizens of the world react to the (now public) knowledge that superpowers exist, including powered super-villains?
Be sure to checkout Basu’s post titled You Have (1) Superhero Upgrades Available — a nice little post on the realities of being a superhero in today’s Twitter-fed and lawsuit-happy world.