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Turbulence by Samit Basu

01/08/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker

Buy Turbulence in the USA - or Buy Turbulence in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 359 page paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78116-119-7).

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I do love books about super-heroes and I'm not just talking about the common garden variety such as Spiderman, Batman, Superman and the X-Men. I like the alternative little known super-heroes and Samit Basu's 'Turbulence' novel delivers a planeload of new ones. The central character is Aman Sen, who was on the British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Delhi, and discovers after arrival, that he has turned into a super-hero with special powers, a reflection of what the person was dreaming of while on the rather long flight from London. In Aman's case, his powers allow him to interact with any telecommunications device directly using only his mind.

Aman is a good man at heart and wants to use his powers to help the poor and disadvantaged of the world and allows him to access bank accounts, e-mail systems and just about anything he needs to make changes. Unfortunately, these actions have unforeseen consequences directly making the lives of a lot of people even worse. Aman is also aware that other passengers on the flight have also developed powers but unfortunately, someone else seems intent on hunting these people down and eliminating them. Using his powers, Aman brings together the passengers he can contact with the aim of building a super-hero team to change the world and to provide protection against the mysterious people hunting down the new super-heroes.

It is during Aman's attempts to recruit new members that we are introduced to the main characters of the novel. Uzma Abidi is a Bollywood hopeful who, on arrival from London, sets about trying to win an acting role in a major film production with remarkable results. Tia dreamed of a photograph album featuring her in all the photographs doing something different. Flight Lieutenant Vir Singh of the Indian air force who must have been dreaming of flying completes the cast of 'good guys'. Arrayed against them are an assortment of other characters that range from evil through bad to deluded. It seems Vir Singh was not the only military person on the fateful flight and they have very different ideas of what to do with their powers.

The plot of the novel is heavily influenced by comicbooks. There is a team of good guys and there is a team of bad guys, only the latter seems to have all the best powers. As is traditional, there are major battles between the two sides and surprisingly a few deaths. That's a few deaths of the super-heroes as ordinary humans die by the bucket-load. The story is initially set in India before moving location to Goa for an explosive slugfest between the bad guys, helped by some captured good guys, and some very nasty Indian criminals with super-powers. The survivors are inexorably drawn to London for the ultimate showdown with the super-arch-villain, Jai. I am purposely not saying very much about Jai as it would spoil the plot. The ending is possibly the weakest part of the story and, while it does conclude the events satisfactorily, it does feel like a bit of a cop-out. However, there are more than enough loose ends to drive a sequel.

What sets this book apart from other super-hero novels I have read is the nature of the powers people acquire after dreaming on that fateful flight. Some people were dreaming of being very strong while others were dreaming of becoming a singer or doing magic tricks. This makes it more interesting as not everyone had a secret desire to be a Superman. As someone who never remembers his dreams, I would be interested to see what powers I would get. Assuming it is related to my hobbies or ambitions, I can see the arch-villain cowering in fear trying to surrender as I create yet another exquisite Bonsai tree from an oak sapling in the blink of an eye using my new super-human power.

As the characters come to terms with their powers, they also start to question how they can and should use those powers. There is no defence against some powers other than killing the super-hero. It is also possible that one power in particular makes it possible for the hero to remove all knowledge that the power has been used to achieve an objective. This makes it very dangerous indeed. There is also a growing separation between the super-powered people and normal humanity.

It is worth mentioning that in the notes about the author section, it says that 'Samit Basu is one of India's most talented and prolific young writers'. Having read 'Turbulence', I can see why he might get such praise. 'Turbulence' is an entertaining fast-paced story that manages to cover some complex issues and the attention to detail for the various locations is superb. When I next walk by Hamleys Toy Shop in Regent Street, I shall be thinking of Aman Sen's little visit there. Samit Basu has some serious talent for telling a story and I look forward to reading 'Resistance', the sequel to 'Turbulence'.

Andy Whitaker

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