Like his bestselling Gameworld trilogy (The Simoquin Prophecies, The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations), Samit Basu’s new novel is referential and wry, spinning traditional myths of the hero to create a tale brimming with humour and novelty.
Turbulence is the story of ordinary, unwitting people inexplicably endowed with superpowers on a flight from London to Delhi—powers they’ve always yearned for. Some of these superpowers you’d expect; others, not so much.
Marginalised Aman Sen suddenly has access to the entire internet. Tia, who never seems to have enough time to do everything she wants to, can clone herself at will. Aspiring actress Uzma is now irresistibly likeable. Others have superpowers that tap more dangerous yearnings—to rule the world, to break things and kill people.
They align in the age-old formation of good guys versus baddies, but this novel is set in the real world, and these super-temperamental people live and act in real shades of grey. Putting the human back in superhuman is, in fact, the novel’s greatest success, and the source of much humour. (The good guys complain that all the really cool powers and names and costumes are already taken, and “the Rural Infrastructure Development League comics wouldn’t really sell well next to Bondage Wonder Woman.”)
The epic fight does go on a bit—you can see, frame-by-frame, the inevitable movie to follow—and not every loose thread is tied up, but on the whole this is a sharp, rollicking, oddly tender bit of entertainment. Manufacturing that seems to be Basu’s superpower.