Friday, July 20, 2012

Turbulence, by Samit Basu, a heady opus

Un-freakin'-putdownable! That's the first thing I must say about Turbulence, the latest novel by the young (well, almost a decade younger than I am!) author Samit Basu. [-Ahem!-] In the spirit of gratuitous shoulder-rubbing, he is an alumni of my alma mater! [-Ahem!-] It is difficult to review this book without enthusiastically letting out spoilers (I am trying hard not to gush... Stay with me, people!), but I'll try.

Basu writes with élan, making an unlikely story believable; in the universe of popular perception that is largely-dominated by American (and occasionally European) superheroes, he has made his superhero/metahuman characters, endowed with extraordinary superhuman powers, unapologetically Indian (to the extent of putting in - without explanation - regional Indian words, such as Bhajan, which may be unfamiliar to a non-Indian audience), and - what's more - he has made it stick, too. I particularly liked the idea of these characters eventually transitioning themselves, from Indian citizens to citizens of the world, champions of humanity as a whole. Suffused with wit and charm, as well as occasional clever mentions of pop-culture references on the sly, the story takes the reader through an incredible and breathless, edge-of-the-seat, roller-coaster ride of a journey.

Basu's strength, unarguably, lies in the narrative - a fact which jives well with his authorship of comic-book (a.k.a. graphic novel in the US) stories. In fact, he is one of the first popular Indian authors to have crossed over to the graphic novel genre and done interesting work there. In Turbulence, the whole narrative is so well illustrated with words, that the reader simply has to close one's eyes in between, and the story elements - the locations, the characters, the events - vividly appear and unfold in glorious three-dimensional detail onto two dimensions, much like a graphic novel/comic book, providing a tongue-to-the-wind vicarious thrill. Therefore, while I don't know if in the eyes of an intellectual (which I'm, emphatically, not) this would qualify as 'literature', but it's one hell of an enjoyable and exciting story. In fact, c'est brilliant!
Turbulence, by Samit Basu

Turbulence was originally published in 2010 (Have I been living under a rock? Why did I not read this earlier?!) in India by Hatchette India (a division of Hatchette UK). Earlier this month (July 6, 2012), Titan Publications released the book in paperback and kindle formats in the UK market, with the US release slated for sometime in 2013. Why this "wicked-stepmother"-like treatment towards the US, I don't know; apparently neither does the author. However, having breathlessly devoured, and being enthralled by, Basu's previous fantasy-genre opus, collectively known as the Gameworld Trilogy, I couldn't wait. Oh no. I hunted down a US seller specializing in exotic books (via Amazon US) and placed an order for the Hatchette India published edition. It took its time, finally arriving yesterday; I extracted it from our mailbox upon returning from work late in the evening, and thereafter, I was dead to the world. Dinner ate itself; my ever-favorite Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and Colbert on the telly came and went their sad way without finding me. Sheer exhaustion from the day dragged me to sleep at page 253; at work in the morning, I found a nice, quiet corner away from the lab, and unrepentantly immersed myself in the quest of finding out what happened to the protagonists, finally taking a breath at page 337. I heartily recommend the exhilarating experience.

If you haven't read the book, do NOT read ahead!

Immersed deep into the glorious Marvel Universe (Go ahead, call me a geek!), I have some appreciation of comic book story lines. And therefore, I agree when author Ben Aaronovitch (of Doctor Who fame) indicates, in the blurb on the front cover, that the reader "... will demand a sequel!"

You peeked, didn't you? This is your last chance to turn back without reading the spoilers.

I made some curious and interesting observations related to the "sequelability" of Turbulence.
Hide SPOILERS, but oh! What's the use.
So, yes. Absolutely ripe for sequels. So when's the next, Samit?


  1. I am not reading this book but I am, definitely, reading anything, everything that you are going to write for us. I always think who you remind be of, now I finally get it: Vladimir Nabokov. I read his Pale Fire and Lolita and, I can say that if you continue writing, you are not far from being the Indian Nabokov we'll all be proud of!

  2. That is high praise indeed. I am not sure I can ever do justice to it... But thank you.