Book Review Turbulence
Superpowers On A Plane
Author Samit Basu choreographs a bizarre tale of how passengers on British Airways 142 mysteriously got superpowers based on their desires or dreams. Remember the saying, be careful what you wish for?
When Uzma Abidi boarded the London to Delhi flight, she was determined to be a big Bollywood actress, as in Aishwarya Rai. Her superpower is that people just love her, which results in meetings with movers and shakers in the industry within a week of arrival in Mumbai. Incredible!
Vir Singh, a captain in the Indian Airforce who was also on flight BA 142, wanted to fly. Now he can, not in government planes but on his own. Yes. A human being with the superpower to fly.
Aman Sen was also on that plane. His superpower is information overload, a digital freak, an über hacker. He swims in a ‘digital ocean’ as the author puts it.
He can read your e-mail, hear what people say on the phone anywhere in the world, or steal money from your account and give it to ‘save the environment’ groups. This is how he explains his power in Chapter Four.
“My powers let me hook up on to anything on a network, computers, phones, satellites, all sorts of stuff.” Page 61.
The Mad Scientist
Sundar Narayan’s superpower is inventing things. He is my favourite character because of the reason why he was on that plane. He was returning from another meeting.
He is a physicist and all he ever wanted to do, was to create things but his job sent him on endless conferences and meetings and there was this constant pressure to write something for academic journals.
Now he is as happy as a lark because he is assembling an electronic thing which might be human, animal or both.
His invention is reminiscent of Chitti the robot in Enthiran, S. Shankar’s film about a brilliant scientist, Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth), who made Chittti so that he can fight India’s wars and spare men from dying on the battlefield.
Power To Duplicate Yourself
Tia runs around fetching complicated electronic parts for Sundar’s creation and generally runs the house on Yari Road where they live.
Her superpower is that she duplicates herself, a character that also reminded me of Enthiran, because Chitti the evil robot duplicates itself.
Why does Tia have this superpower? Oppressive in-laws. “I just wanted a life of my own, you know? I’ve often wished I could be several people. Travel, live several lives, learn so many things. This power is amazing.”
The book does not list the superpowers of all the passengers on that British Airways flight for obvious reasons. They were 400.
However, this short review must mention Namrata, the irritating television journalist who has a nose for news. She is always on the spot where mobs are just about to attack a popular cricketer or where a pregnant woman dies after giving birth to a child that looks like one of India's religious Gods.
Power To Change The World
Bollywood movies and their staple superhero storyline are the springboard for this review.
Some readers will recognise traces of Hollywood superheroes such as Batman or Superman. Readers who collect comic books will see superheroes that were on printed pages long before the first director said ‘Action.’
Chapter Four is critical because it explains how the superpowers work. The dilemma now is how Aman, Sundar, Tia, Namrata or Uzma use them to make the world a better place.
Jai, one of the characters has decided to use his power for global domination. Come to think of it, Jai is not a bad guy because he is selfish in capital letters.
Namrata is as selfish as they come. She wants to be the best T.V. journalist in India but hides behind lofty ideals like chasing real stories. It’s important to finish the book to find out how Namrata’s superpowers unfold.
Stereotypes About Africa
Turbulence is based mainly in India, with the latter part of the story moving to London.
Politics are Indian; the India-Pakistan conflict is fictionalized in Vir and his boss Jai; cricket maverick Sachin Tendulkar is mentioned; Aishwara Rai represents Bollywood, means of transport are Indian, so is some of the food.
The decision to have Aman steal money electronically and give it to organisations working in Somalia is an ongoing decision by authors and publishers to only mention Africa in a sorry state. There seems to be no attempt in fiction to mention the continent in a positive light.
Because the novel is set in India, Aman could have diverted it to NGO’s that deal with poverty and other social skills in that country.
Africa’s labelling in fiction is unfortunate bearing in mind that Europe is still enjoying the riches from free gold, diamond, copper and coal mining, deforestation, false religion like Christianity and slave labour, under the guise of civilisation, which is now exposed as a lie. The best modus operandi is not to mention Africa at all in fiction.
Otherwise, Turbulence is a good read, a selfish read if I may add, selfish because I couldn’t start other books without fully understanding the Aman-Jai-Namrata trilogy.