Well this is fun! And different…
Aman Sen is smart, young, ambitious and going nowhere. But then he gets off a plane from London to Delhi and discovers that he has turned into a communications demigod. Indeed, everyone on Aman’s flight now has extraordinary abilities. Aman wants to heal the planet but with each step he takes, he finds helping some means harming others. Will it all end, as eighty years of superhero fiction suggest, in a meaningless, explosive slugfest?
Basu’s slick, pacey writing style is a very good fit for this particular take on the superhero trope – and before you roll your eyes and mutter that you’re fed up to the back teeth of all these overcharged beings zooming through the skies in skin-tight cossies, wearing their pants on the outside – give this particular book a go. For starters, being set in India immediately gives the book a different feel. Basu’s sharp descriptions of the backdrop and society bounce off the page, and the priorities and concerns of the characters are based around the fact that this is an Indian book about Indian superheroes.
The storyline rattles along at a fair old lick – Basu doesn’t hang around – and he manages to give us the different experiences of a number of the passengers on the London-Delhi flight and their character progression. This, for me, is what makes this book stand out. Basu sets up plenty of humorous moments – but that doesn’t stop him asking some penetrating questions about the nature of superhumanism and what it does to the recipient. There are some characters who react with predictable consequences – Jai, a committed patriot and professional soldier becomes a megalomaniac. And despite the chirpy feel of the writing, there is a great deal of death and destruction, along with some genuinely poignant moments.
However, there are some interesting consequences – I liked the fact that no one is left significantly unchanged by their ‘gifts’. And some of them manifest in unexpectedly interesting ways. Aman, as one of the main characters, makes some high-minded decisions to take money from the undeserving rich and bestow it onto the poor – which doesn’t work out as well as he’d hoped. While Uzma initially wants to capitalise on her superpower that makes everyone want to please her by becoming a Bollywood actress. However, things don’t quite pan out that way…
In fact, whenever I settled back down with the impression that I knew what would happen next, events proved me wrong. I’ve attempted to read several superhero books recently and haven’t managed to finish a single one on the grounds they were too predictably violent. There is plenty of blood and gore in this one – but nothing about it is predictable. The climax was suitably full of high-octane action with flashes of humour, some surprising deaths and an interesting twist at the end, which means I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, Resistance.