“What would you do if you suddenly found yourself with super powers?”
It is a common question asked by comic book fans and less-nerdy folk alike, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a question filled with possibilities, and the answers are always more revealing of the person than you would imagine. Would you want great strength to protect or intimidate others? Would you fly to escape the boundaries of the world? Would you create more of yourself or teleport to be in as many places as possible? No one wishes for power purely for the sake of it; there’s always a reason, and that is part of what makes Resistance, the latest novel from Samit Basu such a compelling read.
Resistance is the sequel to Basu’s earlier novel, Turbulence, a story in which a group of ordinary people fall asleep on a plane traveling from London to Delhi, and after a night of strange dreams they awake to a world in which the impossible has suddenly been made real. Each person finds themselves gifted with an extraordinary ability born from their deepest subconscious desire and truest nature. Among this group of nascent super humans is a frustrated scientist with the ability to create the impossible machines he once dreamt of as a child; a young woman, who once yearned for the chance to start anew, with the power to duplicate herself endlessly; and finally a man, once a shut-in and internet addict, now able to speak to computers more fluently than to people. These among many others enter a world unsuspecting of their existence, and while some become heroes, and other villains, all of them choose to use their gifts to transform the world around them.
Eleven years after the events of Turbulence, the new world of Resistance has replaced a once familiar reality. Since that first fateful flight, entire waves of new super humans have come into being, and the world has changed radically as a result. Because of super humans, new, nearly impossible advances have been made in every aspect of society, including technology, architecture, and medical science. However, with great benefits have also come great dangers. In addition to the destruction caused by heroes and villains fighting their titanic battles, a new power has risen in the shadows. Using unnatural powers and old-fashioned financial influence, these people have begun to slowly carve the world to their liking. Suddenly the world’s heroes find themselves facing an opponent willing to build a utopia on the cooling bodies of over half the world’s population.
The work and detail Basu puts into constructing his world of super humans is phenomenal to say the least. In the telling of the story he manages to build a realistic society in which humans and super humans try and live together, while also parodying all of the favorite tropes from the comic industry’s favorite genre. It’s a world in which a villain manufactures and dispatches a giant monster to destroy Tokyo at the same time every weel, while the heroes wait patiently at the shoreline so news helicopters can catch the full story. It’s a world where super lawyers sweep the globe for super hero copyright infringements. It’s a world where the statue of liberty has been destroyed and completely rebuilt countless times because every villain trying to make a name for themselves decides to attack it. It’s these details and many others of Basu’s story that draw the reader in and make them think, if only once, “Yeah, I probably would do that if I had super powers.”
The characters, whether human, hero, and villain, are strong and well-developed. The world they live in is clearly vast, without the details of it seeming too general or too numerous. The tone of the story is the perfect balance of witty, action packed, self-referential, and strangely real given the premise. If there is a better series out there about post-modern super heroics, I have yet to see it. I genuinely hope this is not the final chapter in this wonderful world Basu has created, because this is one literary ride I’m not quite ready to leave behind.