Resistance by Samit Basu
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Superheroes / Science Fiction / Fantasy|
|Release Date:||July 8, 2014 (US) July 2014 (UK)|
This review contains spoilers for Turbulence. Read with caution if you have yet to finish the first book.
Resistance is the sequel to the brilliant superhero novel Turbulence, in which the passengers on a flight from London to Delhi develop superpowers. Resistance is set eleven years in the future after a ‘second wave’ of powers emerge. Now the world is overrun by superbeings and ordinary humans have become something like props or background dressing in a huge real-world game of heroes vs villains.
Superpowers have changed the world, in many ways for the better. People live longer, natural disasters are stopped in their tracks, medicine has improved, food shortages are a thing of the past, and thanks to Uzma’s Voice, wars are prevented before they can even begin. And yet the world is a chaotic place in which superbeings battle through the cities, ploughing through buildings and landmarks, displacing non-powered humans as the new elite. And as the super-battles are getting bigger and grander and the death counts rising, all the world’s psychics have pinpointed the same date that they agree the world will end…and it’s going to happen soon.
Wow, is this a fun book! There are so many fantastic, different ideas packed into it that it’s hard to know where to begin with the review. In many ways I found it more enjoyable and light-hearted than Turbulence was, while still maintaining the first book’s critical eye and determination not to give easy answers. Good and bad are still just as mixed up and uncertain, in fact even more so, and what makes things brilliant is that most of the main characters are really trying to do what they think is right. But, despite being superpowered, they are still just human in essentials, and so all they can really do is fumble around and try their best, with inevitable messy results.
It can be hard to balance this kind of grey-area-morality and depth with the sense of fun, lightness and wonder that makes superhero stories so great, but the author manages it here perfectly. The many references to superhero and other sci-fi fiction, movies and games are entertaining and fit naturally into the story rather than feeling forced. The book has a great sense of humour that carries through the whole story, even the darker moments.
Widening the amount of people who have super abilities has allowed the author to introduce more wacky and wonderful powers into this series. I love how powers work in this world – people develop abilities based on their deep desires, personalities and beliefs, but this doesn’t always mean they get what they want, or even something useful. New powers range from the standard (flying, immortality, etc) to the weird, wonderful and extremely annoying. As the Kaiju King creates waves of monsters to attack Tokyo, the much-hated Viral spams his messages in capslock to everyone on the planet (I kept waiting for one of these to be BUY MY BOOK, but sadly this never happened). Elsewhere, there are magicians attempting to open portals to new dimensions, wizarding schools being quietly closed down by copyright lawyers, and aliens, vampires and zombie plagues breaking out simply because people believe they can. One of my favourites was That Guy, but I’ll leave you to discover his power for yourselves.
Powers are often used as jokes, pop culture references, or comments on human behaviour and quirks, as well as ways to add tension and action. But in each case, the author really thinks through the implications, strengths and vulnerabilities of these abilities, leading to some surprising plot turns as characters misjudge how certain powers might play out. This was something I loved about the first book and so I was delighted to see that this clever aspect of superhero storytelling was just as noticeable in the sequel. Seeing more of Tia’s personal lives, in particular, was fascinating. I also loved the way that the superhero/god/eleven-year-old-boy Kalki was written and brought into the story; I really got a sense of these different aspects of him, his personality, his power combined with his vulnerability as well as his strangeness – he’s appropriately otherworldly and just a little bit sinister.
The characters we met in the first book return in this one, still continuing their various fights for what they believe is right. Uzma heads a superhero team called UNIT, with Jai still under her control. Aman is missing, presumed dead, and Tia is still Tia (and Tia and Tia and Tia…). Meanwhile, in Japan, a team of human mecha-pilots team up to fight the Kaiju King’s weekly stream of monsters rampaging their way into Tokyo. Uzma and Tia were brilliant here and were my favourite characters in the book, and I thought the author did a fantastic job of exploring all the characters in more depth, including some who had felt a bit two dimensional to me in the first book.
There are some fantastic new characters, including the wealthy non-powered Norio, who hates superheroes and is out for revenge. Norio is part of the phenomenon known as ‘brucing’, a rich kid spending his money and resources on martial training and high-tech weaponry in order to find some kind of meaning in a world full of superhumans. Is Norio a good guy or a bad guy? Is anyone a good guy or a bad guy? This is really left for the reader to decide, and this ambiguity is one of the things that make the characters in this series so great.
Resistance’s plot is perhaps more complex than Turbulence’s, and certainly faster paced, featuring bigger and more explosive action scenes that are described in a very cinematic style with a superb sense of pace. Although both books could perhaps stand alone, I would strongly recommend reading in order. I found the story intriguing and exciting, and though the end revelation was perhaps a little obvious, there were so many things along the way that were unexpected and game-changing (particularly something involving Jai), that I didn’t mind knowing where we were going when the journey to get there was so surprising and enjoyable.
The very end, however, felt just a little underwhelming to me, perhaps because the characters are so lost and unsure themselves throughout so much of the book. One of the book’s strengths, that it doesn’t give easy answers, means that we cannot really have the typical triumphant superhero ending. It was here that I felt I might actually like some answers, even if just to know what the characters believe, rather than feeling as if we skirted around the really hard questions. However, hints of a ‘third wave’ open up some very exciting possibilities for any future novels there might be in this series, and I really hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters!
Resistance is an action-packed, fun and thrilling superhero story that delves even deeper into the questions of what it is to be a hero and a villain. It’s bigger, funnier and even more self-aware than Turbulence and offers up plenty of surprises. If you’re not reading this series yet, why not? Don’t make Uzma Tell you to.