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Resistance by Samit Basu

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How would you adapt to a world full of superhumans? And how far would you go to stop them destroying it?

In 2020, eleven years after the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi developed extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires, the world is overrun with supers. Some use their powers for good, others for evil, and some just want to star in their own reality show.

But now, from New York to Tokyo, someone is hunting down supers, kidnapping heroes and villains both, and it’s up to the Unit to stop them…
Resistance is the sequel to Basu’s novel Turbulence, also a Titan publication, and the two are rather heavily linked; there will inevitably be spoilers for Turbulence in this review.

The world is now inhabited by supers. Basu’s idea of what this would look like is very clearly informed more by Marvel than by DC – technicolour, brilliant, amusing, constantly rebuilding, and with some seriously gnarly consequences on the edges. However, it focuses more on the Golden Age-based antics than on those edges, preferring huge set-piece combats to ordinary daily life; our viewpoints are all, and are only concerned with, supers (from Turbulence), with the exception of Norio, whose only interest is in supers. Resistance has no time for or interest in anyone else; there may be mentions of upheaval, turmoil, tragedy and so on, but those get even less of a look in that in the average Spiderman comic or in Man of Steel.

The actual viewpoint characters are as thin as Basu’s interest in the world. Resistance reuses the characters of Turbulence, for the most part, but what we don’t see evidence of is any change or development in the characters over the decade between the novels; that Uzma, Aman etc are all basically the same people is a really frustrating weakness in this sequence. Furthermore, Norio’s secrecy and his drivenness don’t particularly work on characterisation grounds; he’s less of a character than a 2D pastiche of Lex Luthor, right down to the armour. That might work if this was meant to be a superhero pastiche or tribute, but it’s trying to be something new, and consistently failing.

The plot itself is equally weak. It largely relies on people making stupid mistakes, and Resistance keeps trying to tell us all its cast are smart; Norio’s plot to save the world from supers is poorly portrayed and poorly explained, and nonsensical to boot, while the actions of virtually every character are more determined by bad comics plotlines than internal consistency. Indeed, if Basu had been trying to crib from DC and Marvel history, he’d have come up with the same plotlines; there’s not a beat in here that’s original.

The saving grace of the book is its readability. Like a superhero comic, Resistance is fast-paced and punchy; a regular inclusion of set-piece battles keeps the otherwise dull, slow plot ticking over, and the use of different powers in collaboration on the whole works very effectively in those scenes, although one wonders why powers seem to be so little used except as blunt-force instruments.

Basu does keep the reader going, but in the way one reads a bad comic: we read Resistance not because we care, or want to find out what’s happening to the characters, but just because it’s there…

DoI: Review based on an ARC solicited from the publisher, Titan Books. Resistance comes out in the US & UK on July 11th.

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