Putting a girdle round the Earth in just 130-odd pages, it’s inevitably a much leaner work, written in a brisk, authoritative past tense rather than a layered and shifting present ... There’s not an ounce of fat to be found, as decades of emotion hang in the spaces between the short, declarative sentences ... As the stories operate through plot ironies and the sudden illumination of character, this radical simplicity of style means that they offer up most of their pleasures on first reading ... What Szalay does so well is the minute-by-minute apprehension of the close-up world, what he calls 'the tightly packed fabric of reality', combined here with an impressively global vision ... It’s part of Szalay’s genius that he can encompass the distance between the [inspirational and brutal irony].
Turbulence is a sleek machine with a cool tone. Each chapter picks up from the last, but presents a new protagonist, as if a moral baton were being passed. The chapters come full circle. In the end, the book resembles a snake that’s begun to consume its own tail ... Szalay...is a gifted writer ... Turbulence...[is] a consistently interesting novel, but its 12 chapters...race past so quickly (each is around 10 pages) that you’re back on the ground, your ears fizzing, before you’ve had a chance to finish your little bag of pretzels ... There are enough plot fragments in Turbulence to suggest many novels. Szalay could set up shop on eBay. I wish he’d carried some of them a bit further. These melancholy flights have a lot to say about human impermanence.
... a fast read. Szalay begins each chapter with a clear throat and a determined gaze, and the stories jump from their opening lines ... Szalay is not, however, a breathless storyteller. While he’s masterful at quickly establishing a mood and a character, he creates humid, uncomfortable tales, their air thick with worry and the threat of tragedy ... Much of the fun of Turbulence — and yes, there is joy to be had in reading this cheerless but clever book — is discovering how Szalay will upend the reader’s perspective of a character from one chapter to the next ... Szalay understands that how people respond to one another during life-changing events can be just as important as the events themselves.
... the prose flows easily ... When [characters embrace the turbulence in their lives], it is unexpectedly moving ... The tone is melancholy, but the prose is wry ... This is a minor work, not half the length of ATMI, yet in some ways Szalay’s task is harder. He must encapsulate essential personality within mere fragments of lives rather than whole chapters; half the main characters are women (as opposed to none); there is less recourse to satire. In the end, these moments of turbulence cannot represent all that a man (or woman) is. However, Szalay’s gift for inhabiting entirely different lives is as remarkable and spooky as ever.
Turbulence is written in a similar idiom and has a similar structure to All That Man Is, but it pushes the minimalism further. The result is a more obviously elegant book, in a way that’s artful rather than arty, with little appreciable loss of narrative drive ... Each story runs to only nine or so pages, and one of the impressive things about them is the speed and deftness with which Szalay convinces the reader that he knows what it’s like to be an Indian guest worker in Qatar, an upmarket journalist in São Paulo, or a prosperous Senegalese businessman ... Page by page, though, Szalay’s mixture of directness and withholding looks increasingly masterly.
Szalay, who lives in Budapest, Hungary, but was raised in England, has captured this paradox of the post-postmodern era through a novel that circumnavigates the globe with lightning speed ... Turbulence is somehow light yet also quite moving, offering readers deep, empathetic connections with men and women whose lives differ dramatically from those of one another. Szalay’s range is impressive, given the tendency of many novelists to circumscribe their stories within a particular culture or social circle, usually the one most familiar to them. By contrast, Szalay draws his characters from a variety of nationalities, economic circumstances, religious identities, and stages of life, yet all are distinct individuals who are entirely believable and captivating ... That he does so with such economy is what makes Turbulence masterful.
With its sweeping vision of a complex, interconnected world always in motion, it feels like Turbulence is attempting to do on a global scale what Szalay’s last book, All That Man Is, did for Europe: present us with a series of lives that feel at once profoundly particular and yet also emblematic, a portrait of our species at a time of crisis ... What Turbulence shares with its predecessor is Szalay’s characteristically effortless prose, his ability to distil lives into vignettes, the sense of an author whose curiosity about his fellow humans is boundless ... Szalay is our greatest chronicler of these rootless, tradeworn places, and the desperate, itinerant lives of those who inhabit them.
This is simultaneously a short story collection and a novel, so some mental adjustment is required until you get the hang of it ... In this book, we are travellers who can only move forward and never look back. It’s tantalising and frustrating, because each slim vignette hints at a bigger story, like teasers for a blockbuster we will never get to read in which all these threads are somehow drawn together. And with twelve of these stories packed into 136 pages, each one stripped down to a minimum of scene-setting and backstory, the farewells come painfully frequently ... Szalay has given us some brilliantly rendered slices of life ... Shot through with moments where communication breaks down and the sense of one’s separateness sets in, these individual scenes nevertheless form a coherent whole, and there’s barely a story here which isn’t in some way engaging and absorbing, the author’s compassion and involvement with his characters shining through even in their times of deepest isolation.
[Szalay] is a clever craftsman ... he innovates in this ingenious new book ... Szalay has said that he is happiest writing the contemporary novel; the context of his preferred writing is ‘my world’. He knows about people: the closeted gay who is violent to his wife; the woman whose husband accepts her infidelity...and the mother whose ‘liberal bona fides’ are boosted by her daughter’s fiancé being a Syrian refugee. Stark and spare, Turbulence is an impressive novel.
It shares with All That Man Is a fluent internationalism, and a structure that plants it in a fertile borderland between the novel and the collection of stories ... Those who struggle to muster zeal for fiction set in drably familiar locales can rely on Szalay for the pleasures of armchair wanderlust ...
Szalay works within the classical tradition of the short story, crafting epiphanies and heightened moments that throw light on a character’s past, present and future ... It’s powerful stuff. The problem is, a few such arresting moments aside, the sections are so brief that we don’t get time or space for the characters’ crises to wholly captivate our sympathy. At its weakest—for example, when a pilot recalls his sister’s drowning in childhood—it comes across as melodrama, an appeal for unearned emotion. There is enough deftness of portraiture and incisive writing to make Turbulence worth the time of day, but the best way to regard this book is as a stepping stone, an exercise to maintain authorial fitness between one major work and—let us hope—the next.
Especially striking, in Mr Szalay’s recent work, is how easily he inhabits diverse perspectives: as well as a reporter in Brazil and a Canadian writer, Turbulence features a nurse from Kerala and a gay migrant worker in Qatar. He pulls off this imaginative feat because his focus is on age-old themes of mortality and desire. And he trusts his readers to pay attention ... A willingness to leave the dots unjoined is one of the virtues that make Mr Szalay’s fiction so rewarding.
...[an] astonishing new novel ... It’s a dizzying performance—12 such tableaux of roughly 10 pages apiece—in which a world is both described and circumscribed. Always, the relations are strained, always the hunt for stability is foredoomed by 'turbulence,' and each of the novel’s personae feels at risk. Yet somehow the mood of the book is cool, dispassionate, as though the writer looks down on human scenery from an airplane’s height ... Szalay’s prose is lapidary and his range impressive. He seems equally at home describing a wealthy businessman in the back of a chauffeur-driven limousine and a gardener in a hot shack who never once has entered his employer’s house ... It’s inescapably the case that each of these stories are truncated, and the reader cannot linger or savor encounters at length. At times the structure feels merely schematic, and it would have been welcome to pause or flesh out the characters. In Euclidean geometry, the whole is always equal to the sum of the parts. But David Szalay’s art accomplishes what arithmetic can’t: The whole adds up to more than its individual components, and in sum his Turbulence is a tour de force.
Over the course of 12 masterfully sketched stories, each one focusing on a different individual on the move, [Szalay] circumnavigates this small planet and highlights humankind’s interconnectedness ... Whether in the clouds or on terra firma, Szalay’s travelers are shocked and shaken by various traumas. By rights, [Szalay's] pared-back prose and miniature portraits should be able to describe and convey only so much. But as in his previous novel All That Man Is, his light touches and fleeting glimpses belie great insight and depth.
With Turbulence, Szalay creates an emotional relay that spans the globe over the course of twelve chapters and twelve individuals. The prose is tight and efficient ... This creates a powerful, contradictory effect. Introducing the reader to moments of startling intimacy serves as a reminder of our shared humanity, while the shifting away reminds each of us of the fleetingness not only of contact, but of life itself ... It is at once uplifting and humbling, the bittersweet essence of life itself.
... [a] powerful novel ... Szalay’s spare writing packs an emotional punch, his impressionistic sketches capturing in just a few pages the pivotal moments of entire lives. Turbulence is an inventive examination of the ties that bind us together and the ease with which they can be broken.
Szalay is a pithy writer, capable of startling insights into the nature of loneliness and the human desire for companionship, though there is something thin and underdeveloped to the conceit of this novel. This is a somewhat disappointing effort from a talented writer.
The slender new novel from Szalay...is a (world) tour de force, an exploration in fiction of the concept of six degrees of separation ... Szalay's book consists of a dozen brief, plainspoken, deceptively simple sketches, glimpses ... The chapters are tiny cross sections of lives, lovingly examined under the writer's microscope. The result is a book that is high concept but—thanks to Szalay's gift for compression and the same empathetic imagination that was on display in All That Man Is—never gimmicky. Szalay has devised an ingenious way to accommodate enormous range in a miniature form. Subtle, smart—a triumph.