Jumper

Jumper was written by Steven Gould and first published in 1992. It is a science fiction story about a teenage boy who discovers that he has the ability to teleport. The novel forms the first part of the Jumper series and is followed by Reflex (2004), Impulse (2013) and Exo (2014), as well as a couple of short-stories that are set in the same universe. The story was also made into a major motion picture in 2008, although this film is only very loosely based on the first novel.

Davy Rice first discovers his power when he is about to receive a beating from his alcoholic father. One second, he is in his home; the next he is in the local library. Through trial and error, he soon discovers that he has the ability to instantly teleport to any place that he has visited before, so long as he can clearly visualise that spot in his mind. The potential of this thrills him. Finally, he has a way to get away from his father and search for his mother, who abandoned him when he was little.

However, Davy soon discovers a major flaw in his plan. As a seventeen-year-old runaway, he has no chance of surviving by himself. He has no money, identification or social security number. Unable to find a job by any legitimate means, he uses his power to its full potential and successfully steals almost a million dollars from a bank.

The money is more than enough for Davy to buy a life for himself, living comfortably and quickly falling in love. However, it also makes him more confident and Davy starts to use his ability to jump more and more. After a horrible crime takes away someone that he cares about, he starts to realise that he could use his power to save lives. However, doing so draws the attention of the NSA. Is there a way that he can continue to help people without being caught or, worse still, becoming a pawn of the American government?

Before I begin, a word of warning. Although Jumper is often marketed as a young adult novel, I feel that it should probably be noted that it is more suitable for older teens. The protagonist of the story is eighteen and the plot contains some scenes that may be upsetting for young or sensitive readers. Although it is never overly graphic, these include things like attempted rape, child abuse, consensual sex, gun violence and acts of terrorism. While I have certainly reviewed far worse on this blog in the past, you still have been warned.

Jumper is a very interesting novel and is not quite what I was expecting. Unlike the more famous film that is based on this story, it is only really science fiction in the very loosest sense of the world. While Davy learns that he has the ability to teleport (or “jump”) very early in the tale, there are no other supernatural elements at all. We never learn the origins of this power or even if there are any others like him.

Because of this, a lot of the novel is given over to trial and error. Davy does not initially know of the limitations of his power and only gradually discovers these as they become relevant throughout the book. Because of this, Jumper really has the feel of a superhero origins story. This becomes particularly clear towards the climax, as Davy starts to use his power to fight terrorists.  He evolves from a runaway to an interestingly non-violent action hero, never carrying a lethal weapon but still nicely able to neutralise dangerous villains simply by teleporting them to places where they can’t do any damage.

The plot of Jumper took a long time to find its focus but I never felt that it was boring. For most of the novel, we simply followed Davy as he tried to get his life on track. While his power immediately offers him freedom, the novel is quick to point out that life on the streets of New York City is not easy for a minor. These early chapters are a bit of a morality story, portraying the power to jump as being like the Ring of Gyges. Davy is an abused teenager with a power than any thief would be envious of. However, despite getting away with his bank robbery, Davy slowly realises that he needs to be cautious if he does not want to draw the attention of people who could do him harm.

It is in the last quarter of the novel where the story becomes more of a thriller. Despite the fact that Davy’s one-man war on terrorism can be very tense, I must admit that I did not find it as gripping as his early adventures. While it was interesting to see the way that an American author portrayed terrorist acts and plane jackings before 9/11, the scenes in which Davy used his power to defuse hostage situations were a little dry.

Even when Davy came face to face with the particular terrorist who had wronged him, it did not feel as emotional as it could have been. The last few chapters felt a little rushed, trying too quickly tie up loose ends and setup the sequel. Unfortunately, this means that we did not get a lot of catharsis as we don’t really find out what happened to any of the antagonists.

Yet it was the characters that were Jumper’s biggest strength. While Davy sometimes came across as being much older than eighteen in the way that he spoke, it was still very easy to relate to him. The trauma that he experienced as a child subtly influenced him as an adult, giving him a strong moral compass. Although he had the power to get revenge on those who wronged him, he was restricted purely by the fact that he did not want to turn into a bully like his father. Throughout the novel, Davy forms many complex relationships with characters – from his parents to the NSA agent who eventually pursues him – and these all develop very organically as the story progresses.

I also felt that Millie – Davy’s girlfriend – provided a very strong moral voice in the story. While Davy could be passionate, Millie often gave him grounding and helped him to think through the situations that he faced. While I wish that she had been a more active character, as she was largely absent over the climax, I did think that her relationship with Davy felt very natural. While the slight age gap was unusual for a novel of this type, the two of them worked very well as a couple.

Anyhow, I think that covers everything. All in all, I felt that Jumper was a strong opening to the series. While it wasn’t quite the novel that I was expecting, it was well thought-out and contained some interesting characters. I will certainly be reading more of Gould’s work in the future.

Jumper can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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