A very good friend of mine calls what I did this weekend a book binge, so here’s my quick takes on Jumper and Reflex by Steven Gould. I’m halfway through Impulse, and Exo will immediately follow, so stay tuned! If you haven’t read the series, there are some inevitable minor spoilers, so be warned.
JUMPER-Looking for pure escapist fun? Jumper, and its sequels, have got you more than covered. 17 year old David “Davy” Rice, discovers he can “jump”, or teleport, during a confrontation with his alcoholic, abusive father. He quickly gets a handle on his newfound ability and it opens up a whole new world for him. He leaves home, and after procuring some seed money (and then some) from a bank, sets himself off in a small apartment and soon falls in love with Millie Harrison, who’s a few years older than Davy-who is now 18, after meeting her at a party. What follows is a blazingly entertaining wish-fulfillment/coming of age action novel that you won’t be able to put down. Promise.
Ok, so, I thought I had read this way back when it came out in 1992. I would have been a sophomore in high school (there, now you know how old I am), BUT, I don’t think I did. I meant to re-read since I snagged a copy of Exo, and wanted to dive into the series. Maybe it’s just been THAT long. Either way, it was really fresh (even though it’s 22 years old), really fun, and just a blast. There are limitations to Davy’s ability, and I love at how Gould navigates the ins and outs of teleportation, while pretty accurately (I think) portraying how a 17 year old would get by on his own, especially one that’s pretty wounded. And Davy is wounded. His mom left when he was pretty young, and he’s still heartbroken about that, but there’s more to that story, and it’s what leads in to the second half of the novel, when Davy sort of accidentally falls into being a hero. Davy is fairly naïve, and has quite a few crises of conscience, but I like that about him, that he tries not to lower himself to the level of those that would do others harm, even if it takes a little extra plotting and planning to get things done. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again-one thing I liked about this book is that it’s written before cellphones became ubiquitous, and I like that characters have to go the extra mile to communicate sometimes. Obviously, inevitably, that changes in future installments, but I enjoyed it. Inevitably, Davy’s power gets some notice from various government agencies, and this will figure prominently in the next book.
There’s a lot of plotting that goes into a book like this, working out the logistics of teleportation, but Gould makes it seem effortless, and while you know, in the back of your mind, that there’s a lot going on, and it’s a little complicated, you get it, and it makes for fantastic reading. Like I said, this is clever, escapist fun at its best, and you’ll want to have a copy of Reflex on hand, so you can get on with said fun. Speaking of which…
REFLEX– Reflex jumps the narrative to 10 years later (see what I did there?), and finds Davy and Millie 10 years into their marriage and confronting a question that many couples struggle with. Millie has settled into her career as a family therapist and wants to have a child, and Davy is hesitant, as he’s still carrying the wounds from his own troubled childhood. Meanwhile, he’s working with the NSA, who he partnered up with, on various missions, but when he’s kidnapped amidst a flurry of violence by a group that seeks to research and exploit his talents, Millie sets her sights on getting her husband back, at any cost.
I thought Jumper was a load of fun, but Reflex, for me, took it up a notch. Gould introduces several new things that upped the ante in this series. The biggest thing is that Millie finds out she can jump, and of course uses it to track down Davy, but the time Davy spends in the hands of the bad guys is, well, something else. Speaking of bad guys, there’s someone pulling the strings, and one of the major strings is Hyacinth Pope, who dishes out most of Davy’s torture and “conditioning”. She’s chilling, alternating sexual manipulation with just plain evil, and she does it all with a calculated cool that would creep the most hardened badass out. And Davy is kind of a badass. He’s been through a lot in the 10 years since the events of Jumper, but Gould never forgets Davy’s humanity. He’s not superhuman, something that’s easy to forget when a talent like teleportation is on the menu. Their way of controlling Davy is diabolical, and terrifying, but Millie’s on the case, with a little help from the NSA and the FBI.
As with Jumper, this is fast paced, fun, just fantastic reading. Of course I love the fact that Millie can now jump, and it delighted me that Gould made her such a clever and resourceful character, not relegating her to sidekick status. She carries quite a bit of this book, and I really enjoyed that. She’s as fully realized as Davy, and they make quite a team. Crack this one open and be prepared to finish it in one sitting.