Fiction Reviews


Jumper

(1992/2008) Steven Gould, Harper Voyager, 6.99, pbk, 345 pp, ISBN 978-0-007-2-7599-1

 

Teenager David Rice had it tough. His mother left him and his alcoholic father way back and his father's drink problem lends him a vicious, abusive streak. Then one day, as he is about to be beaten, he discovers he has an unheard of ability. Unheard of, that is, outside of fiction and myth. He can teleport!

Suddenly he can escape. But even with this new ability what can he a seventeen year old do? After all if others found out that he could do this he would be a freak or, worse, scientists would dissect him to fathom his power. Also the world beyond his home, his school and town was unfamiliar, he did not know how it worked. He did though know he had to get away. He had to survive and make a life for himself...

Steven Gould's Jumper is a very worthy exploration of traditional SF trope: teleportation. As such it has a veritable in SF literature from novels such as Alfie (working class) Bester's Stars My Destination (1956) and Larry Niven's 'Known Space' teleportation stories, not to mention sci-fi television such as The Tomorrow People (1973-9 and 1992-5). Gould is well aware of this trope's pedigree and there are a few nods to this in the novel.

The book was first published in North America in 1992 but only first appeared in the British Isles in 2008 due to the release of the Doug Liman directed film of the same name. Here it should be clearly pointed out that the book is a far superior creation. The film has been created -- it very much seems -- so that if it is commercially successful there might be others or even a TV series. As such the film is markedly different. In the original novel David Rice is the only person featured who teleports, though he does wonder if there are other. In the film there are others and that it is clear that teleporters are hunted by a secret group who appear to exist solely for this purpose. Should you wish you might consider the film to be set after the novel, but even so the two still do not fully chime even though Steven Gould has also written a film spin-off novel. Furthermore the film does very much come across as a pilot with many loose ends. Conversely, this original novel Jumper is a minor classic and I for one will be actively on the lookout for other of Gould's novels.

Jonathan Cowie


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