Jumper by Steven Gould Science fiction, 1992
Ignore the movie adaption cover for a minute and focus instead on the opening words of this novel. These words drew me in and hooked me straight away:
The first time was like this.
I was reading when Dad got home. His voice echoed through the house and I cringed.
The first time for what? For David Rice to teleport to the Stanville Public Library, which happens before the end of the first short scene. It is not a spoiler to tell you this.
Teleportation is a common trope in SF, yet it was refreshing to see it dealt with so directly. David Rice can teleport, and you learn that immediately.
It’s the rest of the emotional depth that keeps you there—his escape from an abusive home, his search for his estranged mother, his first real relationship…and how he resists the damage and danger he faces trying to move through the world. The book is a complex mix of adventure backlit by heavy emotional trauma. The teleportation is central, yet not isolated in its impact.
The story meandered a little in the middle, but then a remarkable change was brought about by tragedy—terrorism, to be specific. From then on the story shifts direction. It lost me for a bit at that point, so I took a break and read one of the 4-5 other novels I’m working on at any given time. But I kept coming back because of David’s voice, and finally finished the book a few nights ago.
I haven’t seen the movie the cover of this edition depicts (in fact I prefer this cover), so I can’t speak to how it is on screen. IMDB gives the film 6.1/10 stars, which usually means it’s forgettable. But I won’t forget the book any time soon.
Note on the new column: I’m always reading, both because I love books and because I make an effort to study the writing, trying to absorb new storytelling skills by osmosis. So I thought I would try out some short articles on the books I read. I’m not going to rate the books or grade them in any way. I just want to give you my reactions and impressions and try to make some interesting connections for you. Maybe you’ll like the book. If you do, cool, the link is up top. If you’ve read the book, I hope you talk to me about it in the comments.