Book #61: Jumper (1992)

jumper2author: Steven Gould
language: English
length: 344 pages
finished reading on: 6 June 2014

Yet another book supplied by the Humble Bundle. My kindle actually broke midway through reading this, so I can no longer use it at all (there is some hardware problem with the screen) – and it turns out that sending it back to Amazon in the UK and getting a discount new one would be more expensive than just buying a new one in Japan. I haven’t taken the plunge yet – I’d rather focus on making summer travel plans, buying flights and whatnot to far flung places.

As for the book, I partly read it because I saw the movie six years ago, and had heard this was a better story than that of the movie. It concerns a boy who learns he can teleport, and what he decides to do with the power.

It starts with the big guns of child abuse and attempted rape of the main character within the first few pages, just in case you were under any illusion that this book was actually a science fiction story about a boy who can teleport. Indeed, he learns he can teleport by accidentally escaping both situations, finding himself in the local library, a place he always felt safe. From there, he goes to New York, effortlessly robs a bank and sets himself up with a nice apartment. Then he finds a girlfriend, and meets his mother, who had run away from the abusive father too. She’s then killed by Islamic terrorists (spoiler alert), and he spends the latter half of the novel on a manhunt for them round North Africa.

His teleportation power is limited to places he has already been, and a significant portion of the book is the daily grind of travelling from place to new place and figuring out his power. It’s never explained or explored how he got the power. Like in Groundhog Day, it’s just taken for granted that he has it. In the movie, he meets others like him and even some religious nutjobs out to kill him, to make the story more dramatic, but here he seems to be alone – this matches a major theme of the book.

Although the child abuse parts were sensitively handled and explored in due course, a lot of the story felt a bit flimsy. The mother’s death comes out of nowhere, although it’s interesting to see that the panic about plane hijackers existed well before 9/11. Some parts of the book go into too much detail about relatively insignificant things – conservation of detail is not an issue here.

That said, even those parts are written well, and there was some quality to the writing which made it addictive. I finished it even though I had to use the Kindle app on my phone’s tiny screen. It’s good to see an author fully explore a superhuman power and also include hard-hitting issues and portray quite a realistic teenager character. Plus I would quite like that superpower, even though I’m not so much up for the child abuse or terrorist hunting.

As for continuing the series, it’s a possibility, but I have what feels like a million others to finish first, so it’ll have to wait. And don’t let the movie put you off. This is indeed way better.

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