Jumper – Steven Gould

TOR Books
1992

Gould’s book takes a sci-fi premise–teleportation–and throws it into a coming-of-age story for young adults.
This got highly recommended by someone on BoingBoing, and being YAF (Young Adult Fiction) promised a quick read.
Davy Rice learns he has the talent to “jump” to locations he’s been before one night when he flinches from his father’s drunken, physical abuse. He pops up in the safety of the school library. He does so again when he runs away from home and nearly gets raped by a truck driver. From these grim beginnings, we follow Davy as learns the limitations and benefits of his powers, but most importantly tries to seek “closure” (eek) over his abusive dad and his absent mom.
I have to say I was ready for the sci-fi, but wasn’t prepared for the touchy-feely psychobabble. Davy spends quite a lot of the book crying, weeping, and blubbering. Even more amazing, he hooks up with an older woman called Millie (older as in college student), who becomes his shoulder to cry on, and is so well-adjusted she’s like a cut-rate family counselor (and the voice of the author). Now, that’s some sci-fi! The more the tears roll down his face the more she wants to sleep with him. Don’t try this at home, kids.
The first half of the book is all logistics, as Davy funds himself by robbing a bank, creating a little safe house apartment in NYC, then gradually extending his knowledge of places (he can’t teleport to places he hasn’t visited). He gets revenge on Daddy Dearest by making him believe his son’s a ghost, a similar tactic he does to the truck-drivin’ rapist. He makes amends with Mom, just before she is blown up by a terrorist (!), spinning us into the book’s second half, a riff on “with great power comes great responsibility.” The NSA want to know who this teleporting kid is, and how he’s able to get onto planes and subdue terrorists. Davy has a special desert oasis hideout where he brings his vanquished foes, dropping them from 50 feet in the air into the water. Also on his tail is Brian Cox (who hopefully will be played in the film, if they ever make it, by Brian Cox) his nemesis at the NSA. By the end of the book, Davy confronts all three father figures (Dad, terrorist, and agent) and Gould does a good job wrapping everything up without a shootout or a speech (those come early, usually from Millie).
I enjoyed the novel for what it was, although I skimmed all the times the waterworks got turned on. What pleased me most was the ordinary uses of teleportation. When Davy is traveling to scout out new locations, his flight is delayed five hours. He teleports home, sets the alarm, then has a nap up till boarding time. Now that’s a super power!

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