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Jumper: Griffin's Story
Steven Gould
Tor, 286 pages

Jumper: Griffin's Story
Steven Gould
Steven Gould has been publishing fiction since 1980 when his first short story, "The Touch of Their Eyes," was published in Analog. Since then, his stories have appeared in Analog, Amazing, Asimov's and various anthologies. His novels include Helm, Jumper, Wildside and Greenwar, written with his wife, Laura J. Mixon.

Steven Gould Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Reflex
SF Site Review: Blind Waves
SF Site Review: Helm
SF Site Interview: Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jayme Lynn Blaschke

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Jumper: Griffin's Story is, to say the least, an odd bird. I'm not quite sure another book like it exists. It is a tie-in to the David Liman-directed science fiction action film, Jumper, starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson. The movie itself is loosely based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Steven Gould, taking the core premise from the book and essentially re-inventing everything else. When the time came to produce the inevitable movie tie-in, one presumes Gould stepped up to the plate in order to preserve the spirit of his original work (and its 2005 sequel, Reflex), even though the film's universe differs in significant ways from the source material.

Got that?

Griffin O'Conner is a major character in the film, one that doesn't exist in Gould's other novels. Jumper: Griffin's Story certainly qualifies for this year's Truth-In-Advertising awards, because that is exactly what the novel is: the backstory of Griffin, giving readers the inside story on how this disaffected young man gets to the point where cinema goers first encounter him on the silver screen. It sounds awkward, and, in truth, it is. But Gould has a personal stake in this property, and the end result is a novel with far more heart than any movie-tie in deserves.

Griffin is a jumper -- a rare human with the ability to teleport to any place he has physically been. After his ability first manifested itself at age 5, sinister men began showing up, asking probing questions, and his family was forced to flee the United Kingdom. When Griffin is 9, living a normal life in San Diego, California, he accidentally jumps in front of witnesses and very quickly the goon squad shows up again. Only this time, Griffin barely escapes with his life. His parents are not so fortunate. The killers are self-styled "Paladins," members of a super-secret, conspiratorial organization dedicated to hunting down and eradicating jumpers -- preferably when they're young and defenseless. The Paladins are sensitive to jumpers, and can detect teleportation activity within a certain radius. They have a nasty arsenal of weaponry at their disposal as well. Thus begins an extended game of cat-and-mouse, with Griffin managing to stay one step ahead of his pursuers, although never quite as far ahead of them as he would like to believe.

Two things hamper Jumper: Griffin's Story, preventing it from reaching its full potential as a stand-alone novel. First is the fact that it is a back story movie tie-in. Griffin's story doesn't come to any real resolution -- his fate is left quite open-ended, and what little closure he achieves pales in significance to the larger issues at stake. This is to be expected to some degree -- after all, if Griffin's story were indeed resolved, there'd be little left for the movie -- but one can't help but wonder what Gould could've achieved had he not been fettered by the restrictions of a tie-in. The second flaw is that Griffin's coming of age, mastery of his powers and initial grasps of independence echo the character arc of Davy in the original Jumper a bit too much. Bank robbery and hidden desert fortresses are all well and good, but it exposes a weakness in Gould's writing process -- something that up unto this point had been a great strength. Gould is a ruthlessly logical writer. He takes a fantastical premise and tuns it inside out, attacking it with steady rationality until he comes away with situations, solutions and consequences that ring true. Because they are true -- if such fantastic abilities existed. And any person facing the same situations would make very much the same choices simply because that's the logical course of action. Except that all people aren't rational. Heck, most of the people I encounter on a daily basis are anything but. That both Davy and Griffin are both able to "work the problem" in so calculating a manner, like a super-powered NASA flight controller, stretches the borders of credibility more than a little. Then again, this is a novel about teleporting kids and the people who hunt them.

Shortcomings aside, Jumper: Griffin's Story is easily the best movie tie-in anyone will read this year, and the odds-on favorite to be the best of the decade. It confronts the limitations of the form head-on, and in many cases overcomes them. At its worst, it's a meandering biography with some nifty action sequences thrown in. At its best, however, it's a fascinating alternate reality exploration of those same questions he posed in the original Jumper, seen through the warped glass of a funhouse mirror.

Copyright © 2008 Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Jayme Lynn Blaschke writes science fiction and fantasy as well as related non-fiction. A collection of his interviews, Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak, is available from the University of Nebraska Press. He is also a contributor to the group blog No Fear of the Future, which can be found at nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com.


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