More a coming-of-age novel with bonus teleportation than an actual science fiction novel, Jumper introduces us to a protagonist who is alternately ove...moreMore a coming-of-age novel with bonus teleportation than an actual science fiction novel, Jumper introduces us to a protagonist who is alternately overly precocious and perfectly teenagerish, possessed of a somewhat wavering moral compass that he nevertheless follows with absolute certainty wherever it's pointing at the time, and suffering from a serious case of PTSD.
Davy Rice, survivor of a childhood marked by his father's vicious abuse and his mother's abandonment, is not always so believable a character as one might wish. After an initial series of brush offs by incidental characters due to his age, other characters in the book respond to Davy as if he is well into his thirties, rather than 18 and mysteriously wealthy. (The source of that wealth is a joy of character development, however. In dire need of money, Davy rejects robbing stores because of the damage to the shopkeepers. His solution is such a glorious bit of impetuousness and moral rationalization that it makes him seem all the more accurately a teenager, and prefigures some of his later ethically questionable choices.) He doesn't speak like any teenager I've ever met--even the precocious ones--and while he is established very early on as an avid reader, Davy seems to be a bottomless source of knowledge. Whatever researching he does must all take place off screen, as it were, because we don't ever really see him do it.
Gould's writing is a little uneven in this book--excusable for a first novel, when the author has shown such improvement. (I only read this book because I read a recent short story of his set in the same universe on Tor.com.) It's a fast read, though, especially once the action picks up, however incredibly it does so. Perhaps I might have believed Davy's actions in the latter half of the novel a bit more if I had read this book when I was 15 instead of 25. (It doesn't take very long past teenage to begin doubting the abilities of teenagers, I'm afraid.) Still, even when Davy's actions are implausible, his reactions tend to be less so. His sudden flares of temper or tears are pitch-perfect for both his age and background.
My one major criticism of the plot follows in the next paragraph, and is spoilery, so consider this suitable warning.
I just checked, and there are all of 12 notable airplane hijackings recorded in all of the 1990s. 13 of them in the 1980s. In "Jumper", there are 4 airplane hijackings, plus a yacht, and another airport hostage situation, all in what appears to be a matter of months. This would have been more appropriate in the 1970s, which is too early for the book's setting.
Thus end the spoilers.
I would probably have given this book 2 1/2 stars if I could, but it's engaging enough to warrant the extra half, since I can't. And given how well the action of the novel resonates with current world affairs, one wonders how the film could have so spectacularly dropped the ball.(less)