Jun 10, 2011

"Jumper" and "Reflex," by Steven Gould

I recently reread two highly underrated super-hero novels, "Jumper" and its sequel, "Reflex," by Steven Gould. These books remain among my favorite super-hero stories, and I only wish the movie version had been an actual adaptation, instead of crapping all over the book.

"Jumper" is an engaging hero's journey. Davy doesn't spontaneously decide to put on a costume and fight crime (in fact, he wears ordinary clothing throughout the book). His character develops exactly the way a real 18-year-old with a sudden ability to teleport would develop. He can't find his birth certificate or social security number, and like many young people, he's unaware that he can write to his state department to get a copy--so Davy can't get a job. In need of money, he uses his power to rob a bank. Then he starts messing with bullies, from his thuggish neighbors to his abusive father. He takes creative revenge on people who have hurt him. But even with endless freedom and money, Davy is lonely, without friends or family. In need of someone to share his fortune with, he gets a girlfriend. He finds his long-lost mother. He does good deeds. But he doesn't decide to hunt criminals until a suicide bomber kills his mother.

A timely theme in "Jumper" is about terrorism. When Davy hunts suicide bombers, the U.S. government treats Davy as a lawless vigilante--so they abduct Davy's girlfriend and hold her as a hostage. Outraged, Davy starts jumping agents all over the world, stranding them in dangerous countries. Homeland Security then labels Davy as a terrorist. Davy reacts like most 18-year-olds, with extreme anger. In the end, both Davy and the man in charge at Homeland Security have to reconcile their mistrust of each other, and work together for the people they are both trying to rescue.

Both of these books are short and fast-paced. I will add that "Reflex" is a bit more geared to adult audiences. It takes place ten years after the first novel, so Davy is a married man. He's also gained some very powerful enemies, and one of them is a woman who treats him like her pet dog.

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