Literature / Jumper

Jumper is a 1992 Coming-of-Age Story sci-fi story by Steven Gould about a teenager, David Rice, who finds out he can teleport and his experiences with the consequences and limitations of his ability. After escaping his abusive drunk of a father, he takes some less than savory measures to reestablish himself in New York City and begins a relationship with Millie while establishing jump points around the globe and a safe house in a desert sinkhole. After a tragedy during a hijacking, he gives focus to his ability by interfering in other attacks in an effort to find a particular terrorist, attracting the attention of the NSA, who is extremely interested in someone who can get from Washington DC to Algeria in the time it takes to watch a movie. Constitutional violations ensue and the NSA gets shut down by the courts after harassing Millie and nearly capturing Davy, while he comes to terms with his father and the terrorist in a heated confrontation with both.

In 2004, a sequel called Reflex was released where Davy (now moonlighting for the government 10 years later after reaching an understanding) is kidnapped by a sinister conspiracy that has deeply penetrated the government. Millie must track him down and find allies, but first she has to get out of the safehouse, which ends up revealing that she has 'caught' the ability to teleport as well. David finds out new aspects of his ability thanks to the scientific testing by his captors, who are none too pleased with his insistence on morality no matter how much they torture and condition him to obey. Millie helps him escape and they capture the man who seems to be the head of the conspiracy, but it turns out it goes much deeper than they realized.

Inspired a 2008 film, an the author of the series wrote a companion novel, in the film canon, Griffin's Story.

Two more books were released in 2013 and 2014 to complete the series from the perspective of their 15 year old daughter, Cent. After she demonstrates the ability to jump during an avalanche in Impulse, her parents give in to her desire to try the high school life in New Mexico. She finds a boyfriend and friends, but has difficulties due to the seclusion of her previous life (she and her parents participated in lots of humanitarian aid, but home was one safehouse or another), her intelligence, the local criminal element, and her inability to stay out of trouble. The conspiracy hones in on her, and the family has to retreat.

A couple years later, Exo wraps up the series with 17 year old Cent now pursuing a space program using her ability to teleport to skip the whole "needing a spaceship" thing. She still needs a spacesuit, though, and assembles a crew of former and new friends to operate one, and run test flights while being insistent about terminology like 'womanned spaceflight'. Space Command turns out to be marginally more chill than the NSA was about the new person in space that keeps moving weirdly and has a very small radar return, and eventually requests her assistance in getting a cosmonaut with a medical emergency off of the International Space Station. In doing so, she ends up going public as a teleporter and begins business moving anything she can carry into space, eventually establishing her own space habitat. The conspiracy is also interested, of course, and makes some final moves that get their plotline wrapped up.


Jumper contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: A major subplot of the book. Davy leaves his abusive father and has to come to terms with how the abuse had affected his and his mother's life. Leaving home was why he even Jumped in the first place!
  • The Artifact: The Nebulous Evil Organization really have very little to do with the plot of Exo. They interfere at a distance, shoot a missile to destroy the Rice home, then show up and are taken out within a couple of chapters essentially to avert What Happened to the Mouse?. Exo is instead about Cent's space program.
  • Attempted Rape: Davy, by a trucker. It's the second time he Jumps.
  • Author Appeal: At one point in the novel, a former classmate who tried to seduce Davy while drunk later hawks Alanon (Alcoholics Anonymous... for the affected family and friends). Davy is a complete teetotaler, and often tips generously or tries to help out those who are less fortunate. Apparently becomes something of a character weakness in the sequel, Reflex, but it's still heavily present.
    • In later books, the protagonists are heavily involved in humanitarian work - mildly in Reflex, where Davy places tight constrictions on what jobs he'll do for the NSA and personally intervenes in multiple homeless peoples lives, then with dedication to larger causes after The Conspiracy precludes government work. A short story shows David and Millie intervening in a drought stricken area, and multiple stories have them move supplies, resources, and people to where they're needed.
    • In the last two books, Cent serves as a mouthpiece for the author's opinions on various identity politics debates.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: After spending the whole novel afraid or resenting his father... Davy Jumps the old man to his mother's grave, tells him why he sucks and forces him to finally join AA and sober up.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Davy starts by robbing a bank, but later on gets legitimate work doing jumps for the NSA that pays even better than disappearing money from the bank. He still doesn't miss the opportunity to pocket a bit of bad-guy cash when the opportunity presents itself, though.
    • This bites him a bit though when a conspiracy sets its sights on him, since they conclude there's no way they could simply hire him to do their dirty work due to his ethical restrictions and copious cash, and jump straight to kidnapping and murder.
  • Dark Action Girl: Hyacinth Pope, a Femme Fatale working for the Nebulous Evil Organization, is one of these.
  • Die or Fly: David first Jumps to escape a beating from his father.
    • In the second book, Reflex, Millie learns to Jump when she falls off a hundred-foot cliff.
      • In the third book, Impulse, their daughter, Cent, learns to Jump to escape an avalanche.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: In Reflex, Lawrence Simons looks for most of the novel to be the Big Bad but at the end is shown to have an implant himself, making it clear he was just a decoy figurehead for the Nebulous Evil Organization.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Impulse, we learn everything we need to know about Cent before we even meet her based on this note she pastes on her bedroom door.
    Help! I'm being held captive by two teleporting aliens. Please send friends. Will accept ice cream.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The first book is a takedown of the Superhero. An ordinary gifted-but-abused teenager given fantastic powers would not put on a costume and fight crime; he'd steal himself a pile of cash, live a comfortable life, try to get laid, and make a bunch of mistakes that nearly get him tossed in jail. He only later gets into superheroics (first to punish a wife-beater, then to stop airplane hijackings) for personal reasons. Furthermore, when the Government Conspiracy tries to capture him, he attacks them as much through the legal system as by being impossible to catch, and they eventually come to a mutual understanding. The series moves away from this in latter books.
  • Government Conspiracy: In the first book, the NSA acts a lot like this. It's played fairly realistically - the NSA are an ordinary government intelligence agency that want to understand how the heck David is teleporting and force him to work for them (or neutralize him as a potential threat), and are stepping outside of their constitutional authority to make it happen. Also, going to the courts is in fact a reasonable response to their illegal activities (assuming you have someone on the outside who knows that they've done something).
    • In the later books, government agencies are more benign or actively helpful, with their size and hierarchy instead exploited by a business conspiracy for its ends. Two prominent NSA agents who were antagonists in the first book are outright allies in the second book, with one dying attempting to protect Davy, and the FBI is treated as largely incorruptible (to the point that they only back off when the White House Chief of Staff orders it and the Agent In Charge and her boss are set up). Dozens of agents from the NSA and FBI are deployed in a sincere effort to back up Millie, but as leaks occur and the NSA as an organization eventually turns on her, people on the ground and other organizations are still benevolent.
    • In the third and fourth books, the government still gets used by the conspiracy, but there are severe consequences when it happens, with intensive investigations launched when a Predator drone from Italy destroys their house in Canada. In the third book, the conspiracy uses local criminals because they can't use the government to do their dirty work. Much of this can be ascribed to the real world evolution of the government and the authors perspective, from 1992 to 2005 to 2013 and 2014.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Overlaps with Not the Fall That Kills You. Davey does this to the terrorist who killed his mother but in a particularly nasty way. Davey can teleport, so he teleports the guy to the top of the World Trade Center, drops him, and teleports down to catch him just before he hits the ground. Then he does it again, and again, letting him get closer to the ground with each drop...
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Hyacinth Pope, previously The Vamp in Reflex, indulges in this in Exo with Cent, to the point of coming across as a Psycho Lesbian. Cent helpfully notes this by pointing out to readers her captor's "hungry posture" and "the creepy way she leaned toward me".
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Once she's able to jump, Cent puts her foot down and tells her parents that she is going to go to school and be a regular teenager with regular friends. By the end, the "normal life" part doesn't work out, but she does manage to make some friends. She's still waiting on the ice cream, though.
  • Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress: Averted. Every time Davy jumps, his momentum is cancelled.
    • In the third book, Impulse, Davey's daughter, Cent, figures out how to un-cancel this momentum, granting her very temporary boosts of Super Speed and Super Strength.
  • Intangibility: It's discovered that whenever Davy jumps he opens a gateway for about a fifth of a second. Taken to the next level in book 2 when he works out how to "twin" himself, basically opening a Davy-shaped hole between any two locations.
  • Karma Houdini: A recurring theme for Hyacinth Pope, who escapes the consequences of her villainy completely scot-free in Reflex and Impulse.
  • Latex Space Suit: In Exo, Cent uses the family's money to invest in the development of one of these to fulfill her dream of space flight. The main sticking point is that the suit is impossible to get on in the first place. Cent can teleport into it, though.
  • Masquerade: Not strictly applied, but Davy tries to keep a low profile. It doesn't work very well - the government figures out that something's up almost immediately. In Exo, Cent decides to abandon secrecy, and goes public as Space Girl.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Cent's ever-observant mind objects to the YouTube comments about how hot "Space Girl" is, because of this trope. It doesn't matter that she's a female astronaut lifting satellites into orbit; because she's a girl, her attractiveness is always relevant.
  • Meganekko: Millie, whose designer glasses catch Davy's eye in the first film.
  • Missing Mom: Davy's mom leaves father and son because of the abuse. Just when the two are starting to reconcile, she is killed in a terrorist attack.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Davy uses Jumping to travel the world and make moving faster. After the Time Skip before Reflex he has an off-the-books job with the US government inserting intelligence agents, and in Impulse he and Millie perform deliveries to refugees in the Third World.
    • Cent applies this trope with style, using her power to become a one-woman space program. This overlaps with Magitek, as Cent uses teleportation instead of rocketry to launch satellites.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: One goes by various names and tries to kidnap and brainwash the Jumpers in the latter three books. They're in competition with the NSA, but unlike the latter, aren't really answerable to the courts because they officially don't exist. Their goals are never revealed, but they want Jumpers who can pull off assassinations for them (and really don't like Davy's pacifism). They go down like punks once they kidnap Cent.
  • Older Sidekick: Millie, in the book. Sort of.
  • Phrase-Catcher: Cent repeatedly gets "This is no way to run a space program!" from exasperated authority figures.
  • Randomly Gifted: As far as he knows, Davy is the only jumper in existence. At least until book 2.
  • The Reliable One: In Exo, Cory Matoska fits this role for Cent. Cent is a bit of a Mad Scientist who prefers to fly by the seat of her pants, and Cory's the one who makes sure that she follows the checklist and does her math when she's doing something new.
  • Restraining Bolt: Part of an ongoing arc beginning in Reflex; an unnamed Nebulous Evil Organisation implants Davy with a Shock Collar that directly stimulates the pain center of his brain on command or when he Jumps outside safe zones - which doubles as an Explosive Leash capable of blowing his head off. Davy discovers that every member of the NEO has similar implants - and are pain-conditioned to believe they requested the implants as proof of loyalty. This extends even to the old man initially assumed to be the Big Bad - who is killed in the final confrontation of Reflex without naming his superiors. They're still at large in Impulse, breaking out the Femme Fatale who nearly seduced Davy in Reflex, who proceeds to challenge Cent.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Used word-for-word when Cent talks about the possibility of de-orbiting government spy satellites, costing the United States billions of dollars. Cent is much more active and aggressive about keeping the alphabet soup honest than Davy was, since she knows from her father's experience that government agencies behave about as well as they're forced to.
  • Shown Their Work: The author knows quite a bit about the current state of space travel, and that knowledge (along with speculation on how teleportation would help) is important to the plot of Exo.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Davy studies the jumping power and how it works, and he and Millie gradually figure out new applications through the use of "what happens if I try this?" Cent, Teen Genius that she is, puts her own spins on the ability.
  • Straw Feminist: Cent is rather aggressively feminist, to the point of halting conversations to insist on womanned, not manned, as a term for her ventures and insisting that her first interview be with a woman reporter, but was not deliberately written by Gould to be one of these. Whether she comes across as a reasonable subversion of this trope or an unwitting example of it depends largely on the reader.
  • Teen Genius: Cent is able to develop new teleportation techniques while in high school, and at eighteen, is able to work alongside real Ph.Ds to launch a space program. She's not just doing grunt work, either - Apex Orbital is her show, and she makes knowledgeable decisions on all aspects of it.
  • Teleportation Jumper and its sequels are about a man, David Rice (and, in the ensuing decades, his wife Millie and daughter Cent, because apparently teleportation is catching) who can teleport to any location he can remember clearly. He remains unclear on why he can do so, despite unwilling participation in research of his ability, but the initial trigger appears to be an extreme fight or flight experience (in order by person, rape, falling, and avalanche). Other nuances also come into play, such as the preservation of momentum through 'jumps', the Required Secondary Powers that allow them to jump with him anything they can lift (therefore leaving things they 'can't' lift as potential restraints) and the utilization of the hole in space created to pour water, air, sand, and vacuum from one place into another. It also explores the ethical implications to a limited degree, as David and family have a strict no killing policy, but he initially uses his powers to rob a bank and later uses them as a one man infil/exfil team for the government (with, again, tight restrictions).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Davy is unwilling to kill anyone. Even terrorists, NSA agents, or his dad - though he comes really close with Dad. Millie is the same way. Millie largely follows his lead. Cent? Nope. When she's captured by the Nebulous Evil Organization and she and Joe are threatened, she almost immediately uses deadly force to free herself.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Davy himself.
  • The Vamp: Hyacinth attempts to seduce Davy in Reflex and starts acting like a Psycho Lesbian in Exo when she has Cent at her mercy.
  • Villain Decay: The Nebulous Evil Organization introduced in Reflex are dismantled in frankly ridiculous fashion to sell Cent's Little Miss Badass credentials.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Granted, it's 3 books and nearly 30 years later, but no one mentions Davy's promise to give a reporter from the first book the exclusive if and when teleporting goes public after Cent very publicly saves a cosmonaut.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: David in the book. Though it's more because his father used to beat him and his mother.
  • You Killed My Father: When Islamic terrorists kill his mother, Davy is inspired to start fighting airplane hijackers in hopes of finding the man responsible for her death.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Jumper