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A more polished Gould revisits Jumper's world

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Impulse

By Steven Gould

Tor Books, 368 pages, $30

AMERICAN science-fiction writer Steven Gould has no less than eight previously published novels, but his very first remains the most popular.

Jumper (1992) introduced David Rice, a bookish teen being raised by an abusive, alcoholic father. One day, flinching away from an impending assault, he finds himself inexplicably at his favourite section of the public library: his safe place.

He was in danger and teleported away, and now all the rules have changed.

Parts of the novel are rough. It's his first, after all. But the originality of the premise and love invested in its characters make Jumper an enduring favourite. It even spawned a 2008 film of the same name, starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson, though the Hollywood version diverged heavily from both the tone and story of the book.

Now Gould revisits this world on his own terms. With the polish brought by a now veteran novelist, and the heart that made Jumper such a hit, Impulse stands to be an instant favourite for both new and returning readers alike.

The story introduces us to 16-year-old Cent (short for Millicent), who lives in an isolated cabin towards the northern tip of the Rockies, along with her parents, David and Millie, the only two teleporters in the history of the world.

Her parents can transport her instantly to Australia, South America -- any place they've been -- in the blink of an eye.

They use their secret abilities to provide disaster relief, bypassing military blockades and red tape. But there are shadowy figures out to capture them, torture them, use their skills for nefarious ends, and security is paramount.

Cent, the most vulnerable of the three, can't be left alone when travelling with her parents, and never gets a chance to spend any time with other people. She's lonely and frustrated.

That all changes when an avalanche nearly kills her while snowboarding alone on their private mountain. Just as she finds herself being buried alive, an instinct triggers within her and she "jumps" away, reappearing back in her own bedroom, with a rather large pile of snow.

Now there are three teleporters, and Cent's parents realize they can't keep her from going out into the world if she chooses. So David and Millie begrudgingly buy a house in a real town, and their daughter gets to attend high school for the first time ever.

Though the book follows directly from the events of a previous sequel -- Reflex, itself set 10 years after Jumper -- it works perhaps even better as a stand-alone. Cent is a loveable, relatable protagonist.

Her efforts to navigate the social jungle of an American high school for the first time will strike a chord with younger and older readers alike. But the added complications of her family's special abilities and the ruthless people after them give her more to worry about than cafeteria food.

Cent has, like many teens, a rebellious streak. But she also has a loving and supportive family and knows it. She's confident but not cocky, healthy but not invulnerable -- basically 180 degrees emotionally from the isolated teen David as he appeared in Jumper.

At the same time, we see a precocious young woman experimenting with her powers in the same methodical way as her father before her. Moving frames of reference, the differing speeds of Earth's rotation at various latitudes -- the scientific inquiry is fascinating and the fruits of discovery satisfying. Gould has thought about these little details and carried them through to their logical conclusions, in the best science-fiction tradition.

The result is smart, readable and satisfying.

Joel Boyce is a Winnipeg writer and teacher.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 J7

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