REVIEW SUMMARY: My desire to see the film has been considerably lessened.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Teenager David Rice, who can teleport at will, tries to figure out what to do with his talent.
PROS: Interesting premise; some good uses of the jumping ability; a quick read.
CONS: Lack of any clear antagonist; the plot seems to lose focus.
BOTTOM LINE: I had high hopes but came away underwhelmed.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Young Griffin O’Connor, who can teleport at will, is on the run from an evil group of jumper-killers.
PROS: Interesting premise; clear antagonists; a quick read.
CONS: The antagonists are without motive and not used to good effect; the plot loiters around while nothing interesting happens.
BOTTOM LINE: I suspect this might fare better if you saw the movie and liked the Griffin character.
The theatrical release of Jumper seemed like a good time to finally read Steven Gould’s 1992 book, Jumper. As penance for my reading latency, I also read his new book, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, which provides some background characterization for one of the film’s main characters.
My intent was to read Jumper as precursor to seeing the film. But a note in Griffin’s Story reveals that Jumper, besides making changes that go hand-in-hand with adaptation, is additionally based on the book Reflex, which I have not read. Furthermore, Griffin’s Story is a character background story written to be consistent with the movie, not the books. So, instead of reading a story (or some resemblance thereof) that was transferred to film, instead I seemed to circle around the story presented in movie. Oh well.
Jumper and Griffin’s Story – two young adult novels that include some serious subject matter – both focus on a character who can teleport by force of will. In Jumper it’s David Rice, a troubled teenager from a broken home. David’s father is abusive and, as a result, David’s mother abandons the family. When David learns that he can jump, he leaves home trying to make his way in the world. Griffin’s Story follows Griffin O’Conner between the ages of nine and sixteen. His family has been on the run from unknown assailants since Griffin first exhibited his abilities at age five. Tragedy befalls Griffin early in the book and from then on his situation is quite similar to David’s.
The books are actually quite similar in many respects: they are both personal stories that focus on a single character; each main character is forced to grow up fairly quickly while making some serious decisions, though not always the right one, ethically speaking; the single-threaded, first-person narratives are quick reads; each one features a “safe house” that is only entered and exited through jumping; and both jumpers are limited to jumping to places that they’ve physically been to before (though, in Griffin’s version, the jump tends to drag along pieces of debris from the source point). Sadly, another thing they had in common was that they lacked any significant conflict.
In Jumper, there is simply no clear antagonist. Instead there are several, less-effective sources of drama: his father, a crooked cop, and eventually terrorists when David grows a moral compass. (Well, sort of…it’s more fuelled by revenge than anything else. Between that and the bank heist he uses to finance his shenanigans, it’s hard to see how the David is using his powers for good. Perhaps that’s the point – confused teenager making mistakes and growing up – but I can’t say that David, despite his guilt, was all that likable.) The absence of a well-defined antagonist translates to a story that seems to lack narrative drive – it meanders as much as David does. For example, David dawdles for one whole year (scores of pages) before he has any desire to learn the extent of his powers. Can he bring people along with him? What happens when he jumps while moving? Can he jump in mid-air? All these are eventually answered, but it takes time to get there. During that time the book simply feels like it’s going nowhere. There are some worthwhile sub-plots, to be sure (David’s attempts to reconnect with his mother, his burgeoning relationship with Millie), but the book was in need of some serious dramatic action. I kept wishing that David’s curiosity into the possible existence of other jumpers would develop into something cool. It didn’t.
Griffin’s Story somewhat addresses the unclear protagonist issue by introducing a group of people hell-bent – for some unexplained reason – on killing jumpers. (It is revealed in the final, movie-aligning chapter that they are called Paladins and are led by the never-seen Roland.) Paladins can sense jumpers and zero in on Griffin wherever he appears as long as they are close enough to sense it. It’s too bad for the people that Griffin associates with that the paladins seem to be everywhere. Even here, though, the encounters with these nefarious paladins are few and far between, leaving Griffin to constantly relocate and start fresh. These parts of the story seemed to drag; as Griffin struggled to find a foothold, the main plot is put on hold. Even more of a tease: Griffin surmises that there are indeed other jumpers out there, but again we never see them. I suspect Griffin’s Story is a better read for someone who sees the movie and likes the character enough to want to know more.
The only hope I can see for the film at this point is that Reflex provided enough conflict to make it good. In the movie, David and Griffin meet, they fight, and then they team up against the Paladins, all of which sounds interesting enough. But as it stands now, my desire to see the film is weakened.