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REVIEW: Jumper and Griffin’s Story by Steven Gould

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.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

18 Comments on REVIEW: Jumper and Griffin’s Story by Steven Gould

  1. I recently read both Jumper and Reflex. If you give Reflex a chance, you’ll find it more than makes up for the lack of conflict in Jumper’s coming of age story. Reflex sports clear, believable, and well thought out real world conflict. No “paladins” or other nonsense.

    You don’t need to read Jumper to enjoy Reflex, but the first book makes up the emotional core that drives the second, making it all the more enjoyable.

  2. Ed Greenberg // February 11, 2008 at 12:43 pm //

    I found Jumper when it first came out, and enjoyed it. Great lit, no. Good story? Sure. I felt that David could have made some better choices, but heck, he’s a kid.

    Reflex had a bit more conflict, and certainly more excitement, but Griffin’s story was really disappointing.

    Too bad. So sad.

  3. I read Jumper last night. It’s a forgettable book. I realised this when I was about half way through and realised I’d read it before. Or perhaps skimmed it, since my retention was about 0.1%.

    The whole hijacker plot, which dominates the second half, felt unbelivable, and tacked on. Pity something more interesting couldn’t have been done.

    Compares especially poorly with The Time Traveller’s Wife.

    Sounds like the movie will be much worse, though..

  4. You know, may this be the rare case where the movie is actually better than the book?

  5. I read Jumper a very long time ago and really liked it. I saw the movie recently and was not so impressed by it. I re-read the story again and still really liked it. I completely disagree with the other comments that a conflict was needed in the original Jumper book. I don’t understand why some people have thought that the book was missing something, because I don’t. Instead I think the movie was missing something critical – a main character that has integrity and is someone you care about because of that.

    The original book Jumper was a wonderful coming of age book that explores the process of an abused child coming to terms with that abuse and finding his way to a healed (or mostly healed) adulthood. David’s ‘conflict’ could be said to be with the internal wounds from the constant abuse bestowed by his father. As with any abused child, he holds that hurt deeply inside himself and must come to terms with it to be a whole person. The book walks us slowly through that healing process. Even with his spectacular ability to teleport, David is still a person who needs to heal and grow and learn about himself, with the end result being that he finally starts to overcome the hurt from the abuse and find out who he is. Even more important, David starts to heal without letting his extraordinary ability go to his head. He remains human, lovable, and ultimately good, in a very human way. In my opinion that makes for an uplifting and enjoyable story.

    The David in the movie never seems to grow out of his childishness. He never explores who he is and how is actions can hurt or influence others. He only cares about himslef and what he can do or get. Meanwhile the main center/conflict of the movie is the big? bad? Paladins trying to kill the little? bad? Jumpers. There is not enough background or build-up of either set of characters to let us understand why we should care one way or the other for either side. Without the reasons to care about the characters, the movie remains an empty and shallow action movie. It is a pretty good action movie and I enjoyed it because I cared about David Rice, but that caring was based on the original book. I am not sure I would have cared about David with only the background information given in the movie.

  6. I actually really enjoyed the movie Jumper. Good special effects –> except it seemed unfinished at the end. Then I read the book. It was slow, repetitive, and anti-climatic. This is one of the few cases where the movie surpasses the book. By far.

  7. O_O


    My mind is officially boggled.

    I’ve never really met anybody who didn’t like Jumper, and now here are like three in one place.

    I adore this book. It’s one of my very favorites. As far as answering the charges in the review, I agree with everything Cindy said. You don’t need bad guys to have conflict. Davy is a character I come to care very deeply about throughout the course of the book.

    To suggest that the moronic movie is better than this book . . . words fail me. As I said, I’m just stunned.

    If you want a clear-cut antagonist, definitely read Reflex. I thought it was good, but not as good as Jumper. It sounds like you’ll like it better, though.

  8. Jim Porter // May 3, 2008 at 9:51 am //

    I happened upon Jumper the book and picked it up yesterday. I haven’t seen the movie yet.

    I have to say the book is one of the absolute worst I have ever read. Horrible. I read a lot so that is a strong statement. I almost threw it away halfway through. I might have enjoyed this when I was 10 or 11 but for an adult it is absolute drivel.

    Seems like it was written by a 12 year old. Plot is terrible and meandering. Dialog is completely unreadable. Characterization is completely cliche or not really there. Pretty much the only good idea was teleportation and that definitely isn’t original.

    The whole hijacking sub plot was totally absurd. There are not, nor has there ever been, a major hijacking every week for months on end. Just stupid.

    No excuses for this one. It never should have been published.

    I really don’t understand how anyone who has ever read a good book could actually like this one.

    On a scale of 1-10 I would give this book a 2.5

    Let’s put it this way..I would NEVER EVER even give this book away. It is garbage bound. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.

  9. gracer // May 9, 2008 at 8:17 am //

    well… i absolutely agree with cindy , the book does have climax’s and conflicts if you look for the subtle signs , and all over great read.. the guy in the movie couldnt give a damn , where as david rice in the book , shows commpassion, care , and intelligence.. now a days all the heroes can’t read a book that isn’t about a weapon or more than four pages long , neither can they woo a women with just the play on words ..

    maybe im just old fashioned for a 17 year old but where is the chivalry and all that , ah well… it was a better book… by along shot. i only connected with the david in the movie because i haveread the book and his backround…

  10. Gil Knutson // May 17, 2008 at 1:26 am //

    I have read science fiction since around 1958. I have read many that are excellent and many that were so bad I could not finish reading them.

    I have over 2000 sf books in my library, and have had many others that have disappeared because of my liberal lending habits. I also took books out of the library for years when I could not afford to buy them. My point is, I have read lots of books, both good and bad.

    Jumper is, I have no doubt, one of the top 10 I have ever read. I can relate to the character totally, having been an only kid in a single parent family whose father drank. I thank my lucky stars that my father was not like David’s: mine was not abusive. How David managed to come out of that experience as well as he did is wonderful to see, and shows great strength of inner character. I disagree totally with those critics who say the story has nothing going for it: no action (action is NOT always the “Bam, Bang, Boom” thing), no character development, no protaganist, etc, etc.

    The story is all about overcoming obstacles, especially those that are beyond one’s understanding, or those that are inner rather than external.

    At the time of its release, I read other reviews by well known critics, and they by and large compared Gould to Heinlein, who was and still is considered The Dean of Science Fiction. He knew how to make a great story, and so does Steven Gould. Now, Heinlein is in a league of his own, but to have him even slightly compared shows that someone valued Gould’s story. I have read Jumper at least 6 times and have enjoyed it each time. I have lent it to a dozen friends, and they all liked it immensely. Not one felt it deserved anything but praise.

    Now, they might be saying that to protect my feelings, but I doubt it. Many of them have NOT liked other books I recommended, and told me so.

    So, I agree with Cindy, Ed, Joe, gracer and others. It is a good book. I kind of feel that only a curmudgeon would not like the way it is written and how David overcame insurmountable odds, and actually managed to get a little revenge against the killer of his mother, whom he was just developing a new relationship with.

    My feeling is that he was altogether too kind to them, but he made a good start.

    I recommend Jumper to anyone who asks for a reading suggestion. Reflex was pretty good too, a logical follow-up for Jumper. A good read, to my mind, but not as good as the original Jumper.

    Actually, I really like Gould’s book, Wildside. I also enjoyed Helm, and would not hesitate to buy and read anything he puts out in the future.

    Feeling this way, I bought and read Griffin’s Story. I liked it, but NOT nearly as much as the original story, Jumper. The only complaint I have is that it leaves the Paladins unsolved. This was probably done to allow a TV series to be the next logical step. If that is the case, I will be a little disappointed. I do not think that Jumper can be made into a successful series. It needs a second book which DOES solve the problem.

    Mind you, perhaps Gould is hoping for a Dumarest or Fugitive character. It will, I admit, take a very strong storyline to make this happen. Perhaps they can do a single, GOOD season where all is solved and revealed on the 13th show. Not solving the Jumper vs Paladin question would really kill the series if it ever happened.


  11. JUMPER, The Movie

    I just viewed the movie version of Jumper tonight with The Little Woman.

    I hate to say it, but I did not enjoy the movie very much. I would give it a 3 out of 10, because it does have some effective visual effects. The character of David Rice in the movie was extremely disappointing. This is NOT the “Nice Kid In An Impossible Situation”. The character seems poorly transferred to the screen. Millie is not anywhere near the person in the book. In the show she is just another unforgettable Bimbo. Their relationship with David in the book may be controversial, but it is much better than the movie version.

    Then there is the Paladins. OMG what a lame bunch of folk they are. The idea of Paladins killing off Jumpers for hundreds (thousands?) of years is pathetic. They aren’t even exciting, really.

    I liked almost everything in the book, and liked very little that the movie “Jumper” offered. I cannot say I will be recommending the movie to anyone, no matter what I think of the book or Mr. Gould as a writer. All I can say is that he should have refused to be involved with this travesty of his book.

    I mentioned that my wife watched it with me. Her take on it was very negative. She felt the action was too disjointed, an the main character too confused. It will be a long time before I talk her into watching something I like AFTER this!



  12. Hector Campos // August 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm //

    As I read all these comments I sort of get confused about which one of the jumper books we’re talking about. I recently saw the movie and I really liked it, except for i really need to watch it again to get the whole idea/concept.  I want to read the book before i watch it again though, but there are two versions:  Jumper: Griffin’s story, and just Jumper.  I am also going to read reflex after it b/c i’m pretty interested in, but I dont’ know which way to go first.  any help!?


    Thanks alot!

  13. Start with Jumper and it’s sequel Reflex.  Those are the book’s on which the movie is based.

    Jumper: Griffin’s Story is a prequel that is meant to be consistent with the film, not the other two books.  It provides the back story of one of the characters (Griffin).

  14. I watched the movie first and was left wondering, “why are these paladins killing children?!?”  So i went and bought all three books.  I read Jumper first, the only thing it had in common with the movie was the names of some of the characters.  I finished the book dissatisfied because there were too many questions left unanswered, I had to completely dissociate from the movie to grade it on it’s own merit.  Reflex was much better, we had a sort of focus, but in the end they have the wrong guy and we have the added puzzle of millie’s ability.  I was relieved when I started Griffin’s story that maybe we’d get a few answers to the crazy paladin situation but noooo, that never works out either.  I feel like these books were written purposely to set up the next book in a series to make money, I got little satisfaction from reading them and when this author writes the next book, which i suspect he will because nothing has been answered yet, I won’t buy it.  I don’t think the failure of the movie had anything to do with the actors, it was a passable story and it wouldn’t have translated well into a movie so I can see why they changed it so much, though you’d think if they were going to change it so much they’d have at least made it a decent movie with all the changes.  Reading these books and watching the movie makes me appreciate why JK Rowling is fanatical about keeping the movies to her storyline for the most part.

  15. I’m 13 and I albsolutley love this book and the movie I dont know how any one could not like it  It was iteresting and  I thought that the book was funny

  16. the jumper book wasn’t bad. For me it was a long, very long, introduction to David. Reflex was great, clear antagonist, the way the bad guys handle david, etc. Griffin’s story was enjoyable, not better than reflex but good all same. The movie i thought it was pretty good but after reading the book it’s just another popcorn movie. when i started griffing story i thought he was david and millie’s son xP.

  17. Dorothy MacDonald // March 2, 2012 at 6:56 am //

    I have read Jumper and Reflex both a little boring but enjoyable enough and I liked the film too. I recently started Jumper: Griffins story. Griffin talks and acts american boy and certainly not like he is from the UK but I can handle that as he had spent four years in the USA. What I cant handle however is the fact that Steven Gould must not have done enough research on the united kingdom as on page 62 griffin has sixty three dollars and change, fifteen francs and seven pounds eight SHILLINGS and four pence. Shillings have not been used as legal UK tender for about forty years! I am Scottish and live in Scotland so I know! I think Steven Gould should recall the books and change that totally.

  18. I first watched the movie and liked it, so I was interested of reading the book, because the books are always better than the movies. But I was disapointed.

    The first book : Jumper, was enjoyable. I liked it because there wasn’t a “enemy” that wants to kill David, it was like a book about a normal kid (except the fact that he can teleport) that is living is life. That made a book more realistic and representative of a real life. But for the same reason, I wasn’t thrilled to continu of reading.

    I didn’t like the second book : Reflex. The book was well written and all but I didn’t like the story. He got captured after 20 pages and got out like 30 pages before the end. I was raging against the “bad guys” the hole book, and because of that I didn’t enjoy the reading. It was too morbid (not sure if it is the right word). Like Trish said, there were too much unanswered questions : Why can Millie jump? Who is the leader of the “bad guys”? And something I didn’t like at the end : They will have children, that is so stupid, they can’t even have a real life because of the “bad guys” and they want to give birth to a kid that won’t be able to have a normal life.

    Finally I don’t regret my reading, but wouldn’t recommand the books. I first thought the book would be the movie plot but with explanation but it was a whole other story. I wouldn’t say the movie was better because it wasn’t the same story. I would have prefered a book about the Paladins chasing David though.


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