Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Impulse by Steven Gould

I've always enjoyed Steven Gould's work, and I'm surprised I haven't reviewed any of it previously, just an issue of timing I suppose. I read the first two books in the series, Jumper and Reflex, when they first came out, and I just found Impulse at the local library the, other day, so we'll start there. In the previous books, we met Davy and Millie, two humans who possess the very uncommon ability to "jump", to teleport themselves and some amount of materials they're carrying instantaneously anywhere on Earth. Whether they can jump to other planets has not yet been explored by Gould - maybe later.

 Davy and Millie were hunted, and Davy captured and exploited by, a shadowy quasi-government group in the past, and they now live anonymously far off the grid, in a self-sustaining hunting lodge in the wilds of the Yukon. Davy and Millie are married, it's sixteen years, later, and they are raising a daughter, Cent, as the story picks back up.

More or less simultaneously, two things occur which set up all of the subplots in the story - Cent discovers when she is caught in an avalanche while snowboarding that she can jump, just like her parents, and her parents decide that Cent should enroll in a mainstream high school (she's always been home schooled)to become socialized. They purchase a house in a small town in rural New Mexico, and appear to move there, though they actually sleep back in their fortress of solitude in the Yukon, and Cent mostly walks to her new school from the house, and returns "home" each day just for the sake of appearances.

The main plot of the story centers around Cent's assimilation into the small town high school culture. She rapidly makes friends and enemies, and for a while their interactions are those of typical teens, though it eventually takes a more sinister turn when it turns out that her arch-nemesis, Caffeine, and her cronies are working for a drug dealing gang and bullying and blackmailing underclassmen and geeks. The friendships remain less sinister, and she gains a couple off BFF girlfriends, a disastrous first crush, a non-romantic date, and finally true love.

The second plot continues Davy's story, as he monitors and tries to expose and destroy the shadowy group that hurt him before. He jumps all over the world, tailing their leaders, infiltrating their offices, and playing James Bond.

The third plot element is the ongoing tale of how Davy and Millie use their powers for good, "jumping" relief supplies into war, famine, and flood torn regions of the world.

The fun thing about this book is when Gould, through Cent, explores some of the possibilities of jumping. In the past, when Davy or Millie have jumped from one location to the other, whatever angular momentum or gravitational potential is involved in the jump is simply eliminated, perhaps cast into some unknown dimension. Cent wonders about this, and begins to experiment with jumps that involve creating velocity from scratch, so she can either soar into the air, fly across the sky, or add sudden bursts of momentum or kinetic energy to her own actions. These new found skills serve her well when the conflict with Caffeine and her gang finally turns violent.

This is a Young Adult book that's not too caught up in its hormone-driven angst, and provides a pleasant evening's entertainment.

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