Three and a half stars for this one.
The way I understand it, Steven Gould's 1992 debut novel JUMPER was opted for the cinema, but, predictably, along the way, it got tweaked and tweaked some more. JUMPER: GRIFFIN'S STORY then is Stephen Gould's attempt to reconcile some of the changes that were effected: call it a book adaptation of the film adaptation of the original novel. Note: the film's main protagonist will still be the original JUMPER's Davy Rice (played by Hayden Christensen). Griffin O'Conner is, however, a key character. This book tells his story.
Plot SPOILERS now.
Griffin was 5 years old when his innate teleporting talent began manifesting. Since then, his parents had become cautious to the point of paranoia. They established a set of rules for Griffin to follow: 1) Never jump where he can be seen. 2) Never jump near home. 3) Never jump to or from the same place twice. 4) Never, never, ever jump unless necessary or Dad or Mum tells him to. And they were right to be concerned. At 9 years old, Griffin makes an inadvertent "jump" in karate school which results in the shocking murders of his parents at the hands of a shadowy and well-resourced organization. The rest of the novel follows Griffin down the years as he tries desperately to survive on his own. Criminy, it's not easy being underaged and still maintain your homeschooling, brush up on your Spanish and French, develop a crush on a beautiful but much older girl, and repeatedly thwart your relentless would-be assassins.
As comparisons with the original source would leave JUMPER: GRIFFIN'S STORY much the worse for it, I'll leave it at this: yes, the first JUMPER is better. On its own merits, GRIFFIN'S STORY has certain things going for it: namely, a very young but precocious and intrepid protagonist, some fairly gripping action sequences, a fast pace, and, of course, the wondrous sci-fi aspects of "jumping." Someone somewhere compared Gould's novels to Robert Heinlein's young adult books (THE ROLLING STONES, RED PLANET, STARMAN JONES, etc), and there's some truth in that. A charming innocence and sense of wonder permeate Gould's novels, especially JUMPER and WILDSIDE. Though not as evocative in these pages, these elements are still present.
Gould once again weaves in themes of friendship and family, isolation and self-reliance, and, most stridently, the abuse of power and authority. As Griffin tries to make it on his own, he meets up with several folks who end up being his fast friends and allies. These relationships do allow him to achieve a semblance of normality for a while, but then, inevitably, something happens and the chase would be on again. Griffin's life from early childhood to teenhood is shot thru with one tragedy after another, with the occasional lull. And as Griffin's losses mount, one wonders how much more grief he can take before he starts looking for serious answers.
GRIFFIN'S STORY is quite stingy with several key explanations, but maybe it's because Griffin is only part of the story in the film and so certain things needn't be as yet divulged. Whatever the case, the book doesn't go at all into the how, what, and why of Griffin's ability. Mention is nonchalantly made of other jumpers and then is teasingly left at that.
We also don't get to sniff out too many details about Griffin's indefatigable and scary pursuers, in terms of who they are and why they're so hell bent on killling jumpers. We do find out that several of these agents have the ability to sense when a jumper teleports and that their preferred weaponry is a projectile gun which shoots out electrified cables. For what it's worth (and THIS IS A SPOILER), what the book doesn't reveal is that the villains, called Paladins, belong to a secret society that has existed for uncountable centuries and that their primary objective is to hunt down and kill jumpers simply because their "jumping" gift renders them too powerful to be allowed to exist.
By no means is JUMPER: GRIFFIN'S STORY a classic. Yep, it's a ripping good yarn on the surface, but it cries out for more depth and follow-through. I do get why Gould didn't go more into the how and what of Griffin's talent; it would've been mere repetition of what he wrote in JUMPER. But the end effect is a certain hollowness to this book and a chance that it'll leave you ultimately unsated, especially if you've read the wonderful Davy Rice series (JUMPER and REFLEX). In writing this book, Steven Gould is helping to pave the way for the upcoming film, and, as such, GRIFFIN'S STORY will serve to fill in some gaps. Mind you, I did enjoy reading it and am very curious about what happens to Griffin. And now I'm keenly anticipating the film adaptation. Speaking of which, JUMPER releases on February 15, 2008 and is projected to be the first in a hopefully thrilling and thoughtful trilogy (but Hayden Christensen, yikes!). For this one, I'm fervently crossing my fingers and toes and everything else I can think of...