“You sit here in your comfortable chair while your students are fried up and scrambled and scattered in pieces across the planet. How many deaths would it take to spur you into action? How many kids could you bear to lose? Perhaps you’re so jaded already, so inured to this cult of disintegration, that you would cheerfully herd your wards into a slaughterhouse without losing a minute’s sleep. You monster, you murderer-”
Jump – Sean Williams
However if I’m being honest, my favourite quote would probably be:
Clair lowered her hands and raised her head slowly over the edge of the bench. Arcady was standing in the doorway, as hairy as a bear, wearing nothing but a shotgun and a worried expression.
Jump – Sean Williams
Jump (Twinmaker #1) – 4 out of 5 stars
Another book I read for my BookRiot Read Harder challenge, and yet another very pleasant surprise. I needed a book to satisfy the Young Adult (YA) category, and I saw this one for free on iBooks (always the right price for a book you aren’t certain of :)). It’s the first book I’ve finished in my #AusReadingApril and is by Sean Williams, who is a fellow Adelaide lad (I haven’t met him, but Adelaide’s the sort of place that no one is more than 3 or 4 degrees of separation apart).
Anyway this book more than exceeded my expectations – its a quick, action-filled, and exciting read that kept me coming back until I was finished. I enjoyed spending time with the characters. The sci-fi story devices (teleportation and replication technology) are both entertaining and managed intelligently; for example, the impact of replicators on the world economy and environment is believable. Some meatier issues I would have liked to be explored more were covered off lightly or almost entirely brushed over, but… I think that’s entirely in line with it’s intended audience. The YA stories I’ve read have been about character development and rollicking stories; deeper philosophical explorations may be better left for a different format*.
A fun read.
Jump starts with a standard teenage love-triangle between Clair (the protagonist), Libby (her best friend) and Zep (Libby’s boyfriend). Clair begins with standard teenage worries – a desire for popularity, concerns that her nose is too big, and fear that Libby might find out Clair and Zep kissed. (OMG I KNOW! HOW COULD SHE!). What makes this less than standard is that the story is set on Earth in the future. Near future? Not so near? It’s not exactly clear, but given the behaviours of the characters and society, I’m guessing we are not talking a super long time. The big difference in this future is the existence freely available D-Mat technology – teleportation, and replication. Think Star Trek technology. World hunger has been solved, people can travel wherever and whenever they want, there is no waste or garbage (you dematerialise anything you don’t use)… it’s a utopia**.
It appears that even in the future no-one has gotten rid of spam however, as chain letters, memes and junk mail still appear to be a problem. Clair is told by Libby about one piece of spam, an urban legend that if you D-Mat travel with a note written in your pocket with a small code written on it you can be Improved… and Libby admits to trying it to remove a birthmark. Clair scoffs at the tale, as there are built-in protocols and protections against this, but when Libby starts acting weird and appears online sans birthmark, she thinks there might be more to this urban legend than she might think.
As she investigates Improvement with the help of D-Mat Abstainers and a mysterious online ‘friend’, Clair is drawn into violent conflict with a conspiracy that shakes the very economic and social foundations of the world she lives in.
This book was well written – the style is engaging, it’s easy to read, the story propels you along. I felt the story took just a little longer than I would have liked to get really going, but when things start going south for Clair the conflict really ramps up. I started reading this book alongside another novel, but over the Easter long weekend I would always pick this book up when given the choice – both were great, but this one is more approachable (the other book I’m reading requires more focus time than my kids were willing to give me). Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism at all – coming off Wuthering Heights, it’s nice to have a book where I can focus on the story without all the work when reading.
I felt Jump had a lot in common (stylistically and thematically) with Revision by Andrea Phillips*** – it’s a very human sci-fi novel, an exploration of the morality arising from certain technologies and the potential for its abuse, all written around a character driven story. Both involve a young woman finding inner reserves of strength to deal with a difficult situation. That said, Mira (Revision) and Clair (Jump) are very different characters – Mira was flaky, whilst Clair seems reasonably confident and self assured from the get go. The action in Jump is also a bit more… explosive.
The big theme in the book is the issue of whether a person who teleports from one location is the same person who materialises in the target location. What if data is lost, corrupted, or changed? The power that the overseers of the D-Mat system is significant – what if you can’t trust them? If the world economy demands D-Mat, who could possibly stand against it? What if someone can manipulate teleporting people to alter a person’s body or mind? This is a great theme, but I think maybe it’s slightly underdone for my tastes. I’d have liked a much deeper look into the existential concepts surrounding teleportation – The original person who stepped into the D-Mat booth has been disintegrated – are they dead? Is the reformed entity being built a minute later in a new booth the same person, or simply a clone; a copy? Issues I’d like to have seen the characters explore in more depth.
Still I think this book has an intelligent take on its ideas, it contains loads of great action, and is a solid, quick, and fun read.
*Like the following webcomic I found some years ago 😛
**A change from the dearth of dystopias currently around.
***What? Ok. Fine. Officially Revision isn’t released until May 2015 (I reviewed an ARC), so here in April 2015 no-one else will get this comparison, but clearly this will not always be the case, so you can come back after May and tell me whether you agree or disagree.
I also couldn’t leave this without my favourite teleportation quote:
I teleported home last night with Ron and Sid and Meg
Ron stole Meggy’s heart away and I got Sidney’s leg.
Douglas Adams – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe