Reflex is the second book in Steven Gould’s JUMPER series. Ten years have passed since we left Davy and Millie. Now they’re married and Davy works occasionally for the National Security Agency. On one of his trips to Washington D.C. to meet with his contact there, he gets drugged and kidnapped by a group of people who want to use his powers for their own evil purposes. As they work to get Davy under their control, Millie uses her skills as a psychologist to search for him. She needs some help from the government, but she isn’t sure who she can trust. There seem to be leaks in high places.
Just like Jumper, Reflex is pretty compelling reading for the most part. Davy’s experiences as a captive are fascinating as we watch the bad guys use operant conditioning to try to bend him to their wills. This eventually starts to pall, however, because Davy spends almost the entire story in one small room.
Millie is the more active character in Reflex. Some of her experiences are really endearing, such as when she befriends a homeless schizophrenic woman who may have information about Davy’s whereabouts. This woman has tardive dyskinesia which makes her repulsive to others on the street, but as a psychologist, Millie understands the disorder and is able to see beyond it.
While I appreciated the focus on Millie, who’s a lot more mature than Davy was in Jumper, and who had some interesting ethical dilemmas to deal with here, one significant part of her story may ruin the book for some readers. Since it’s been reported in some of the blurbs for Reflex, and since it happens early in the story, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that suddenly Millie can jump, too. While that certainly adds excitement to the story, it really stretches the bounds of belief. Millie’s jumping is not explained except to say that perhaps after ten years of being transported around the world by Davy, Millie’s body just figured out how. That’s an easy out that many science fiction fans just won’t be pleased with. There is a scientist in this story who works with Davy to try to understand how the teleportation occurs, so Steven Gould does try to alleviate our discontent, but it doesn’t quite measure up. In other words, the JUMPER series, at least so far, is very “lite” science fiction. The jumping feels more like magic than anything else, but Davy lives in our world and there are no other traces of magic, so it doesn’t quite work. This series probably would be best classified as a thriller.
If you can get over that, though, Reflex is an exciting story that will almost certainly please fans of Jumper. I listened to the wonderful audio version produced by Audible Frontiers. Macleod Andrews is an excellent narrator. Reflex shifts perspective — it’s no longer just Davy’s point of view — and Andrews does all of it beautifully.