Volume 23, Number 03, Spring, 2005


By Steven Gould

Tor, 2004, $25.95
Reviewed by William H. Stoddard
April 2005

In his first novel, Jumper, Steven Gould introduced Davy Rice, a young man with the ability to teleport. In Reflex, his latest novel, he returns to Davy and his wife, Millie Harrison-Rice, a decade after the end of Jumper. Reflex reexamines some aspects of teleportation, and in particular one of the key assumptions of most stories about teleportation: that a teleporter can’t be imprisoned.

In Reflex, Davy is the target of a kidnapping, carried out by agents of a conspiratorial force that wants to use his unique ability for its own purposes. Over the course of the novel, they work with several different methods of restraining him, both physical and psychological. Gould shows that disturbingly effective restraints are possible for a sufficiently ruthless captor. But he also makes the point that no restraint is absolute. Davy spends much of his time in captivity testing the limits of his restraints. And, despite strong ethical scruples, which shaped his earlier career as an agent of the National Security Agency, he is able to resist his captors sufficiently to make himself effectively useless to them, while at the same time their investigations of his abilities suggest to him some new applications of his power to teleport.

In parallel, we see his wife’s reaction to his disappearance, which introduces a new complication: over many years of exposure to his ability, she has become capable of teleportation also. As he works to resist his captors, she works to identify them and free him from them. This aspect of the story could have been stronger; Millie defeats people with combat training a little too easily, simply by relying on her ability to teleport, and she also bypasses security arrangements with that same ability—but having decided to kidnap one teleporter, any adequately paranoid security force ought to have assumed there could be more and had countermeasures waiting for them.

Eventually the two plots converge in a dramatic climax—but the rescue/escape doesn’t solve all the problems. Gould spends several more chapters working out further problems, of which some are resolved and others remain unsolved, as a possible basis for a sequel.

Despite its flaws, Reflex is an ingenious exploration of one of science fiction’s classic conceptual puzzles. It’s also a sympathetic portrayal of a man of integrity resisting captivity and brainwashing. And it’s a story of the mutual loyalty that motivates Davy’s resistance. Readers of Prometheus are likely to find these themes sympathetic and to enjoy Gould’s exploration of them, as I did.

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