The Big Idea: Steven Gould
When you build a universe, you set up rules that you have to follow from then on out. But can those rules in themselves add to the drama of the story? Steven Gould returns the universe he created in the best selling (and movie-adapted) Jumper with his new novel Impulse, and tells us how he fought the laws — and everybody won.
When I wrote Jumper (over twenty years ago) I was writing a book about the only person in the world who could teleport. By the time I wrote its sequel, Reflex, (ten years ago) the number of people who could teleport had doubled. Now, that number has tripled with the release of Impulse. At this rate I’m hardly going to achieve the massive societal transformations that jaunting did in Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. Jumper has a smaller frame than that. But from the beginning it has made some assumptions about teleportation and though I do different things with teleportation (jumping) in each of the books these things have always followed from what we’ve found out in the first book.
In the first book we learned a few things about Jumping:
1. Jumping does not conserve momentum. Davy can jump off a cliff or a tall building and, as long as he jumps before he goes splat at the bottom, he carries none of the acquired downward velocity with him when he appears elsewhere. Likewise, when he changes latitude on the surface of the earth. Standing at the equator, the a person is traveling west to east at 465.1 m/s, 1,674.4 km/h or 1,040.4 mi/h. The angular velocity at any other locations on earth can be calculated by multiplying the speed at the equator by the cosine of the latitude. So, the velocity at near Davy’s house in Canada (at the end of Reflex and in Impulse) is less than half that of the equator. So, if momentum were conserved, jumping to the house from the equator should hurl him through the appropriate wall at over 500 miles per hour. This doesn’t happen so we are not only matching two disparate locations we are matching their relative velocities.
2. Another thing we learn in the first book is that jumping is opening a hole between both locations. This is illustrated by the original cover as a video camera captures a momentary Davy shaped hole through which his destination can be viewed. In Reflex Davy learns how to actually hold this hole open for longer durations allowing air pressure, water, fish, and even a bullet to pass through this Davy shaped hole in the universe, but the fact that it is a hole is set up in the first book.
3. You can’t jump anything you couldn’t physically drag around. Davy manages to move some fairly heavy books shelves from New York to Oklahoma in Jumper but when he is handcuffed to a railing he fails to teleport and nearly dislocates his shoulder. This property is exploited by Davy’s captors in Reflex to hold him prisoner.
So, Cent, Davy and Millie’s daughter, can jump, like her parents, but she takes this to another place, exploiting rule 1: Momentum is not conserved. If she can jump to the equator, gaining over 500 miles per hour to match her destinations angular velocity, why wouldn’t she be able to jump in place and add that same velocity? If she can fall off a cliff and be rushing toward the ground at over sixty miles per hour, then return to the top of the cliff with that velocity negated, why couldn’t she jump in place and add sixty miles per hour of velocity…straight up?
And so she does.
I will leave, as an exercise for the reader, the direction the next book, Exo, will take. I promise one thing, though. It will all have been set up in the first book
On the personal note, Jumper the series continues to mirror and process my personal life. I was that teenage boy with the alcoholic father. I was the reluctant parent unsure whether my own childhood would poison my ability to parent well. And, now with Impulse, I have daughters who amaze and surprise me with their choices and abilities
Hope you enjoy Impulse.