Short works

Books : reviews

Steven Gould.
Tor. 1996

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 27 September 1998

A "rites of passage" novel about coping with a new-found ability in adolescence, this time, a gate to a parallel, unspoiled, earth. Charlie is short, fat, bright, and has his own secret world. But unlike most, his is real. He gets four friends involved, first selling passenger pigeons to zoos, then getting more ambitious, and into more danger.

This is great fun. All the kids (well, adults: they've just turned 18) are smart, sensible and competent, but they have problems too, with their families, with the law, and with each other. The action has all the flavour of classic Heinlein juveniles -- smart kids interacting with lovingly-described technology, here aeroplanes, and with the wilderness -- along with added depth of characterisation.

A great follow-up to Jumper (even better in one respect: this time there is an explanation for the new-found ability).

Steven Gould, Laura J. Mixon.
Tor. 1997

Steven Gould.
Tor. 1998

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 30 April 1999

A colony's only contact with Earth is its glass helms, which can give the wearer all Earth's knowledge, but at the risk of madness or worse. When the unprepared 17-year-old Leland de Laal dons his family's helm against his father's express orders, events are set in motion that will change his world for ever.

This may be a "rites of passage" story for its protagonist (again coping with a newly found adolescent ability), but Gould's third novel brings in much more depth and breadth to the tale than do his previous works. The heterogeneous colony world is well drawn: relatively low-tech, but deeply affected by the memory of old Earth, and with certain interesting changes. Although there is one major coincidence in the middle, most of the plot is convincingly propelled by characters acting in character, and nothing is overly easy. The action is fun, with lots of good twists and turns, which helps the reader to feel some of Leland's confusion (although I might have expected him to have been a little more confused, or interested, by the VOICE).

Gould keeps getting better: I can't wait for his next outing.

Steven Gould.
Blind Waves.
Tor. 2000

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 15 September 2003

Patricia Beenan has her work cut out in under-water salvage in a post-Deluge world where the sea levels have risen 100 feet. But when she finds a wreck sunk by what appears to be government forces, she has her work cut out just staying alive. Then there's the complication of Thomas Becket, CID inspector, who is investigating the crime, and who she seems to be falling for.

This is a pretty straightforward romantic thriller, as the bad guys try to silence Patricia and Thomas before they uncover the source of the conspiracy. But the fun is in the post-Deluge world-building, especially the floating city of New Galveston where Patricia lives. Lot of claustrophobic submarines, diving, and fish, to add atmosphere. (My only problem was with the occasional Spanish dialogue -- the key parts are translated, and it's possible to guess at other parts -- but even so, it's a bit disconcerting.)

Steven Gould.
7th Sigma.
Tor. 2011

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 25 December 2012

Kim Monroe is a streetwise kid, living in a future New Mexico devastated by ferocious metal-eating bugs. People have adapted, using low tech wood and fibre, or high tech ceramics manufactured outside the region. But life is hard in the desert land, and Kim needs to use all his smarts to survive. And the bugs seem to be growing into something even more frightening...

This is an homage to Kipling's Kim, as the protagonist here is recruited into a dojo, and then recruited as an investigator ("spy") by the local authorities. There is also a strong Heinleinesque feel, as the smart-but-a-bit-naive young Kim grows into a smarter, less naive young adult.

Curiously, the story focuses on Kim and his exploits, with the metal-eating bugs being mostly part of the background way of life, to be adapted to like the rest of the harsh environment. There are teasers about the bugs' evolution, but this is certainly not the focus of the story: Kim's coming of age. And in Gould's usual manner, this is very well told, in an understated way.

Steven Gould.
Tor. 1992

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

Davy Rice discovers he can teleport when his abusive father hits him once too often. But what does a precocious 17-year-old do with such a talent? Especially when events start to spiral out of control.

A "rites of passage" novel and an intelligent and mature teen power/revenge fantasy.

Steven Gould.
Tor. 2004

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 22 November 2005

Ten years after the events in Jumper, Davy is now happily married, and occasionally jumping for the NSA. But then he is kidnapped by a sinister organisation, and constrained so that he can't jump away. They proceed to condition him, in a particularly gruesome and effective manner, to use his abilities for them. But he's not without resources -- and neither is his wife.

This is a great sequel. Intelligent, resourceful people exploiting a near-miraculous, but still constrained, ability, to battle the bad guys. It is also interesting to see Gould's move from "rites of passage" tales -- adolecents becoming adults, to tales where already mature adults still grow and develop. There is life after the "happy ever after".

Steven Gould.
Tor. 2012

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 4 April 2014

Cent has a secret.

She lives in a remote Arctic compound with her parents, Davy and Millie, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport. Cent has seen the world but only from the safety of her parents’ arms.

Cent has teleported more than anyone on earth, except for Davy and Millie, but she’s never been able to do it by herself. Her life has never really been in danger. Until the day she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time.

The second time will change all their lives forever.

Cent, short for Millicent, is Davy and Millie’s 16 year old daughter. She has been home-schooled, kept away from the outside world and safe from the sinister forces hunting Davy, helping her parent with their humanitarian aid projects. This all changes when she learns to Jump, and demands a chance to go to school and meet other kids, to be socialised.

As we might expect, any child of Davy and Millie will be out of the ordinary. Cent is very bright, and really quite amazingly grounded. Her inevitable interaction with the school bullies does not go how the bullies expect. Then Cent discovers there more to the situation than simple bullying, and determines to fix it. But that draws the wrong sort of notice.

This is fun in the usual Gould way of a smart teen coming of age. There are new plotlines opening up and not followed through here, as we see not just Cent’s schooldays, but Davy starting to track down the people who captured him all those years ago. I hope this means there are more books to follow.

Steven Gould.
Tor. 2014

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 13 November 2015

Cent can teleport. So can her parents, but they are the only people in the world who can. This is not as great as you might think it would be—sure, you can go shopping in Japan and then have tea in London, but it’s hard to keep a secret like that these days. And there are dangerous people who want to make you do just this one thing for them. And when you’re a teenage girl, things get even more complicated.

Cent has an idea—she’s built on her father’s discoveries about the possibilities of their shared talent for jumping. They can go instantly to any place they can see or remember. And Cent is looking up. For her, the sky is no limit.

The previous book in the teleporting Rice family saga told the story of the coming of age of Cent, Davy and Millie’s daughter. Now she is of age, she needs to forge a career for herself, but the one she has in mind will bring the family dangerous publicity. So she has to make herself indispensable.

This is Have Space Suit - Will Travel for the 21st century (minus the aliens). What is interesting is that Cent builds her very own Scooby team of friends in on her secret. This seems a theme of modern superhero tales: Buffy, Arrow, and the rest all end up with a support team, rather than being independent loners, and all succeed because of their team.

This is a great page turner, as Cent and her team race to set up their business before the bad guys can track them down. I’m just surprised they didn’t think of the grandmother solution earlier.

Steven Gould.
Jumper: Griffin's Story.
Tor. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 22 February 2010

This is a book set in the world of the film adaptation of the Jumper novels. (Keeping various alternate fictional realities straight is hard, especially since I haven't seen the film, but the world here is rather different from those other books. This tells Griffin's story before the events of the film.)

Griffin O'Connor can Jump. He and his parents are in hiding since an early public jump, and he obeys the rules: don't jump where anyone can see you. But one day, he accidentally jumps, avoiding a bully, and the Bad Guys find him. His world is irrevocably shattered.

This is an interesting "rites of passage" story, of a boy with a superpower who is gradually transformed into a very capable adult bent on revenge. It really is a case of his pursuers turning him into the very thing they are trying to stop. All told in Gould's accessible style.