The plot for Jump: Twinmaker goes something like this:
In a near-future world in which technology can transport you anywhere instantly, can a coded note enable you to change your body—to become taller, stronger, more beautiful? Clair is pretty sure the offer is too good to be true. But her best friend, Libby, is determined to give it a try, longing for a new, improved version of herself.
What starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when Libby falls foul of a deadly trap. With the help of Jesse, the school freak, and a mysterious—but powerful—stranger called Q, Clair’s attempt to protect Libby leads her to an unimagined world of conspiracies and cover-ups. Soon her own life is at risk, and Clair is chased across the world in a desperate race against time.
On a very recent episode of the Coode Street podcast, Gary Wolfe noted that current day science fiction has mostly abandoned ideas around teleportation. What was a hot concept in the 50s and 60s has become a quaint idea better left in the hands of media franchises like Doctor Who and Star Trek. With Jump: Twinmaker, Sean has attempted to revive this classic concept. Much like Larry Niven did with his Flash Crowd stories in the 1970s, Sean has imagined what society might look like if we could travel from Australia to South Africa and then to Japan in the blink of an eye.
This is the not the first time Sean has tried to give teleportation a new paint job. In 1998 he wrote The Resurrected Man which mixed hard boiled crime and teleports. There are some links between that novel and this new trilogy – the technology was called d-mat, and the serial killer, interestingly enough, was called the Twinmaker. So obviously teleportation – as hoary and old fashioned as it might seem – still has cache for Sean. Maybe it’s not as shiny as singularities or post humanism or setting up viable colonies on Uranus, but because it’s a science fiction concept with mainstream appeal (or at least awareness) it has its merits. Teleportation allows Sean to explore the idea of technology as savior and destroyer and the impact each new discovery has on the family, the community and society as a whole.
Which sounds awfully earnest and academic, but in the hands of Sean is a fun and at times genuinely compelling. The novel is crammed with incident and event with Clair running away from and then trying to stop those looking to pervert the technology. And while the middle of the novel does get bogged down with near misses and last second escapes, the last 100 pages is a breathless burst of crazy energy as Clair comes face to face with the main villain.
As a Young Adult novel I expected that Jump: Twinmaker would be filled with teenage angst and love triangles. (I accept this is a prejudice on my part). As it happens while some of this was evident what shines through clearly is how this is Clair’s story. This is her journey as she goes from insecure teenager caught in betwixt and between the stronger personalities of her friends, to an empowered woman who stands tall when the shit hits the fan. And this isn’t a last minute epiphany. Clair’s ability to deal with her situation, whether emotionally or physically, kicks in early in the novel.
Jump: Twinmaker takes an old, possibly obsolete concept, and somehow makes it relevant by using it to shine a light on the way we interact with technology as a whole. It’s smart, compelling stuff. I’m surprised it didn’t get an Aurealis Award nomination.