Review of Reflex by Steven Gould

July 19, 2005
Filed under: Reviews 

Science Fiction Audiobook - Reflex by Stephen GouldReflex
By Steven Gould; Read by Christine Marshall and William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – 14 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390042
Themes: / Science Fiction / Operant Conditioning /
Teleporation / Espionage / Marriage /

Davy thinks he’s alone…but what if he isn’t? When Davy was a young teen, he discovered that he was capable of teleportation. At first, it was only when he was terrified and in horrible danger. Later, he learned to control his ability and went to work for a secret government agency. Now, a mysterious group of people has taken Davy captive. They don’t want to hire him, and they don’t have any hope of appealing to him to help them. What they want is to own him. They want to use his abilities for their own purposes, whether Davy agrees to it or not. And so they set about brainwashing him and conditioning him, and they have found a way to keep a teleport captive. But there’s one thing that they don’t know. No one knows it, not even Davy. The secret is that experiencing teleportation, over and over again, can teach a person how to do it. Davy’s wife Millie is the only person on Earth who has teleported nearly as often as he has. She discovered her new talent the same way Davy did — in mortal danger, facing imminent death, she suddenly found herself in her own apartment. Now, if she can learn to control this ability, and fast, she may be able to rescue Davy.

Standalone novels are almost becoming a thing of the past in science fiction these days. So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that Reflex was the second novel in a series. But what did surprise me was that there was twelve year gap between them! I haven’t read the first novel, Jumper, but based on this solid adventure science fiction novel, I’m betting I’d love it too. Apparently it is classified as a YA (a Young Adult novel), which is interesting as Reflex has some fairly gritty adult situations.

As I started listening to Reflex I wasn’t at all sure this was a science fiction novel. The method of teleportation used seemed to involve no science, it was some sort of innate ability – one that would logically have to defy the laws of physics – so I was thinking this would have to be a fantasy novel. Except this was the only “magic” in the story and as I would come to realize there was another more interesting scientific fiction that was very plausible and amazingly original! The plot as mentioned in the teaser above involves the capture of a teleporter. What was so original here is the way that capture is maintained. Now I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll give you a hint, think of The Manchurian Candidate but instead of brainwashing, think B.F. Skinner.

This is a really good novel. Not only is the writing clear and clean, but also the characters are genuinely compelling and the situation original. Husband and wife Davy and Millie are thoughtful sympathetic characters who could be quite jaded given their knowledge of what’s going on, but they choose not to be. I found myself genuinely rooting for them. There’s actually a nice theme about the bonds of marriage in here too, it isn’t often in science fiction we meet married characters who both play a major role in the plot and it was refreshing to hear that perspective.

The villains in Reflex are suitably villainous, and have realistic motivations for their villainy. The novel is set in our contemporary time, with many references to current events, but because most of the characters are the equivalent of the jet-set of our era their access to the high-tech toys is a little better than ours. The action never flags and the cat and mouse games are intense and engaging. The more I think about it the more I am impressed with Reflex.

Christine Marshall plays all the female characters, and reads the chapters from Millie’s perspective. William Dufris plays all the male characters and reads all the chapters from Davy’s perspective. Together they interweave the story synergistically giving a vital energy to the text. This is another bang-up job by this energetic narrating tag team. I hope Paperback Digital keeps sending them stuff to read.

Sound quality as usual from Paperback Digital’s line of MP3-CDs is wonderful. These are high bit-rate tracks, spaced approx ten minutes apart. And PD uses a light introductory music at the beginning of the audiobook. It’s great! I’ve mentioned it in a previous review but I’ve just got to do it again, Paperback Digital has really got some cool original cover art. Jason B. Parker has done six covers so far – if he does another six my personal Paperback Digital collection will have to grow by six too. You can also take a peek at the original sketches done for the PD covers on Jason’s website.

Reflex is also available via download from both Fictionwise.com and the Paperback Digital website.

The hardcopy, the MP3-CD, comes in DVD style cases with insert paper cover and the CD-Rom comes with disc art. Downloads are slightly less expensive but nearly as easy to load onto an MP3 player.

If you’re feeling spontaneous check out Reflex. And if you like it as much as I did let me know.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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