Book Review: Jumper’s Hope by Carol Van Natta

Jumper's Hope cover art

The time and place

About a thousand years from now. Action takes place on fairly backwater planet Branimir, on the passenger-freighter Faraon Azul, and in the city of Ridderth on planet Mabingion, the site of a brutal city riot several years before the book begins.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized many planets and developed space travel. Some humans have psychic powers, referred to as “minder talents.” These talents include mind control, healing, telekinetics, detection of other powers, and plenty more. Those who have them are often pressed into the Minder Corps of Citizen Protection Services: essentially the galactic police.

The quick summary

Retired pilot Kerzanna crashes on the planet Jess has retired to. It’s no simple accident—someone wants her dead. Jess finds and rescues her, to both their confusion, as they were each convinced the other died several years ago. The two try to lay low and make their escape, but somebody has a tempting offer for them that could give them a chance of a future together. All they need to do is deliver some information. Easier said than done when the baddies are still after Kerzanna.

My squees

Kerzanna is one of the most interesting cyborgs I’ve read about in SFR. Cybernetics aren’t all sunshine and roses while we still have flesh. Like prosthetics now, they cause stress on other systems and need constant tweaking. I like how the CPS deactivated some of her capabilities and there was a side market for restoring them, it felt very punk. Kerzanna and Jess are mature adults who use their experience wisely during the course of the story. Though he’s retired, he has problems due to some mismanagement by his workplace. There’s a bit of upside to that oversight, but of course there is also a price for taking advantage of that. It makes me think hard about how organizations treat their employees.

The villainous troupe is entertaining. Davidro is an easy fellow to understand, and watching the way he tries to handle his underlings keeps making me snicker. I felt sympathy for Vahan, who may be cold-blooded and callous, but has to deal with a difficult job. Renner the electric talent has gotten more interesting through the series, and Georgie the forecaster and the others are memorable. Those who slip Davidro’s leash still have parts to play, even if they pay vividly terrible prices.

There’s a battle in space, and it’s exciting. Keeping track of the minor characters involved there is easy. Van Natta is good at making them distinctive and choosing interesting names.

My grumbles

I had a lot of trouble visualizing the layout of the passenger-freighter ship. That could just be my own spatial reasoning problems. What’s a nav pod, and why can it do what it does in the story?

There are several time jumps near the end of the book. Sometimes it felt like events were skipped over a bit abruptly, which made keeping track of them a little difficult for me.

Read if you

  • Enjoy a tale of reunited lovers
  • Like an interesting stable of villains
  • Are really into competent cyborg heroines

Skip if you

  • Want your heat level higher than sweet
  • Shy away from violence
  • Prefer a primary focus on the love story

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received an advance reader copy for review purposes.

Don’t read this book on its own. Earlier books introduced these villains and their motives, and that makes the experience much richer. The leads get their happy ending, but there’s a twist for some characters which makes me very excited to read the next book. The way the characters have been built over time makes me curious about where some of them will end up.

Each entry in the Central Galactic Concordance is a bit different in tone. This one felt most like Overload Flux, with some spaceboard and plenty of hand-to-hand action. If you’re curious about other books in the series, I also reviewed Minder Rising and Pico’s Crush.

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So you want to read some SFR: recommendations for science fiction readers

N.B. These curated lists are for the gentle reader who is intrigued by the concept, but doesn’t know where to start. For a more comprehensive guide of everything out there, check out Corinne Kilgore’s SFR Station! It has excellent categories. Without it these posts would have involved a lot of swearing on my part.

Science Fiction Romance is definitely a niche genre. Readers and writers come to it from both the romance and the science fiction angle. A few days ago John asked me what SFR he should read. If you love science fiction but aren’t entirely sure about whether you’ll like SFR, I recommend these books to start (as an SF fan for decades). I’ve featured all of these on the SFRB Recommends.

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn Cover

Devi Morris has big career plans. She’s working as a mercenary, but wants to become an elite powered-armor guard for the God King. When she gets the chance to work aboard The Glorious Fool, she jumps into a galaxy-spanning conspiracy that could leave her and all she cares for obliterated.

This book will appeal to those who love stubborn badass heroes, epic scope, truly out-there aliens, layers of political wrangling, human augmentation, and almost insurmountable odds in their science fiction. The love story is a subplot that still feels epic in scope: two dissimilar characters drawn together by their fierceness. This book is first in a trilogy.

Riveted by Meljean Brook

RIVETED, A Novel of the Iron Seas cover

Annika Fridasdottir endangered the secrets of legendary Iceland five years ago. Her sister took the blame and went into exile. Annika’s been searching for her ever since. David Kentewess is leading an expedition to Iceland and is desperate to solve the mystery of his own origins. When he meets Annika, he knows she may be the key to understanding his family and the legend itself.

The steampunk worldbuilding is fantastic. Brook has built an amazing alternate history with impressive bestiaries, geographies, and inventions. David and Annika manage to be both unique and play the everyman hero very well.

Overload Flux by Carol Van Natta


Luka Foxe, forensic expert, gets in over his head when follows the murder of a friend to some trouble involving space mercenaries, Big Pharma, and the pan-galactic military. Also, his psychic ability is killing him. He recruits Mairwen Morganthur, eerily competent ninja guard, on his investigation as its death toll grows. Can they survive, learn to trust each other, and also get to the bottom of the murders?

If you like government conspiracies, super soldiers, and some suspense with your space colonies, this blends all of those with spaceship (and non-spaceship) action. The developing relationship between Foxe and Morganthur fits very well into the context of their mission.

Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

Enemy Within cover

Months after Ari Idelle was freed from bug alien captivity, she’s still traumatized and moping around on a scientific expedition. Then space pirates board her ship, and she has to use all of her wits to get to the bottom of what they, the bugs, and her chain of command want from her.

Wheels within wheels and some very strong characters make this book work. The cultures and ideas of the various factions should tickle your space opera senses, and the layers of intrigue Ari and space pirate Cullin have to navigate will keep you guessing. The first chapter is available free in Portals: Volume One.