Robert Ludlum’s “Jason Bourne” series is one of the publishing world’s most popular international espionage franchises.
Ludlum died in 2001 after having penned some 25 books, which have sold over 300 million copies and have been translated into 33 languages.
There was a time when I didn’t start the latest Ludlum until Friday night because I knew I would be up until the dawn, making sure Bourne – and Ludlum’s other heroes – lived through his latest adventure.
Not so anymore.
In rare interviews prior to his death, Ludlum denied having any insider knowledge of the underbelly of the world of intelligence.
In fact, he claimed to have put his children through college from the royalties he earned as the voice of the Tidy Bowl Man.
If you believe that, then I have some oil-free water from the Gulf of Mexico for sale.
Ludlum knew too much to have been a mere observer of the cold war.
Ludlum’s publishers have tapped science fiction writer Eric Van Lustbader to carry on the franchise. Lustbader has written four follow-up “Bourne” stories, with relative success. I’ve read each one, hoping there would be a gradual improvement in his skills.
“The Bourne Objective” will be the last Jason Bourne story I read.
Instead of soaking up every word on the page, I was left yearning for the end of each chapter. It took almost a week and a half for me to finish “The Bourne Objective.” It was that bad.
In this book, Bourne is still recovering from the death of his friend, art dealer Tracy Atherton.
Before she died in his arms, Atherton gave Bourne a gold wedding band engraved with ancient letters that hold a valuable secret – a secret every bad guy on the planet wants.
The subplot of this book involves reuniting Bourne with his arch-enemy, Russian Leonid Arkadin, who was once a student of the CIA’s covert Treadstone, the organization that also trained Bourne. Treadstone was shut down, but not before they tried to kill Bourne, leaving him for dead and with a nasty case of amnesia.
Bourne has spent every book since the 1980 debut of “The Bourne Identity” trying to find why he became the hunted instead of the hunter.
In “The Bourne Objective,” there are too many plots and too many characters, keeping the reader from really investing in any part of the story. No author on the planet could weave a complete story from all these threads – and I doubt Ludlum would even recognize his hero.
It’s hard to watch such a tortuous end to a great fictional character. Maybe it’s time to let Bourne find peace. He’s not getting any younger, and I’d say he’s earned a quiet, calm, violence-free life.
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