Robert Ludlum’s (TM) The Bourne Objective (TM) by Eric Van Lustbader (Review #2)

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Robert Ludlum's (TM) The Bourne Objective by Eric Van LustbaderA mysterious ring engraved with an undecipherable message that people are willing to die for…a laptop computer that contains information that can unlock untold wealth, if one only has the proper key…and, revenge, sweet, sweet, revenge. No, I’m not describing a new Fox reality television show–these are some of the plot elements of the newest thrilling Jason Bourne novel, The Bourne Objective. It’s by author Eric Van Lustbader, who took over Robert Ludlum’s series and has written four Bourne novels previous to this one, the eighth in all. I have not read any of the novels until The Bourne Objective, and have only seen the first movie based on the series starring Matt Damon; but, I gotta say, this novel rocks–it’s filled with action, adventure, and has plenty of plot twists and turns.

I’m not sure how the Jason Bourne series has lasted this long, because it is about a man–Jason Bourne–who is the product of the covert Central Intelligence program Treadstone, which was intended to create soldiers and/or assassins who were highly skilled in subjects like languages, and especially in martial arts, and weapons–and a big part of his appeal is that he has no memories of his former life. Well, rather, he has occasional, fleeting memories, triggered by seemingly random sorts of things, like seeing certain pictures, being in certain places, or meeting people from his past life, or seeing people who resemble them. So, how can the series have reached its eighth book, without Bourne remembering by now everything from his earliest traumatic toilet training episodes on to the present?

Don’t be like me and ask silly, foolish questions like that one–just accept the fact that, though Bourne is a man who knows very little about his past (still), he knows enough about how to kick some ass to do it about a million different ways, and that’s the main reason why the Bourne series, like Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, continues to be immensely popular.

What about The Bourne Objective makes it cool, and an entertaining, thrilling roller-coaster ride you won’t want to end? An aspect I really like about the book and the first movie, and which I believe is likely in the entire series, is that we can identify with Bourne because he is one man alone against the world. Everybody is out to get him–the CI to bring him in, question him, and kill him–the Russian Mafia, for his interfering with their plans and killing some of their top associates–and, his arch nemesis, Russian mercenary Leonid Arkadin, also a product of the Treadstone program, it first graduate. Despite Bourne going up against all of these people and organizations, who possess practically unlimited resources, and who can track people down using the latest technology has to offer, Bourne manages to evade (and often kill) anyone who is sent to capture or assassinate him. He knows how many people are outside a building/door waiting for him to emerge, he knows what they’re armed with, he can probably also tell you what they had for dinner last night, and whom they ate it with–he can exploit any weakness, and use it to eliminate his opposition.

Yet, Bourne is a killer with a tender side, with a heart. He tries to protect the women who are attracted to him because of his good looks, his charming personality, and perhaps his edginess and life of danger. Unfortunately for them, and him, the women still, more often than not, end up very dead–like Tracy Atherton, who’d been in the employ of Leonid Arkadin when Jason meet her, and had died in Bourne’s arms, shards of glass driven through her body. Arkadin had also trapped and attempted to murder Bourne, but Tracy is the one who paid the ultimate price.

Jason sometimes contemplates the parts of his life that he can remember, and the people he’s met and become friends with and/or fallen in love with in his adventures detailed in the previous novels. He has feelings of remorse, and guilt, and he can feel love and compassion, despite both the large number of people he’s killed, and the ones who have died because they got caught in the crossfire and became collateral damage. This makes him different from Arkadin, who–though he has approximately equal skills as Bourne, and equal cunning–is described as having “no soul.” Still, Jason sees in himself some of the same aspects that he sees in Arkadin, and he despises them. For example, when he questions Tracy’s sister, Chrissie, to try to learn more about her past and relationship with Arkadin, there’s a part of him that “genuinely felt for her,” but another part, “the Bourne identity,” his “professional part,” that sees her “only as a means to an end, a stepping stone, not a human being.”:

He hated himself for feeling that way, and yet his dispassion was part of what made him successful. This was who he was, or at least what Treadstone had made of him. In any event, for good or for ill, he was damaged, maimed, highly skilled. Just like Arkadin. And yet there was a gulf between them – an abyss so vast, Bourne could not see its bottom or even guess at its depth. He and Arkadin faced each other across this divide, invisible perhaps to anyone but themselves, searching for ways to destroy each other without destroying themselves in thethe process. There were times when he wondered whether that would be possible, whether to rid the world of one, both had to go.

The Bourne Objective is a heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing, action-packed novel that fans of the Jason Bourne franchise should eagerly embrace. It’s a great novel, really, whether you are a long-time fan, or are relatively new to the series, like myself. The other ones that Lustbader wrote in the series include The Bourne Deception, The Bourne Sanction, The Bourne Betrayal, and The Bourne Legacy. I can’t say if I think it’s as good as Robert Ludlum’s novels, or continues in that same vein and tradition accurately, because I haven’t read his original three Bourne novels. The good thing, I suppose, about this is I am not biased one way or the other, as to who is the better writer of the two. I just know, from reading The Bourne Objective, that the author has definitely made his own mark on the Bourne series, and that it’s an excellent novel I’d highly recommend to anyone who is a Bourne fan or anyone who loves edge-of-your-seat, action- packed thrillers. Check it out today!

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