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Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Initiative

Review

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Initiative

Jason Bourne may very well be America's answer to James Bond. Arguably, this character, originally created by the late Robert Ludlum, has become quite iconic over the last few decades due primarily to the terrific films with Matt Damon depicting the mysterious, amnesiac super spy. (You will note I did not reference the terrible Bourne movie that featured Jeremy Renner.)

From a literary standpoint, Bourne has been kept alive for readers around the world as a result of the vivid imagination and plotting mastery of Eric Van Lustbader. It's almost hard to fathom that Ludlum only penned three Bourne books before passing away in 2001. With the latest release, THE BOURNE INITIATIVE, Lustbader marks his 11th installment in this stellar series.

To keep things fresh, Lustbader has produced a novel unlike any other in the series. We're used to seeing Bourne go head-to-head with his former company, Treadstone, and the countless domestic and international hitmen they send after him, as well as the biggest battle of all taking place within his own addled mind coupled with more than a few inner demons.

"Here, we see a different Jason Bourne, who is more deliberate and cautious. He is also out of his element when he is unable to see the whole picture, which allows us to experience the complex and very satisfying end to a thriller that succeeds on nearly every level."

In THE BOURNE INITIATIVE, we find Bourne in a new situation. Somehow, he is now occupying the middle ground between both the United States and the Soviet Union --- but not in a way that you would normally expect from a spy novel. Events from the prior book, THE BOURNE ENIGMA, bleed right into this one, and once again the action is so intense you will have to remind yourself to blink.

Bourne has had some interesting, albeit short-lived, relationships, none of which have been as unique as the bond he shared with Boris Karpov. When the Russian leader was murdered in the last installment, Bourne dove right into his own investigation of the crime. His relationship with Karpov has become the focal point of this new novel, and things get out of control very quickly. He finds himself on the run from and the target of both the U.S. and Russian governments for different reasons.

There are many players involved here, and Lustbader will keep readers guessing to the very end as to the identity of the story’s real villain. The Prologue introduces us to the man known as Keyre, a brutal Somali arms dealer who claims to have made his first kill at the age of eight. He has some leverage over Bourne's friend Mala, the renowned female assassin known globally under her moniker, the Angelmaker.

The initiative named after Bourne is a superworm, a malware virus no one has ever encountered before. Even the best hackers working for the U.S. government are unable to crack it and can only reveal mere pieces of it. If the Russians had control of such a digital version of a weapon of mass destruction, they could obliterate the U.S. defense by accessing all of their nuclear codes.

So the question remains: Is Bourne really behind this deadly initiative and seeking to use it as a form of revenge for Karpov's murder? Maybe, maybe not. Also at play are the two Russian brothers who see an opportunity to seize the power that once belonged to Karpov --- Timur Ludmirovich Savasin, First Minister of the Russian Federation, and the vicious Konstantin. Bourne does not know who to trust, and he and Mala are on a mission that will span continents attempting to find out what is really going on and if there was anything in his own puzzle-piece memory that will allow him to stop the Bourne initiative. All the while, they are followed by Spetsnaz --- the Russian Special Forces --- as well as a slew of international assassins, male and female, all operating under various pseudonyms.

THE BOURNE INITIATIVE has it all. The difference in these political/espionage thrillers is as simple as comparing Jason Bourne to, say, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. Bourne stands out because he is the real deal and rarely has a physical equal in hand-to-hand combat. What makes these novels interesting is the fact that we can never really know Bourne, and we have the opportunity to struggle through the diminished memory issues with which he suffers on every page. Here, we see a different Jason Bourne, who is more deliberate and cautious. He is also out of his element when he is unable to see the whole picture, which allows us to experience the complex and very satisfying end to a thriller that succeeds on nearly every level.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 16, 2017

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Initiative
by Eric Van Lustbader

  • Publication Date: June 13, 2017
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455597988
  • ISBN-13: 9781455597987