inspirethoughts

Book Critique - The Bourne Supremacy (Jason Bourne #2)

For review of all books in the series, go here 

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A fantastical spy tale by Ludlum that keeps the reader in the edge, giving them shivers and chills at every turn of the page. 

The Bourne Supremacy is the second book in the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, published in February of 1986. The plot begins where it ended in the first book The Bourne Identity. Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin, is brought back to life, by a conspiracy to avoid a war, almost costing his life.

David Webb aka Jason Bourne, after finally getting back most of his memories, marries Marie St. Jacques, the Canadian economist, who helps him in the first book, The Bourne Identity, and settles in Maine teaching Asian studies. But someone is killing in Hong Kong and other places in Asia emulating Bourne. As the conspiracy comes to life, David is forced to bring his alter-ego Bourne back to life to capture the imposter as well as save his wife, Marie.

I have seen the film The Bourne Supremacy numerous times but never read the book. Just as the books went, this was also the second installment in the Jason Bourne film series, in which Matt Damon continued to portray the titular role, and was released in 2004. Now that finally I am reading the book, I realize that the movie's plot and the book are poles apart, nothing was the same.

The Producer and Screenwriters had mentioned that the plot veered so far as so much had changed since 1986 and they re-wrote a plot worthy of times in 2004, a good 18 years after the original book was written. Nonetheless, if you know me, I will be watching the movie again. In the meanwhile, here is my review of the book.

David Webb is a complex character created by Ludlum that only becomes more complex as the plot proceeds. At one point, both Jason and David argue with each other, giving the readers a view into Jason's mind and how much of trauma it had gone through. On the other hand, David's wife, Marie, turns out to be as smart as David, she is no meek mouse either. Of course, trained by the best who is out there, one would expect no less.

Such a fantastical spy tale by Ludlum, where the readers are kept guessing who is the puppet and who is the puppeteer even though we see David strung up like a marionette all along by those invisible hands. 

A few interesting facts I came across with regards to the characters. One of the character's middle name is Newington, the same as the place I live in. I never came across a person with the name same as the place I lived in, it was quite a surprise for me. Makes me wonder how the name of my town came in first place. Something to dig for in future plots.

Another character that Ludlow spins through has the last name as "Babcock"; which reminded me from the 70s TV show Columbo (My review of his first episode here). In the 1972 episode, The Most Crucial Game, one of the character is Eve Babcock.

Despite the humor element I am trying to through, the plot is a deadly serious one, revolving around the 1997 treaty, Convention of Peking, and set in China and United States. A plot that delves into the deep darker depths of political fanaticism in both the countries, giving us chills as to how the underworld in politics works.

The chess game that the powers to be play with David and Marie's life, although for greater good, is mind boggling. As a reader I felt several times to just kill those people too. I cant even imagine how a spy or a trained government assassin would feel when their lives are played with and always put on stake at the whims of these analysts and strategists. As long as the ends justify the means, is it ok to risk someone's life? Arent they of some value? And if they want to walk away, why cant they be?

A fantastical spy tale by Ludlum that keeps the reader in the edge, giving them shivers and chills at every turn of the page. Totally different from the movie and equally, if any, or more mysterious than one can imagine. I don’t have all the books in the series, but looking forward to the read the next book I have.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Ludlum uses the phrase "sixteen hundred alert" to show that there is an alert on White House. I couldn’t find that usage anywhere when I searched regarding it. 

b. A version of Mr. Sandman song by The Chordettes, is sung by some tourists in Macao. It's a 1954 song. 

c. Sheng Chou Yang, the primary antagonist's father is not mentioned, who actually is the one who controls the members of the clearing house that Yang was forming. 

d. McAllister is promoted to be the chairman of the National Security Council, while Alex Conklin takes up a new mission to find the ones accountable for all that was caused to Webbs, at the end of the book.

2. Sub-Plots:

a. As seen in the first book, (although I havent read it yet), original Jason Bourne was a convicted murderer who was killed in Tam Quan during the last months of Vietnam War. For the project Medusa, David Webb, had taken that identity, and continued on when he moved on to Project Treadstone 71 while working for CIA. He was used to draw out the European assassin Carlos the Jackal as part of Project Treadstone 21. He had lost his memories that Marie helps bring back, at least most part. 

b. Key conspirators who device a plan to force David Webb to come out are: Ambassador Raymond Oliver Havilland; Undersecretary Edward Newington McAllister; John Reilly from the National Security Council; Major Lin Wenzu from MI6 Special Branch.

c. People who come to the Webbs' aid: Alexander "Alex" Conklin (who tried to kill him in the first book); Morris "Mo" Panov (psychiatrist supervising Webb's mental progress); Catherine Staples, Senior Foreign Service Officer in the Canadian embassy (Ian Ballantyne, her on and off lover, and a retired Scotland Yard Detective); Philippe d'Anjou aka Echo from Jason's time in Medusa; Gamma, another Medusa soldier that Webb had worked with; Matthew Richards, a CIA Case Officer.

d. David Webb's first wife and kids were killed during the Vietnam war which had pushed David to take up the persona of Jason Bourne. I don’t remember this characterization in the movie. Have to watch it again to check.

e. Some of the books Ludlum mentions along the plot:

i. Walter F. Vella's Siam under Rama III, 1824-1851 - David Webb in the book is using this to teach his students at University of Maine. 

ii. Moulmein Pagoda in Rudyard Kipling's poem Mandalay - What a coincidence that Samuel Bourne, a British photographer, had taken pictures of Moulmein in 1870. Perhaps Ludlum got his character's alter ego's last name from this photographer.

3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 540, Line 4 from bottom, it should be "…the explosion a chemical would…"

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