Book Critique - The Bourne Retribution (Jason Bourne #11)

For review of all books in the series, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: Lustbader gives us a new version of Bourne in this fantastical spy tale that has retribution written all over it. Despite the twists, thrills and adventures, it felt a pale versio of Ludlum's Bourne. 

The Bourne Retribution is the eleventh book in the spy action thriller series Jason Bourne, written by Eric Van Lustbader, published in December of 2013. The character was originally created by Robert Ludlum, however after his death, Lustbader picked up the character and continued the series. 

Having not read all the books between the fifth book, The Bourne Betrayal, and this one, I had to briefly read the synopsis of all the books in between to get an idea where Jason Bourne had landed in the weaving of various plots that Lustbader had spun for him. This current book begins after the events in the 10th book The Bourne Imperative. 

Jason Bourne is mourning the loss of his friend, Rebeka, a Mossad agent. And now his closest friend, Eli Yadin, Director of Mossad, warns him of his enemies looking for him, making him vulnerable and open to anyone else who might want a piece for himself. Eli suggests to confront them instead. But wherever Bourne goes, he leaves death in his wake, be it of someone he loves or someone he hunts.

This time around Lustbader takes into a thick conspiracy woven by the Mexican Cartels, Chinese and Russians. Bourne in his hunt to find the one who killed Rebeka, finds himself in the middle of turf war between the Mexican cartals; a political war between the Chinese parties; and smuggling and forgery all mixed in along with the deep hatred each country has for each other. 

There is a continuation from the previous book, The Bourne Imperative. Without reading that book, I would have had trouble understanding some of the conversations, if not for the bits and pieces of that plot that Lustbader brings in. 

In The Bourne Legacy, the first book Lustbader wrote in the series, brought back Joshua Webb to life while in The Bourne Betrayal he killed Marie, Jason's second wife, and has his kids - Jamie and Alison - living with Marie's father and sister in Canada. It was very clear that Lusbader had intentions to take Bourne into a different direction, thus giving closures to the past that Ludlum had created. 

With this book, the only thing familiar of Ludlum's Jason Bourne seen in Lustbader's is that he is amnesiac, and had been rescued by a fisherman's boat in the Mediterranean Sea. Oh I forgot, one of the antagonist is named Carlos, a homage to Bourne's first nemesis Carlos in the very first book, The Bourne  Identity. Other than that both Bournes are poles apart. 

Bourne is still tough as nails, as he was in the beginning of the series. However, Lustbader keeps putting Bourne in situations that go against his paranoia nature. Also the plot paled considerably to his first two books he had written in the series. At least one saving grace was that his best friend, Eli Yadin, understood Bourne perfectly, though that saving grace comes with a glaring mar. 

Contrary to how Ludlum had written the first three books, Lustbader changed the format for his books. He made the entire book into sub-books - Book One sets the stage to all the players involved taking Bourne slowly deeper into the center of the chaos; Book Two brings Bourne into the Mexican cartel turf war; Book Three has Bourne turning the tides against the conspirators; Book Four giveives the grand finale. 

As much as Lustbader had stepped in Ludlum's path and has taken Bourne further, this book takes too far from the original trail and leaves us with a new kind of Jason Bourne. Some might like him but I felt him a pale shadow of the original one, despite the twists, thrills and adventures. And a fast read too. Yet, not a bad one to pick up for those who want to go on a thrill ride. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Lustbader gives us one of the Chinese Martial Arts, Wushu , in this. Interesting one.

b. Maria Elena, Maricruz's father Maceo's cook, is poisoned by Maceo and killed. She is Maceo's mistress. Their daughter Anunciata is a established hacker. She seems to have had a child with her father Maceo who had seduced her into bed. She adopts a 7-yr old Mexican, Angel, along with her step-sister Maricruz.

c. Retzach, the Mossad mercenary, has a child of his own. 

d. Lustbader mentions that human excrement being used as fertilizer in Mexican farms. Looks like it is indeed true, except unprocessed human feces could cause more harm than good. More about it here.

e. Eli thinks Yue could make a great secret agent. 

f. Rebeka is alias for Sara Yadin, daughter of Eli Yadin. Towards the end of the plot it is revealed that she is indeed alive and had been in hospital healing. It looks like Bourne and Sara are engaged in the end, but it is unclear. 

g. In the very first book The Bourne Identity, we see that Carlos escapes in the end from Bourne, and that he is only one who knows how Carlos looks like. This character hadn't been expanded since. Lustbader however references to Carlos again in The Bourne Legacy. But having one of the protagonist named as Carlos, seems like that character is getting a closure now, never to surface again.

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Conspirators behind the chaos: Carlos Danda Carlos, newly appointed chief of Mexican's anti-drug enforcement agency; Ouyang Jidan, a Chinese Minister; Quan, wushun master; Colonel Sun; Maricruz Encarnacion, wife of Ouyang & daughter of Maceo and his mistress Constanza Comargo; Agent Wu Lin; Go Han, a school official; Retzach, a Mossad mercenary; Los Zetas Mexican Cartels (Felipe Matanoros, official head; Octavio Luz; Juan Ruiz; Diego de la Luna; ); Patriarch Deng Tsu; Kai; J. J. Hale, the armorer; 

b. Various Agency people some pro and some against Bourne: Eli "Memune" Yadin. Director of Mossad; Amir Ophir, head of Mestada; Dani Amit, head of Collections at Mossad; Avi Brun; Reuben Yadin, Eli's father and ex-Director of Mossad; Leonid, an FSB operative from Russia; 

c. Local Law Enforcement and other support people: Sergeant Rivera; Captain Lim; Lieutenant Rios; Ambassador Liu; 

d. People on Bourne's side: Yue; Tak Sin, owner of an apothecary; Sam Zhang; Apter Ben Asher, a forger and a jewelry maker; Security Guards Tigger, Estefan & Julio; Constanza Comargo; Manny, Constanza's bodyguard; 

e. Lustbader has Eli Yadin appreciate the painting with letters done by Alighiero Boetti thinking it could have some kind of cryptic message hidden in it. Interesting thing I want to further check on. 

f. In the end of The Bourne Legacy plot, Spalko is shot and is thrown into the icy ocean in Iceland. However, it is not revealed that his body has been found. So will he resurface again?

g. Some of the books and media Lustbader mentions along the plot:

i. Shakira's Addicted To You plays in the cantina that Maricruz and the cartels meet.

ii. Sam Zhang loves American movies such as Clint Eastwood's A Fistful of Dollars; 1984 Glengarry Glen Ross (specially the character Blake in it because of his ABC quote); 

iii. Yadin thought of his father as the unnamed fisherman from The Old Man and the Sea.

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

a. On Pg. 424, Line 7 from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…he felt it a moment…"


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