Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Bourne Betrayal - Eric Van Lustbader

2007, 717 pages. Genre : Action. Overall Rating : C.
When Arab extremists kidnap his only friend in CI (Covert Intelligence), it's up to Jason Bourne to find and rescue him. But the kidnappers have already invaded Bourne's mind, and they are able to anticipate his every move.

What's To Like...
    The book is constant action, so at 717 pages, you're certainly getting your money's worth. There's a plethora of plot twists to keep you reading. As with any Bourne novel - there are well-described locations (Ethiopia, Odessa, Istanbul) to fall in love with. There are four major plotlines going on at the same time, yet you have no trouble keeping track of them.
What's Not To Like...
    There's a lot of action, but not much progress. The core of the trilogy written by Robert Ludlum - the inner struggle between the assassin Jason Bourne and the "normal" David Webb - is missing here in book #5. Only Jason Bourne exists.
.The technical portions of the story will strain your limits of believability. EvL's attempt to write ebonics is just irritating. Then there are all those spy-novel clichés.
.Three clichés I've had my fill of... (and they're all here!)
1. Western Girl falls in love with Arab terrorist. This is always the kiss of death. If the evil BF doesn't kill her first-hand, he betrays her and the last thing she sees is his uncaring face. Just once I'd like to see a different ending. Maybe she betrays him. Maybe she perishes, fighting by his side. I don't care. Any new angle will do.
2. The hero mistakenly thinks he killed an innocent bystander. Of course, he didn't. Evil people did and made it look like he did. For goodness sake, Bourne's an assassin. There is bound to be some collateral killing. If he wants to cry in his beer afterwards, so be it. But enough of the "only evil bullets kill innocent people" concept.
3. The Ultimate Evil deliberately lures the hero to his central headquarters so he can finish him off. This sounds like something out of a bad Austin Powers movie. Folks, if I'm the UE, there's no way I'll ever let the hero get within 100 miles of my HQ, let alone show him the way. If we're going to duke it out, we'll do it out in the boonies somewhere, so that if/when the hero kills me, my evil plan will still go forward.
Overall Rating : C
    In retrospect, this story should not have had the Bourne name associated with it. There's nothing inherently wrong with clichés and unbelievable technology. Clive Cussler enthusiasts have enjoyed them for decades. But the Ludlum-penned Bourne trilogy doesn't rely on Batmanesque gizmos, and is really about one man's reconciling his polar-opposite inner beings. The Bourne Betrayal has strayed a long way from Ludlum's premise. It is a decent read, as long as you are able to think "Dirk Pitt" instead of "Jason Bourne".

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