There is a moment in Brian Freeman’s “The Bourne Evolution” when Miss Shirley — the book’s primary antagonist — stands up inside a helicopter racing above the ocean, tugs off her bikini, and tosses it out the open door, where it’s whipped away by the wind. She looms naked over the man she is about to kill — who is stuck in a no man’s land between aroused and terrified — then sinks to her knees. She nudges apart his legs, leans forward seductively — then unclasps his seatbelt and hoists him out the door in one smooth motion. That’s Miss Shirley for you: partaking in mind-blowing sex one minute, ending a life the next. Which I found neither titillating or menacing, and actually kind of garish and exploitative; like something from a bygone era. Books like this thrive on brilliantly wicked villains: Miss Shirley isn’t one of them. Women have so much in their arsenal; aren’t we done with thrillers using sex as the only weapon they utilise?
A year ago, a man with no known history of criminality or mental illness (and no motivation) opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, killing 66 people. In the present, a New York congresswoman about to expose a large-scale data hacking scandal in big tech is killed by a sniper. Bourne is the prime suspect, and so Treadstone — the organisation that created him — start hunting him. Abandoned by his allies, Bourne turns to Canadian journalist Abbey Laurent to aid his investigation into the mysterious organisation called Medusa, and their connection to a software application called Prescix, which has garnered acclaim for its ability to predicts what its users are going to do before they know.
Everything about Brian Freeman’s take on Robert Ludlum’s iconic Jason Bourne is perfunctory, lacking the “evolution” promised in its title. There’s nothing declaratively deficient about it, but it adheres so strictly to the “rules” of the genre, it basically asphyxiates itself. Mark Greaney and Gregg Hurwitz excavate similar material with far greater gusto; perhaps because their heroes are modern creations, and Jason Bourne’s adventures should’ve ceased with Ludlum’s original trilogy.