I was 13-years-old when I first read Robert Ludlum’s The Prometheus Deception, and I distinctly remember lugging its 500-page bulk from class-to-class for a week. I loved it. The book rockets from one action scene to the next with reckless abandon, and the plot is absolutely blockbuster. Twenty-three years have passed, and when I was at a loose end I figured — why not? Let’s see how the final book Ludlum published in his lifetime holds up.
The setup is delicious. Nick Bryson is a retired operative of the Directorate, the most secret intelligence agency in the world. After five years out of the game, he is stunned to learn from the director of the CIA that the agency was a Russian front. For years, he was actually undermining the United States and its allies. Now they want to turn him against his former employers, which Bryson is only too happy to oblige. He wants revenge.
Action-packed hijinks ensue as Bryson slingshots around the globe, hunted by assassins even as he hunts the Directorate and uncovers an Orwellian conspiracy. Trouble is, all these action sequences start to blur indistinguishably as Ludlum draws out the plot.
It all feels very video-gamey: new location, similarly choreographed shoot-outs every few chapters. That’s precisely why I enjoyed it as a teenager, but now it feels bloated. Similarly the dastardly machinations of the bad guys seemed a lot more menacing 20 years ago; this time round it felt overwrought.
But all that said — I had fun. Like I did a couple decades ago, I merrily lugged this to and from work every day for a week, and grabbed every opportunity I could to read a chapter or two. In hindsight, it’s really nowhere close to Ludlum’s best work, but it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.