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.
ISBN 10: 1789546516
Imprint: Head of Zeus – GB
On Sale: 05/08/2020
List Price: 29.99 AUD
This opener to a new series set in Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne universe — now 15 novels deep thanks to Eric Van Lustbader — sees a former Treadstone operative (the organisation that created Bourne) yanked back into the violent world he thought he’d left behind when he receives a foreboding email from a former colleague, and is soon after attacked by a kill squad.
It’s a conceit every connoisseur of action-lit has seen before, and accepts as a necessary trope, but The Treadstone Resurrection never really capitalises on the rich tapestry of Jason Bourne’s world, and is hamstrung by a comparatively dull lead, who lacks the necessary compassion to go alongside his ruthlessness. Ludlum’s heroes always had an emotional core — a beating heart in the Kevlar-shielded chest — and even though they were often one-dimensional, there was at least a glimmer of humanity inside them. Adam Hayes often laments his inability to just be a Regular Joe — all he wants is to settle down with his wife and young son, God dammit! — but their inclusion feels shoe-horned; their involvement (which is exclusively on the sidelines) is the only thing that proves Hayes isn’t merely a gut-totting cyborg.
When the action hits, it lands hard and fast. Joshua Hood’s talent lies in creating pulse-pounding, wickedly-fast blockbuster set-pieces; and as the novel moves from violent confrontation to violent confrontation, he ratchets up their scale. The trouble is, everything between these moments is anaemic, and overly-reliant on italicised flashbacks.
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 24th February 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
I often wonder about the limitations imposed on authors operating in other writers’ universes. I imagine it’s a little like helming a big-name super-hero title at Marvel or DC Comics; you get to play in the sandbox, bang the toys together and make some noise – – but when your time is up, everything needs to be put neatly away for the next person. You can have fun, sure; but nothing crazy. You can’t break the toys. There are rules, and you’ve got to obey them. Some writers are able to thrive under these conditions, while the creativity of others is inevitably dampened, if not entirely snuffed.
Douglas Corleone has the enviable task of crafting the third adventure in the late Robert Ludlum’s Paul Janson series. Enviable because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to share a by-line with one of the greatest ever thriller writers? The result – The Janson Equation – is an utterly readable, but ultimately undercooked novel. It’s a page-turner that lacks the obligatory thrills and spills Ludlum aficionados expect. Its plot is appropriately convoluted; Janson and his partner, Jessica Kincaid, are tasked with unravelling the truth behind a young woman’s murder, who so happened to be the lover of a prominent U.S. senator’s son, and a translator operating in high-stakes negotiations between factions of the North and South Korean governments. Janson and Kincaid’s investigation leads to the discovery of a diabolical plot organized by a shadowy unit of the U.S. state department to provoke violence between the opposing nations, and spark all-out war.
But for all that potential, The Janson Equation is disappointingly dull. It stays in neutral for its entire 400-page length, proceeding at a gentle pace, and lacking any sort of crescendo. That said, there’s enough here to persuade me into checking out come of Corleone’s original work; not so much to return to the next novel in the Janson series.
Imprint: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 2-Jun-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom